A Travellerspoint blog

Halong Bay

Sailing in the South China Sea - Junks and Kayaks

semi-overcast

This time we did get up in time to see the Tai Chai at the Lake. Not quite the serene atmosphere we had imagined-rather more vigorous exercising to loud music. Kids found the bosom rubbing and mutual back patting amusing.

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Took a 3 hour bus trip to Halong Bay. Passed lots of unusual road signs saying only 'bikes and buffalo' allowed in this lane. We saw lots of very tall, ornate painted houses which are incredibly narrow.The Vietnamese used to pay their taxes according to the width of their houses hence they tend to be tall and very thin.

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Halong Bay is a Unesco World Heritage Site and consequently attracts lots of visitors . Its a jumble of junks and I mean old junks. I tried to ask what would happen if the boat were to sink and the guide could not work out why the boat should sing!!! Eventually I got him to understand that I wanted to know where the life jackets were and his response was not to worry because the crew were good swimmers!!

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We were supposed to be interested in the limestone hills and caves but the most interesting bit were the floating villages. These are complete and very poor communities of people and their dogs living in ramshackle floating huts. Livvy wondered where their gardens were.

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The caves all have old vietnamese legends, usually about dragons and the 3 other symbolic animals (phoenix, lion and turtle). Matt says he much prefers these legends to the 'god stories' he gets at school.

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A good sleep in a wooden cabin on the boat refreshed us for the journey to the beach resort where we stayed in these bamboo huts. Not really warm enough to fully enjoy sadly. I was desperate for a pair of socks! But we had a lovely hour kayaking in the warm South China Sea with a gentle guide whose name means 'Sun Puppy'. He took us climbing, barefoot to the top of the Island to show us a silent spot where he goes to have a sleep when he gets time off.

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Back in Hanoi now for one night now. Tomorrow we take the Reunification Express for a 16 hour overnight train journey to Hue.

Posted by snellfamil 04:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

A Wet Day in Hanoi

Mothers Day flowers, fascinating market, impressive hotel laundry

rain 15 °C

Yes I know to you and me it sounds a bit petty, but to Jackie, an efficient hotel laundry service was manna from heaven, considering that most people seem to eat off the dirty, wet streets! She gave the cleaner a soggy, smelly heap of stuff yesterday and it arrived back this morning smelling of a freshly mown meadow!

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Matt, Livs and Dad went to the lake to try and catch the Tai Chi exercises but arriving at 7.30am we were about 2.5 hrs late. But the highlight of the morning was the facinating market we stumbled on on the way back.

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The kids saw live fish, an eel being killed, snails being disembowelled to make paste and a plate of brains (as well as the more mundane fresh fruit and vegetables and incredible array of herbs and spices for sale.

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The kids bought Mum a dozen fresh roses (for about 80p but don't tell Jackie!).

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Then we took a taxi to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum (he's been dead for over 30 years now and still people flock to see him) Being a Sunday, hundreds of people were queueing to see his body, which meant over an hour's wait, so we postponed the visit and went to the Temple of Literature instead.

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The picture shows a group of excited Vietnamese school kids having their photo taken with us.

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After a rest in our hotel room, we then did some successful shopping and got back for an early night. Off to Halong Bay for 3 days early tomorrow so you won't hear from us for a few days.

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Posted by snellfamil 05:25 Archived in Vietnam Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

It's amazing how you can get used to a City in a day!

Rain, markets ,water puppets, delightful restaurant staff

rain 15 °C

Rained a lot in the night and all day today.

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Looked out of our hotel window to see people setting up their shops, hanging up the budgie cages and women struggling with basketfuls of fresh fruit and vegetables.

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We trudged along the muddy streets to book a boat trip at Halong Bay being pestered by Cyclo men on the way.We then went to a cafe/patisserie for lunch - lovely food with tiny footstools to eat on. Banana milkshakes were 10/10. You had to take your shoes off which made no difference because we all had muddy feet.

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Then we walked through the busy streets of Hanoi to the Market which was packed with numerous stalls selling everything from shoes to handmade dresses.

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Matthew tried to buy some flip flops from someone who was asleep! In the end he bought them for less than a pound - Livs bought a watch for about 1.50 and Ems bought some trendy sunglasses for about 1.50 - bargain!.

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Livs and Mum went to the most disgusting toilets ever and we mean disgusting!

We then walked through the rain back to our hotel to wash our feet before going to see the famous water puppets. They were colourful and beautiful, but there were lots of older people asleep behind us.

Then we took a taxi to a really nice restaurant hidden away in the French Quarter of town. We had a lovely meal served by young, friendly Vietnamese waitresses who taught us some Vietnamese words.

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Posted by snellfamil 04:47 Archived in Vietnam Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Five arrive in Hanoi

From little Wiltshire village to bustling town from a different age and culture!

overcast 23 °C

Well we finally made it.

We left Bedwyn at 5.30 on Wednesday afternoon and arrived here in Hanoi Thursday evening after losing aout 7 hours somewhere (the clocks went forward by that much).
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Grandad kindly dropped us off at Heathrow in plenty of time, then we flew through the night (15hrs) across Europe and India to Bangkok, where we changed planes and flew in a smaller, older plane for another 2 hrs , landing at Hanoi at about 9pm.
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Jackie had arranged for the hotel to pick us up, so there was a man with a sign saying 'Jackie Snell' at the airport and from that moment onwards we felt slightly out of control! We were bundled into an mpv and whizzed in the dark for aout half an hour to our hotel. Lots of beeping of horns and dodging other cars and motorbikes later, we arrived at Prince 1 hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi (there are about 40 Hotels in Hanoi with the same name).
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We are all in the same room, 3 storeys up - lots of noise and hustle and bustle and noticeably clammy, but we all had a good night's sleep considering.

Today we explored Hanoi, which takes a bit of getting used to...
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Dirty; lots of interesting smells; traffic all over the place (amazing no one crashes - and amazing how you can cross a busy road - the traffic just miraculously flows around you); people eating their meals out on the streets; people desperately trying to sell us things.
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Still - we survived our first day and the children are upstairs in our one big room, chilling out.

Posted by snellfamil 01:59 Archived in Vietnam Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Getting ready

48 hours to go before we head off to Vietnam for our first real family travel adventure. Emma is trying out her back pack to see if she can fit in her straightners. Matthew is planning on taking nothing much more than a jar of jam. Olivia is getting in practice, already in shorts and sandals. Jackie and David are panicking- will they ever get to the end of their 'to do' lists?

Having never done a blog before- will this work?

Posted by snellfamil 23:02 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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