"The world is a book, & those who do not travel read only one page" St. Augustine

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page" St. Augustine

Saturday, February 26, 2011


(Friday) We woke up in the early morning or middle of the night, whichever you prefer. Our bus left at 4am for Da Nang. From there we would fly to Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. It was a short one hour flight south. When we arrived we were brought to our hotel. The city is full of motorbikes. This time it is a bit scary, and Hillary had to pull the Mom Arm every once in a while to protect us. We couldn't check into our hotel yet because it was so early. Therefore, we headed for the War Remnants Museum. We walked there which took about 15-20 minutes. The sun was already hot so early in the morning.
The museum was intense and opened in 1975 as "The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government [of South Vietnam]." In Viet Nam, the war is commonly referred to as the American War. It was interesting to see it from a different perspective. What we read and saw was far more expansive than the textbooks in which we are taught. I hope no one takes offense to anything I write because I do appreciate all the services that have been fulfilled. On the outside of the museum were tanks and planes on display. I walked around for some time running my fingers across the cold metal. I was astonished with the power and weight of such machines. Just looking at them gave me the shivers. I continued walking and saw bullets and bombs bigger than my body.
A quick turn and I was walking into a prison. There was barbed wire along the bricks. The prison mostly recreates tiger cages that were used to house prisoners on Con Son Island. This island used to be lush and full of beauty. It quickly became a hellish island. Along the walls are stories of the torture that went on throughout the prisons. A knot continuously turned in my stomach as I fought back tears. I don't understand how people can be so inhumane. So many prisoners were left blind, deaf and limbless. People were beaten to death, drowned, hanged, and shocked. Many of them were not fortunate enough to die quickly. Instead they were tortured with nails, hot liquids, water, etc. I did not want to keep reading, but I could not stop. I had to hear the stories and see the pictures. Although I did not want to believe what was before my eyes, I could not deny the truth. The part that makes my heart feel the saddest is knowing that this type of behavior is common during times of war, and it is still happening. The methods seem historic and stone-age, but they're being used in countries across the globe still. Genocides are still happening and innocent people are suffering. This part of the exhibit was hard to endure.
I continued inside the building. The first thing I came across was American soldiers burning their draft cards and students protesting. There were posters displaying peaceful riots in America against the war. Following this was propaganda from dozens of other countries. They were against the American aggression in Viet Nam. This really surprised me. I had not realized how many countries were against the involvement of American. There were many powerful countries against America. The posters continued for a long time. Then there were pictures displays of the battlefields. There were face-to-face pictures of soldiers torturing prisoners, gunning down villages and bombs exploding everywhere. The pictures made it all to real. Nothing was left o the imagination as people burning alive and stumbling with lost limbs were displayed. I could not hold back my tears any longer. My heart was broken.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the display was the part devoted to Agent Orange. The extremely toxic dioxin compound was used throughout all of Viet Nam. It was produced by Monsanto (leader for genetically engineered seeds and founder of NutraSweet) and dispensed as a chemical warfare. About 20 million gallons of herbicides and defoliates were sprayed during the war. The goal of this was to demolish food supplies, clear land and deprive the guerrillas with the means of survival. The chemicals destroyed lands, lush forests and crops. However, the people suffered the most. The aftermath of this chemical is still being calculated. Still, people are suffering from Agent Orange. It is passed through DNA, a mother's milk, etc. It is sad that children born decades after the war are born with disorders and birth defects because of this inhumane act. Children are born without eyes, joined together, limbless, hernias, extra fingers, or other deformities. I saw one picture of a baby born with four triangles for lips to her mouth. The pictures were all real and recent. Again my eyes swelled with tears. Although people have recovered and the country has developed itself, there are hundreds of thousands of people still suffering. I read a letter that a girl wrote to President Obama. She was a child born without legs or a left hand due to Agent Orange. Her family is a family of farmers, and the land still carries the chemical. She was moved by Obama's letter to his daughters particularly this part:
These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have.
She wrote of her desire to have the same but how difficult it was to obtain them due to her circumstances. The US has denied most aid that it has promised to Viet Nam. She was part of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit for victims of Agent Orange. However, the case was dismissed "ruling that there was no legal basis for the plaintiffs' claims." I hope her letter gets answered as well as other victims. I also hope the help that they need is given to them. It is so sad that young generations have to pay the price of the past. I had a hard time writing this blog. The words are difficult to find to describe the impact this museum had on me. I am deeply saddened. My heart says a thousand prayers.
I can't load pictures right now but here is a great site to see some of the exhibit...http://www.vietnam720.com/travel-tips/war-remnants-museum-saigon/

