Wednesday, October 26, 2011



Enjoyed our week of respite from Thai heat. Hanoi felt of warm June days in Michigan, and it was lovely being outdoors without “sweat dripping down my butt crack," as someone in our family often shares.

Not a great photo, but so much going on here... a full tai-chi class on lowest plaza square, up steps to badminton on left and soccer on right, and a huge aerobic party on top square under monument... all at 6ish a.m. while motorbikes galore begin scooting into Monday.  

I do weird things like this in parks back home, and feel foreign... here it's common. I felt out of place on this early stroll not because of my white skin, but because I was not joining the energizing buzz.

Tai-chi, portable boomboxes, dumbells, and chin-ups from trees

Exercising social skills

Our Monday friend, Phuong. We found a really cool exchange service, Hanoi Free Tour Guides... college students eager to practice English will guide foreigners around town for day, and not accept money to do it, only small gifts. 

She brought us by local bus to a pottery village where we threw mud.

Ry was in her element

Good for us all

Washroom on left, oven on right

Walked the village while our pots baked

Lots of wires to quick grab if he goes down

Watched streetside pots of tea being brewed all over Hanoi

The charcoal-fed burner

Naked Plates, a la Vietnam

Would have loved for Hau, Rob's foster brother, to join us and share his Vietnam, but we were grateful for our day with Phuong.

Tuesday morning breadsellers enroute 5 hours of horrendously trafficked, bumpy roads to HaLong Bay... fresh, french batards were sold everywhere at the edges of the day.

Your Canon printer may have come from here

Buddhas for sale next to Virgin Marys... 10% of population is Catholic/Protestant, and 100% of homes seem to practice ancestor worship

Beauteous HaLong Bay. Though drive was arduous, it is a worthy destination.

Our ship, the Paloma

Captain & crew on our dinghy

Late afternoon kayak through floating fishing villages

A home

And foundation

Sunset bathing

Mellow fellow, rowing by foot

Rob had no time to enjoy his kayak while home this summer ... happy to paddle here among craggy cliffs

Girls found German-American buddies their same ages, and had a blast exploring ship's nooks and crannies.

Pirates of the HaLong Bay

Evening dip

One, two...

... pray there are no jelly fish! Saw a couple decent ones while sailing, but never when swimming.

Quick shower before a little cooking lesson

We love nem ran, fried spring rolls!

Awoke to our favorite day of the Viet week

Sailed out to a quiet bay with empty beaches where we anchored for some magic

This little cove was base camp for 14 guests and crew... arrived when tide was in, and beach grew with the day. Explored by kayak and swim the nearby caves and slivers of isolated beach

The crew grilled shrimp & fish for lunch back at camp.

A favorite moment was climbing with Allie under a passage at the above beach, coming out to an open expanse of crashing waters with no people in sight, no boats, only waves smashing into majestic rocks all around us. She exclaimed in awe, and we soaked it all in while as we dove for shells and coral. I hope she keeps this day, always. I will.


Herded like cattle through some touristy caves our final morning in the bay, ugh. Still, gorgeous sights.

Girls woke with colds, bummer.

Happy, yet kind of pretending... yesterday's gem had passed and the 5 hour return drive to Hanoi was present. Rice fields don't hold same interest they once did after 2 Thai years. Tried to hold our guide's patient perspective on the slow going, "we must share the road," but all we saw was traffic, sneezing & sore throating girls, and I was bribing them even before we left sight of the bay.

Back in Hanoi, found this picture in a war museum... first US pilot captured in North Vietnam, at HaLong Bay. My Marine Father (13 months in DaNang) probably never believed some 40 years ago that his daughter might vacation in this place. Wonder if the girls may someday visit Afghanistan or Iraq with their families. May it be so, peace!

A bit disappointed with the amount and content offered at the big war museum, but always interesting to glimpse differing perspectives on war. Yankee me arrived thinking museum would be all about the "Vietnam War" (or American imperialism), but it recognized earlier French imperialism as well.

Awoke our last day, ready to water park with the girls. In National Lampoon's style we took a series of taxis & craziness to get there, only to find the park closed due to "moon calendar" and an entrance guard shaking his head NO. Ry started crying, Allie consoled her with fact that park looked skanky, I sprinted to flag down our cab before he took off too far, and Clark saved the day by pulling out his Blackberry to schedule a cooking class back near our hotel. The kids were pleasantly open to change of plan and Ellen was grateful.

Our chef took us on a quick market tour before starting.

Saw mostly same ingredients we see in Thailand, lots of galanga (looks like ginger, in front), lemongrass, garlic, various peppers, onions and limes.

A few new ones from Harry Potter's pantry... here, Hands of Buddha, a citrus fruit.

Haven't yet seen culinary frogs or turtles in Thailand.

We do see eels at Thai market.

And squid. Ry is still getting accustomed to seeing it all. She has never been a fan of the sights, smells and noise of Asian open markets, which can be overwhelming. 

I'm not accustomed to this sight.

Enjoyed making a spicy papaya salad, lemongrass chicken, and SPRING ROLLS! I think we now have those down, hurray!

Ry & I went to the theatre one night for water puppets while Rob & Al had their own date on the town.

Ry was intrigued with woman in center playing a single stringed "harp" of sorts that moaned.

Another day, Allie was handed a costume & props. Cute, huh?

This sweet woman handed Ry her own costume, and bag of bananas... $5 please, for taking a photo and the fruit. Vietnam is well on its way with capitalism 

From our rooftop terrace we watched a man pulley a dozen cement bags from friend on street


An ancient law taxed properties based on their width... thus, buildings and homes are tall and skinny. 

Streetside pedicure

Haircuts and shaves, too. We liked the brick headrest.

Another hardworking Asian pearl