I have experienced just about a little bit of everything in the past 6 days. Our time in the city of Hanoi was filled with insane streets full of buses, horse and carriages, vans, cars, motorcycles and bicycles (all on the same road!). We then went to Halong Bay where we spent two days on the water. We were on multiple boats, big and small. We had a 7 course meal on a boat and then docked in the middle of the Tonkin Gulf and jumped off the dock into the water (a more than welcome reprieve from the humidity). The Tonkin Gulf was a whole different world. There are people who live in floating villages. There are women paddling in boats from village to village like a traveling supermarket full of fruits, breads and drinks. We stopped at a “fish market,” which was a bunch of floating planks nailed together with nets in the middle and the crabs, shrimps, prawns and fish swimming around in the sea. People would come up and point out what they wanted and they would scoop them up and carry them off. We went kayaking into a enclosed part of the bay. There was only one small opening that we could kayak through and then we tied our kayaks together in the middle and jumped out and swam around.
The last 3 days have been spent in Sapa and the surrounding areas. We hiked 2 days through the mountains with the local women following us the entire way, asking “what is your name? how old are you? where you from? you have brothers or sisters? you have boyfriend? how old is your mother?” After answering all of these questions, having their umbrellas over our heads to shade from the rain or sun and holding our hands to help us across slippery patches, the conversation would turn to “you my friend. you buy from me.” I ended up with a pillowcase, bag and a pair of earrings which really was only about $12 total, completely worth their handmade crafts and fun conversation. I also took out pictures I had brought to show them and they all flocked around to look at my lockets, which went something like this– ‘your boyfriend, very good, very lucky, nice teeth’ (with a thumbs up), ‘your mother, father very young, sister very beautiful like you.’ We hiked through waterfalls and rice paddies and past buffalos and half naked children. (Side note: After 3 days of hiking through water falls, I’ve finally gotten over my fear of them!). We did a homestay, which felt more like 6 grade camp, with all of us sleeping in a wooden loft up a ladder and covered by mosquito nets. We had homemade rice wine and Vietnamese beer with the family.
Most of the food has been really delicious. Lots of noodle soups, seafood, meat, vegetables, spring rolls, pancakes (more like thick crepes), bananas and tea.
One more day in Sapa (hiking through more waterfalls) and then we are back to the big city of Hanoi- Write you all from there!