(Saturday) Today we took a bus to the Cu Chi tunnels. There's a network of tunnels that expand underground and were used by the Viet Cong guerrilla fighters. The tunnels were small and dark and expanded more than 250km. Often they were filled with insects and animals, but they were a great strategy. The network contained smokeless kitchens, fighting rooms and even a space to help provide collapsing tunnels if a bomb hit nearby. They were usually three tiered and had traps for American soldiers in case they found themselves inside. 
While walking the site we saw craters formed by bombs. Some were larger than others, but it was interesting to see the impact it made on such hard earth. There was a small rectangular cut out that was camouflaged with leaves. We were able to lower ourselves into it if we desired. The rectangle was so small, I did not think I could squeeze in. I tried and succeeded. It was scary. I made sure no one was going to step on the lid or cover me with dirt while I was in the tunnel. These were brilliantly made with such simple tools. We walked some more and were able to see sample rooms and how tools were made. 
There was also a shooting range with six or seven rifles that were used during the war. I really wanted to shoot because I have never had the opportunity to. Anna, Luke, Madeleine and I decided to shoot the M-16 which was used by American soldiers during the war. The front was mounted, but the pressure of the gun was still heavy. I was scared. I didn't like wrapping my finger around the trigger. In fact, I pulled away the first time. Then I pretended to aim and shot the bullet into the field. The force was so great, and my shoulder flew back a bit. I did this two more times. I didn't like the feeling of having a killing machine in my hands. I wanted to experience the weight, the sound, the feeling. It is nothing I care to feel again.
 We continued to walk. Hillary told us more than our guide did. He was very nice but extremely timid. Those who wanted were able to climb into a tunnel and walk a certain length of it. I did a part of the walk. The tunnel was small despite it being enlarged for tourists. We had to squat the whole time. There were a few lights inside, but at time I could not see the person one foot in front of me. A panic ran over me as I reached to feel some sort of clothing. There we were, underground, in a small tunnel with no light. I am not sure how people lived and survived like this. Although brilliant in design, they are so far from comforting. After the tour we had some cassava and tea. The rest of the afternoon and evening was mostly spent lazily. Tomorrow we go to the Mekong Delta for some cycling and a homestay. After that we head to Takeo, Cambodia for another homestay. Here we will be doing volunteer work and building houses and toilets. No communication will be available!  
Sample of Tunnels
Hole we slid into
I did this too. Such a small rectangle
 The pictures were copied from these sites respectively:


(Tuesday) We have left Hue for Hoi An. On our ride there we stop at Marble Mountain just outside of Da Nang. It was also used as a hospital but does not have an internal structure like the first one we saw. Instead, many of the caves are homes to statues and sites of worship. There was even a monk meditating on a rock.

I've anticipated coming to Hoi An since this town is one of Southeast Asia's oldest silk ports. There are tailors every where you turn. It's the best place to have clothes made. The town is absolutely romantic. The buildings have a French influence and glow with beauty. Some expose bricks beneath the tethered surface. The soft hues of yellow, orange and red line the streets and glow in the dim lights of the silk lanterns. The river houses many small wooden boats. Restaurants and shops are sprawled along the river. Each extends a warm invitation. There are street carts and a bridge to cross the river. Along the bridge are more silk lanterns that lead to more restaurants and shops.
Many of us had lunch together before heading over to Hillary's friend to have clothes made. Many of us bought sarongs in villages throughout Thailand and Laos to have made into clothes here. I had three gorgeous sarongs as well as some other ideas for dresses. One sarong was bright green so I had it made into a simple A-line skirt. The rest of the fabric was used to be made into two small clutches. Another sarong was made into a one-should dress. I absolutely love it despite the alternative neckline. I wanted a straight line, but it was made into more of a curve. Oh well! The last sarong was made into a beautiful strapless cocktail dress. The colors are so bold! The dress fits my body like a glove, and it is spectacular! She did such a good job with these! I also had two green dresses made. One was chiffon and open backed while the other was a silk wrap dress. The chiffon is not my favorite and something must be done with the front, but the back is exactly as I wanted. The silk one is nice and can be great with the right pair of heels!  Either way, the work that went into the dresses was tremendous.
After my first fitting, I decided to get a massage. I thought I was paying for an Aroma Therapy Massage. Instead I received a Vietnamese lady straddling me and drowning me in oil. The only benefit of the massage was having my back cracked.
These were all made in Hoi An

