Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vietnam Vacation: Day Three

Sunrise in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
[Last time, we had taken a long bus ride out to the countryside in order to board a junk boat and stay a couple days in Ha Long Bay. It rained a ton, but we were still able to see the cave, play on the beach, kayak (even though I can't swim), and eat lots of great food.]


The next morning, we awoke on the boat. It was a great night's sleep. +Jackie Eckles had gone out before sunrise in order to take some photos with her new camera. I decided to join her. The sun had just begun to come out from behind the clouds as we stood and whispered to each other. Some of the crew slept in the dining room and in the control room (I'm not sure what it is called, the room with steering wheel). The entire scene was very peaceful and relaxing. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning at all.

Good morning, moon. Hello, day.
The boats sitting in the bay on a lazy, cloudy morning.

The clouds would come and quickly go.

More boats resting right at dawn.

The Long Ride Back

We went inside and waited for breakfast to be served. Again, it was very tasty. All the food we ate on the boat was exceptionally good. I had low expectations, but I was continuously impressed. After breakfast, we basically had the rest of the time to wait until we got back to shore. It was quite a long ride back.

We all talked to each other and walked around taking pictures here and there. There really was not much to do at this part of the day except wait. Jackie continued to practice with her camera. I tried my hand at using it as well. We did pass the Kissing Rocks and took pictures of them. Honestly, I was much more impressed by the tree-covered, massive, stone islands than these two famous rocks.

Hey, you kissing rocks, get a room!
Eventually, we grew restless. It became boring. Jackie and I sat inside after lunch and waited. Our guide came over to sit with us and we talked to him for awhile. He was really interesting. He spoke English well, but he said he needed to get better. I thought, despite his heavy accent, he was great. Some of the other passengers would make fun of how he kept reusing certain phrases (such as "my friends" every time he addressed us). I thought that was quite rude and uncalled for, even if he could not hear them. The guy was pretty fluent in a second language. That is impressive to me.

He told us that is dream was to go to Washington, D.C. He wanted to give tours for foreigners in the United States. First, he said he needed to save up a lot more money to get there. I greatly enjoyed talking to him. He knew so much about the world and politics from everywhere. It seemed like he mostly picked up his knowledge from the people he met on tours he gave. A few times he would ask us to help him learn a word he could not figure out. He would explain what it was and we would try to find the correct word. I felt more than happy to help him out.

Back at the dock, we sat and waited for the bus. It started to pour down rain. We took shelter at a restaurant and waited. The name of the game so far had been "wait." The bus got there eventually, but it was a different bus. Our group was split up for some reason I can not remember. Jackie, two guys from the group, and I were boarded on a bus with a bunch of people we did not know. I sat in the fold down chair in the aisle, which was the most uncomfortable seat in the bus. Behind me was a tall girl, and the bus was not made for tall people. Her legs were smashed into the back of my seat, not allowing me to sit all the way down. It was a fold up chair that came up in the aisle, but with her behind it, the seat could not fully extended. I spent the next five hours uncomfortably holding myself up, praying for smaller bumps in the road. The driver drove like a maniac, barreling down the road and through any bump that came in the way.

Back in Hanoi

Motorbikes and scooters scooting along on the Hanoi streets.
Finally, we made it back to the hotel. We checked back in and learned we had been given a room on the tenth floor. I did not even realize the building was that tall! Our new room was nice, but I liked the other one more. This one was smaller and, even though the view was better, it had some mold in a couple places. Still, it was a generally decent place.

By this time, we were starving. I used Foursquare to find a place to eat, and we headed out there. On the way to the restaurant, we discovered the church I wanted to see, St. Joseph Cathedral.

Nhà thờ Lớn Hà Nội, Nhà thờ Chính tòa Thánh Giuse: St. Joseph's Cathedral

Reaching toward the heavens.

Jesus just cold being a nice guy to everyone, including children.

I liked how old it looks, especially against all the green plants and blue skies.
The church is rather worn, but it is impressive. Details covered every inch of the buildings skin. Inside I did not take any pictures, but it is laid out like many old churches, in a kind of cross shape. The altar is in the back with the tabernacle and images of saints adorning the walls. Mass had yet to begin, and a few people had gathered to pray silently before the service. The people dressed casually but not poorly. Mostly, the men wore polo shirts and jeans and women wore jeans or casual dresses; older people, as usual, dressed much more formal.

The area around the church is pretty and quiet. We walked around and took pictures every place we could. I love looking at old churches. In New Mexico, there are a ton of old Catholic churches. In Korea, the churches are not particularly impressive. It is rather disappointing.

Dinner and Drinks

Check us in on Foursquare, slave!
We were quite hungry, and Google Maps helped us get to Quán Ăn Ngon, which had great reviews. The place is huge and, while it is technically outdoors, a huge canopy covers the dining area. You are surrounded by the kitchen; it is all open for you to see as they cook.

We ordered spring rolls and beer to start. Vietnamese spring rolls are simply the best. They come with a sauce to dip, and I fell in love with them. (We are getting married, spring rolls and I, soon! I'm so excited to tell you all!)

The beer came, Vietnamese beer is super cheap to buy, but really tasty, and the server gave us glasses. She then proceeded to open our beers, put a gigantic piece of tube-shaped ice in each glass, and pour the beer into them. I was horrified! Beer with ice? Surely it would be watery! (And I am sorry I called you "Shirley.") Unfortunately, I am here to report that it was terrible and watery. Oh well.

That was the only negative of the place though. It has been over a month now, so I do not remember what else we ordered, although I am pretty sure mine had beef or something. However, it was all really tasty and inexpensive.

Next, I used Foursquare to find a good bar recommendation. It came through big time, suggesting The Rooftop Bar & Restaurant. A ten-minute walk later, we were searching for the correct building. The bar is on the 19th floor, but none of the buildings looked all that big. However, we eventually found the Pacific Place building and went in. Sure enough, on the directory, it stated that it was on the 19th floor. Shrugging, we entered the elevator.

As we got to the top and exited the elevator, we saw a sign that said you could not come in if you were wearing shorts or sandals. Jackie was wearing sandals and I was wearing shorts... They still let us right in anyway. Whether that was because they do not really follow that rule or because it was not even close to busy, I do not know. We asked to sit outside and were obliged.

The view from The Rooftop Bar & Restaurant of Hanoi. The best view in town.
The view is incredible. It had been raining and we watched the lightning light up the night sky. I drank something that had coffee in it. Jackie, I am not sure what she ordered. Something sweet. Each was really great. After the drinks, and in a great mood, we walked home. And that was the end of our third day in Vietnam.
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