Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hanoi-Halong Bay-Sapa

Snake Village - When we got to Hanoi, we met up with Jaycie and spent an afternoon at Snake Village. They took a live snake, slit its throat, and put a still beating snake heart in a shot glass, which we got to eat.

Then they turned the snake into a 6 course meal, and gave us unlimited snake wine

Uncle Ho Forever - Like the Pope, the Vietnamese have embalmed Ho Chi Minh's body and put it on display for everyone to see. (No cameras were allowed)

A foggy dream – Ha Long Bay has 2000 karst islands darting through the bay surface, surreally masked by the intense fog. It was unlike anything else I had experienced.

The water was quite cold but kayaking around the islands was a highlight. We stopped to spelunk at an island with a cave. Jaycie and I stayed an extra day because we didn't want to leave this unreal place. On our extra day we had a hike with the unbelievably lush plant growth. We heard monkeys but could not see them. At the top of our hike, there was a rickety water tower about 100 feet high. Every step that everyone took shook the tower. Also, the last step was missing so we had to jump over a gap to get onto the top platform. Definitely not built to US quality control standards.

Eastern "Medicine" - Our guide bought this bottle for his father. Inside are 6 fermenting geckos and 4 fermenting sea horses. Apparently this drink is "very good for old man" "Makes him sooo strong"

So how do I drive this thing? - Jaycie and I rented a motorcycle for a few days to explore the small villages in Sapa, the jungle region. The road to the villages was carved into the side of a steep mountain, with gigantic drops (and breathtaking views of endless rice paddies) - not the best place to learn how to ride a bike. Just as I was getting a feeling as to how to handle the bike, a stream interrupted the road. I stopped about 20 feet before the start of the stream, which I could see was 6-8 inches deep, and rocky. There was no easy way around the water so I cautiously eased in, with no momentum. As we hit the deep part of the stream my front tire hit a rock and we felt our bike tipping over to the right. I hit the gas as hard as I could and my front tire lifted out of the water. As we came out the other side, I sent Jaycie air born. He miraculously landed in his seat, and I sorted the steering out. Needless to say, we both started screaming in elation. When the driver of the bike is screaming expletives, its not so fun to be the passenger.

Not as scary as they look - Water buffalo have big horns. Which made me a bit wary about getting too close. But later I was little village kids riding them like horses. I did muster up the courage to pet one walking in the middle of the road. However, I was prepared to set my personal record in the 40 yard dash

Ban Ho Minority Village Homestay – After a few hours of cliffside riding, Jaycie and I spent a night at a local village. Everyone was really nice, and family that we stayed with spoke English and wanted to know more about California.

The calming sounds of a nose flute - On our train back from the jungle region, this guy sat next to us, played Beethoven's 9th Symphony with a wooden flute through his nose. For our 11 hour bus ride we bought the $4 hard seat tickets that mainly the locals ride. They never sell out of train seats. If all the seats fill up, they start selling B-tickets. Ticket 22B means you have to stand or sit on the grimy floor near seat 22.

Other crazy things I've seen on a bike – over 1,000 bananas, a pony, 30 chicken in 2 crates, a family of 5, 14 20-liter (about 5 gallons) bottles of water.

Girl Possessed - This girl followed me around for 10 solid minutes trying to get me to buy a hand woven cell phone holder/purse. I didn't have money on me but I couldn't translate that to her. And I couldn't outrun outmaneuver her on the rocky muddy trail. I had to use Jaycie as a human shield, until she got distracted by another tourist. Serious persistence!

Matching Ladies – There are a ton of fabric stores around here. I only presume that every lady pics out a pattern and says “tailor me a matching jump suit”

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