Also made in Hoi An
In the evening Isabel, Madeleine, Sam and I walked around. We found a woman selling some small snacks from a basket. We tried a few samples and bought some treats. She had coconut shavings in powdered sugar that reminded me of a marshmallow. I miss marshmallows so much! We also purchased some banana chips because they were not as sweet as normal banana chips. They were good. Isabel and I were craving some street food so we wandered the streets. Before crossing the bridge we got some grilled corn. The woman covered it in a chili sauce before putting it on the grill again. The flavor was sweet and salty despite the overcooked texture. We crossed the river searching for more Bahn Myu. Isabel asked a lady selling jewelry and she pointed to the left. After a few minutes of wandering we saw a street stand with a little old lady. The both of us ordered a sandwich and walked around. It was the best sandwich I have ever had! The flavors were so intense and luscious. There was a mixture of herbs and spices, sweet chili sauce, meets and vegetables on a warm baguette. We tried to find some Bahn Boa but could only find White Rose. The Bahn Myu was so good that we ended up going back for seconds. The lady was so nice!!! For dessert we went to a restaurant along the river. Everything looked amazing. After going back-and-forth several times, we settled on some Chocolate Cheesecake. Although it did not taste like cheesecake, it melted in our mouths. The dessert was delectable. Off to bed after this.

(Wednesday) Today was a free day. We enjoyed breakfast on the terrace by the pool and fields. It was a great way to start the day. There was a nice spread with fresh fruits, baguettes, freshly made eggs, pancakes, meats, etc. Of course there was drip coffee with sweet milk, my favorite. After breakfast a few of us rented bikes. Although they were old, they functioned just fine. We filled the baskets in the front with fresh fruits and sandwiches that we got at the market that morning. The market was intense and crowded. There was such a variety of products. We decided to get local fruits and of course Bahn Myu. Then we rode to the beach. The path was straight. At times we passed through villages, but my favorite part was riding through the rice fields. The colors were intense. The green rice fields contrasted against the blue sky. There were no clouds today only sunshine. Finally, after 10 days the sun decided to play.
The beach we went to was further away from town and therefore less crowded. We laid our sarongs along the sand and soaked up the sun. The water was the perfect temperature. A few of us ran in and savored the taste of salt water against our lips. "We are swimming in the Red China Sea!" I proclaimed. It felt so good to say these words. We all said it a few times to remind ourselves where we were. A surreal moment. The afternoon was lovely.
In the late afternoon, I rode back by myself. I did not mind; in fact, I enjoyed it. The sun was still warm and the breeze was cool. My mind wandered to the rice fields and the people along the streets. The ride was pleasant as I felt a sense of calmness. A cold shower followed before I was off to get sized for my dresses. 
Tonight for dinner, Isabel, Anna, Sam and I signed up for a Vietnamese cooking class. We were joined by three other travelers. The food was scrumptious, but the cooking class was more a prep class than anything. It was mildly disappointing especially in comparison to the one we took in Thailand. The head chef went over the recipes we were "cooking." First we did a fish cooked in a banana leaf. For that, each of us minced a different vegetable or herb. Then, myself and one other guy pounded the ingredients together to release some of the juices. She said I was stronger than him, but I like to think I just know what I'm doing in the kitchen. We were given small cutting boards and a steak knife. What chef cuts with a steak knife? It's almost a mockery to be given such useless tools. Anyways, she then put the fish on the banana leaves and showed us how to fold it properly. Her assistants came and took it away to be cooked.
The rest of the meals were done in a similar fashion. We grated vegetables, watched a bit, then her assistants took it away. The good news is, we had a great dinner. It included spring rolls which we were all able to roll one ourselves. There was also the fish, white rose (local dumplings), fried wontons (also a local specialty) and my favorite, beef salad. Of course I loved the beef salad because the meat was marinated in garlic, and the dressing also had a lot of garlic. Again, the food was good, but the class was not. Off to bed in yet another food coma.

