Ha Long Bay, Hue, and Hoi An

Since we left Hanoi, we have been seeing some of the most famous tourist attractions of Vietnam. All three of these locations are UNESCO World Heritage sites, meaning they are “considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.” (Photos to come later.)

Right now I’m in an Internet cafe in Hoi An, at 10:45 a.m. local time. Hoi An is a beautiful old city, filled with small old Chinese-style shop buildings along narrow streets (there is one street like this in Singapore, as I recall), formerly a major trading port for seafaring people from all over SE Asia, as well as the foreigners who traveled here for the spice trade, silk, and other goods. I am the only female and the only Westerner in a room with about 25 computers and about 22 young men and boys, most of them playing online games with intensive graphics, wearing headphones, and simultaneously checking several highly animated chatrooms. They are typing very, very fast. A country on the verge of a high-tech boom, for sure!

We came here on a very nice air-con minibus from Hue, where we had two days of fantastic tour-guiding by a local man named Thanh — including a day on motorbikes, zooming around backstreets no wider than about eight feet, smoothly paved with concrete. (Note: Dirt roads still prevail in Cambodia. Better roads, more paving, and fewer potholes in Vietnam.) The citadel of the Nguyen emperors impressed us, even though we were melting from the heat.

From Hanoi to Hue, we traveled on an overnight train, four beds per compartment, very comfortable and nice. The train left the station about 11 p.m. and arrived in Hue about 11 a.m. the next day.

To see the cliff-islands of Ha Long Bay, we went out on a wooden junk (with a motor) that was well-appointed for about 20 people to dine and sleep overnight. Each cabin had two beds and a private bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. The food really surprised us — the crew prepared and served delicious Vietnamese meals to us. The sky was cloudy but we had a clear view of the many tree-covered islands, other boats, and fish farms tucked away in coves. The boat dropped anchor in the late afternoon and we stayed put until morning, when we ate an early breakfast and sailed back to port.

Today we are flying from Hoi An to Saigon — then tomorrow, a tour of the Mekong Delta.

Two nights ago, Oliver Stones'”Platoon” was on HBO here. Very weird to be watching that in a room only a few hours south of the DMZ.


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