Monday, January 20, 2014

Vietnam 2014 – Day 14 – Ha Long Bay

I have spent the day enjoying the landscape of Ha Long Bay, and in a futile search of some sort of tourist center where I could buy a passage on a tour boat.
Ha Long Bay is unique in that it is a submerged karstic landscape, now evident as an archipelago of over a thousand pinnacles or “islands” raising like ghosts from the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Imagine the sea were to advance on the Pearl River, between Guilin and Yuangsho in China, and you will have a pale idea of the surreal landscape that characterizes this bay.
Legend has it that the bay is the abode of a dragon (think Smaug in The Hobbit) that over the years has carved the multitude of channels that separate the pinnacles. Alternatively, the legend may have arisen from the fact that the rounded humps of the pinnacles resemble the Chinese paintings of dragons. Some even claim that the dragon has been sighted in historic time, making Ha Long our second chance to catch sight of a Mesozoic sea reptile (I looked and looked but to no avail).
After driving north as far as I could go I took a break and went into the city. For breakfast I had the most delicious Vietnamese burrito, filled with a tasty mix of shrimp, mushrooms, and other delicacies. I also asked for, and found, a regular bookstore where I bought a map of Vietnam and a map of Hanoi, so I am back to normal.
I also visited a type of Feria del Hogar or County Fair, with all sorts of stands featuring products and merchandise from all over Vietnam. I also made a stop at a supermarket, where I did a careful inspection of every aisle, to get a feeling of the stuff that the modern Vietnamese families fill their pretty houses with. I liked a grill/soup pot combination, but discarded the idea of buying one as being too bulky (but of course I could go native and load my scooter the way only a Vietnamese can).
I kept driving south, finding pretty spots along the coast but without having any adventures. Actually, I got to be the witness to two motorcycles bumping together and spilling over the road. No big deal, but comes to show that silly foreigners are not the only ones that lose it in the general traffic scramble.
Dinner consisted on cucumber salad, coleslaw salad with some exotic herbs, vegetable stir fry, salted duck with lemon grass, fried fish, and a couple of beers. And all for about US$ 10! I certainly could get used to living in this country. 

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