Rain Rain Rain and more Rain! that is simply how I would describe Hanoi thus far. Although the city is aesthetically pleasing and the buildings remind one of why this city was chosen as the capital of French Indochina, the rain has drowned out a lot of the potential fun that could have happened during the first two days. The monsoon has officially hit Vietnam, and its effects are as treacherous as they are volatile to my carefully laid out Hanoi plans. It has been raining non-stop since I got here, and it looks like its being rather unrelentless in its wake. The rain is not something I particularly fancy and I am somewhat relieved that Hanoi is my last stop on my Vietnam tour. I'm currently living in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, in a Aussie-style backpack hostel. The travellers here are great and it is a great place to get advice from others about travelling in South-east Asia. So far I have visited a few museums, and the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum, which were all exciting for a culture vulture like myself. I declined the farther attractions due to the weather and accessibility.
I did find Hanoi to be more historically and culturally appealing than Saigon was. Hanoi did not represent the follies of sprawling toxic capitalism, it had a classical french colonial feel to it, which I had a particularly strong appetite for. I managed to frolic around the city quite a bit on my first day. The OQ (Old Quarter) is the place to be in Hanoi, and I have come to quite adore its classical ambiance.
The highlight of my trip was on visit to Halong City and subsequently the Halong Bay cruise. I will be posting many pictures from the boat ride, because words do not do justice to the beauty and grace of Halong Bay. A group of eighteen of us took a sleeper junk (a type of boat) into the Bay for 3 days and 2 nights. The group was filled with a variety of PHd, law, and undergraduate students, which made for many interesting conversations. Most of the travellers were from England and other parts of Europe, some who were from Austraillia. There were also some belligerent and obnoxious Belgian girls on board. The cruise included swimming in the sea, which was quite warm. You could dive off the 10meter boat at 3 in the morning visibly quite dark and still be quite alright. We did a number of activities including rock-climbing, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving. The rock-climbing and kayking was the best part, the rocks were a soft limestone making it a lot easier on the hands. The kayaking was intense at times, Blair and I took kayaks out to untouched beaches and epic epic islands. Again, see the pictures to be posted later. I did meet a lot of interesting people on this trip, most of were around the same age as myself.
Anyways, its pissing rain outside, and I should get some sleep. I will post more later. My itinerary has changed quite a bit. I will be travelling to Singapore and Malaysia with Blair on the 17th or 18th depending on when we can catch a cheap flight. We will stay in Kuala Lumpur for 3 nights then head to Bali, Indonesia for a good few weeks. Then we will round up to North Sumatra and to Thailand for the rest of our trip. I decided not go to Laos till later due to some complications and dodgy situations recently at the Laos border. I will venture there on my way back from Thailand to Vietnam, and I certainly do not want to miss its marvels. Anyways! I'm gonna look for a flight for Blair and I, short update today, but stay tuned for more. Much love to the people back home!