Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ha Long Bay and Vietnamese Waterworld

We woke up a bit earlier than today's tour required so we could hit the hotel breakfast. It was pretty solid.

I rocked some Frenchy bread with chocolate filling, passionfruit, rambutan, and some papaya. One of my Facebook friends informed me that my half peeled rambutan looked like "half shaved sasquatch testicles". Thanks for that mental image.

It was a solid breakfast especially considering that Hanoi E Central Hotel was $53 a night.

They had some pate squares on little bread platforms which were interesting. As a general rule Asia is not usually a big bread place, so I read the plethora of bread happening in Hanoi as evidence of Vietnam's French colonial inheritance.

It started to rain right around the time our shuttle was supposed to come and pick us up. Not to worry though, the hotel staff all came out and formed a line of umbrellas all the way to the vehicle's door so that we wouldn't get wet. $53 a night.

The van was nice enough.

It had sort of an aging strip club motif though.

We were sharing our little van with some older Korean people. We couldn't communicate but they were very friendly. At one point one of the ladies gave us each a piece of hard candy and then took the wrapper from us after we had eaten it. I felt like I was about 5 years old.

Watching rush hour deal with the rain was amusing. It was especially funny if two riders were trying to share one poncho.

There were some good communist propaganda opportunities. Cuba was fun for the same reason. Both countries had a similar style, except now the magical man watching over us was Ho Chi Minh instead of Che Guevara.

The tour had some tourist junk buying opportunities built in. They were all weird enough that I was fine being along for the ride. This place sold giant, expensive carvings and all kinds of other junk. These pictures were all of white people posing with the large junk they decided they needed in their living room.

But why buy the giant stone cow when you can get the belly rubs for free?

The Vietnamese think that their country's shape resembles a bamboo pole with rice baskets suspended from either end.

They gave us a lanyard to wear, I assume so the cashier would know which company to send the kickback to when we bought stuff. Nice try.

I checked Lydia's purse but she didn't seem to be carrying the $15k that this freaking polished stone plum tree cost.

I was surprised to see toll booths in Vietnam. Doesn't seem very communist.

I guessed we must be approaching fun times when this ferris wheel peaked its head over the horizon. When I saw it came with fake little Japanese-looking castles, I was sure. I had entered the fun zone.

Vietnam is full of these fun little shrines full of offerings of fruit and money. Gods apparently like a lot of the sames thing I do.

Our little shuttle had dropped us off at a sort of white person depot.

I waved goodbye to the ferris wheel I would never get to ride.

Is there anything more communist than a little dude wearing a red shirt and a green pith helmet? No. The answer is no.

We then boarded the mother ship: Cristina Cruise. We were about to embark on a little journey. I loved this boat. It was like a boat that used to be luxury but was now showing some graceful age. The mix of crap and awesome reminded me of a quaint old New Orleans French Quarter hotel.

There was a little welcome tea and some introductions. We ended up sitting at a table with two amusing British couples.

The life jacket instructions posted in the room really could have been condensed. #4 is: "Put it on".

I scolded Lydia for booking us this nazi cruise. It really was in poor taste.

The food on the boat was good and just enough on the weird side to keep me interested. The British people were pretty picky and so they served as the meal time entertainment. "What is this?"

When we were done eating we strolled up to the sun deck to see what sort of progress the vessel had made while we were distracted stuffing our faces down below.

A lot of the boat engines out here sound remarkably like helicopters.

It turns out Ha Long Bay is a beautiful place. The name Ha Long means "descending dragon", and it refers to the legend that says that the islands were created by a dragon dragging its tail over over the bay.

I made Lydia listen to this song multiple times to get into the "Ha Long" spirit.

Did I then proceed to take about 7 thousand pictures of rocks and boats in the water? Yes. Am I sorry? No. This was one of the rare tourist attractions that actually exceeded the marketing. Is that because this is a communist country and they don't do marketing so good? Possibly.

It was excursion time! We all piled back into the landing craft we'd be dragging along with us this whole time.

Our destination was the Vung Vieng Fishing Village. It was essentially a real life Waterworld situation.

The staff played this sort of kicking badminton game while we were occupied. It was nice to see that they were having some fun.

Another important Vietnamese word is bia. It means beer. Here's me with a little Bia Ha Noi snack.

It turned out that we weren't even safe from the tourist trap store hustle out here on the water. These boat people are some hustlers.

But again it was so new to me that I didn't mind it. The ridiculous thing we were supposed to spend all of our money on this time was pearls.

This guy was showing us how you stick the thing in the oyster that it turns into a pearl.

This funny sign spelled out what sort of person should wear which sort of pearl. Spoiler: rich people wear the bigger ones.

There were little glasses of water in the showcases to... keep the pearls from drying out? I did not know that was a thing.

These little Pepsi cans had fun Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, designs on them. It's sad but the only reason I've ever even heard of Tet is from the Tet Offensive. Also the geotags on my photos all say Gulf of Tonkin which has some other war connotations in my mind. Sad.

Instructions on how to play BAO DONG

1.  Player 1 rolls the dice and yells BAO DONG!

2. Put on some dishwashing gloves and open the door to your truck. BAO DONG!

3. Get a bucket of sand, a little red shovel, and some water. Make a goddamn sandcastle. You just done a BAO DONG!

4. Grab an ancient phone and call your friends son. They're gonna wanna come over and play BAO DONG!

The crew had some fascinating issues winding up the chain that the anchor was connected to.

Not only was the food decent but the chefs were back there making friggin origami out of vegetables. Here's some cucumber flowers.

Which went well with the fish net they magicked out of a carrot.

One of the little activities available after dinner was tiny squid night fishing. How do you do it? I don't know. But now why do you do it? I also don't know. But CAN you do it? Apparently. Apparently.

Tiny squid that either have or don't have a purpose here in this container on our boat. I can tell you I did not see anyone eating tiny squid the next day. I surely did not.

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