(Thursday) Today is another free day in Hoi An. After breakfast, I walked around the town by myself. I walked with a stupid smile across my face saying, "Hi" to everyone I passed. I was not bothered by women trying to make me clothes or someone offering a manicure for 50 cents. In this town, I simply walk and smile politely. A few times I stop and talk. Some people ask where I am from or how my travels are going. Today, I am on my own schedule and find the time for simple conversations and exchanges of laughter. At one point I see a merchant carving away at some teak wood. I stop and watch him with his permission. His English is fairly good, and we talk for 10 or 15 minutes as I marvel over his work. He is so skilled. He has carved such beautiful things like Buddhas, chop sticks and jewelry boxes. I continue on enjoying the sun and small chatter of others.
I had two more dresses made that turned out to be my favorites. They're fun dresses that I want to wear to the Country Music Fest. I immediately thought about that when I saw them on the manikin. I also had a gorgeous cocktail dress made at a third store. It's perfect for a date night whenever I will actually have one again ;) Isabel and I rent bikes and ride to the beach again. The weather is perfect. I love the darkening of my skin and the company of my book. I laid on my sarong listening to the undertow crashing and reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. A sense of tranquility overcomes me. I've been reading quite a bit this trip. So far I have read Little Bee about a Nigerian refugee, First They Killed My Father a memoir about a Cambodian refugee, A Thousand Splendid Suns about a bastard Afghan child and Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea a humorous book about a comedian's life. The first three were amazing. I recommend them to be added to anyone's reading list. They were very moving and formed on actual events.
This is a side note, but yesterday on the beach I bought a pair of sunglasses. I had left my black ones on the bus back in Thailand. Since then I have purchased a pair of neon green ones. I love them but sometimes the green is overkill. I thought I should get some black shades so people can take me seriously at times. Within 24 hours I had dropped my new shades and broken them. I just bought another new pair (don't worry they're less than $5) and they are chipped. I see a trend here...
 For dinner we all met by the pool. Each of us brought a snack to share. Those of us who had clothes made wore them. Everyone's items turned out great! We leave Hoi An in the middle of the night. I will be sad to go. This town is so romantic. The reflections in the water, the silk lanterns, the food and the people are all serene. The architecture is full of character. One can't help but be happy here. There's too much to enjoy and such a slow pace to do so. This has been my favorite town thus far. Perhaps one day I will return.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


(Saturday) It was cold and muggy when we woke up in Hanoi today. The city was already alive by the time we made our way downstairs for breakfast. The breakfast at the hostel was very simple. It included baguettes, jam, fruit and coffee. We ate a little bit but were not very full. No worries though. Today was a free day, and we intended on eating our way through our walking tour. We walked through Hanoi's Old Quarter. First on our food stop was donuts. We tried some sugar, sesame and something else. I have no clue what was inside of it.
The streets were full of merchants. The sidewalks were nearly non-existent as the vendors set up along them. When there was free space, motorbikes used them to maneuver through traffic. Being a pedestrian is not very safe in Hanoi. I had such anxiety trying to cross the streets! We went to Lake Hoan Kiem which has a historical significance. We took pictures at the Huc Bridge and continued walking the streets. We passed the shoe makers, the floral markets, home goods, etc. Each street houses the same genre of shops. After a while, we stopped for some Vietnamese drip coffee with sweet milk. It's so delicious and hard to sip on because you want to drink it in one gulp! I absolutely love the coffee, and I don't drink it black. Sweet milk has to be my new favorite thing. I thought it was only used in baking and was I wrong! We tried some weird gelatin concoction in a banana leaf. It was pretty awful. Much to our surprise we found a frozen yogurt shop. The four of us were like little kids in a candy store. There were so many toppings so we made colorful yet clashing desserts. We continued walking to the market. Here we tried different dried fruits. They were interesting, and I did not have the urge to buy any.
For lunch a few of us headed back to the hostel. There was half off pizza which sounded really appetizing. We ordered a few different ones and decompressed. I was so tired after walking around in the gloomy weather all day. It was fun, but I was tired. Five of us tried to go to a few museums in the early evening. We were told they did not close until 7pm. We were turned away at the gate at 4:23 because they closed early on the weekends. I really wanted to see some of the museums and learn a bit more about the war and communist government here. I did get a whistle blown at me three times in this early evening. When I tried to take a picture of some security they reached for their pistols. Oops! Won't make that mistake again. A few of us walked around again and enjoyed some Bon Myu (meat sandwich with 5 different meats, sauces, herbs, etc), Bhan Bao (dumplings), and grilled corn!
For dinner our whole group went to Quan an Ngon. This is a pretty famous restaurant that serves food from every region in Vietnam. There are different "street vendors" situated throughout the restaurant. Madeleine, Isabel, Luke and I decided to order eight different foods to share. Everything was good and some better than others. Of course we stopped for dessert on the way home because Hillary found pistachio ice cream on the lake. What splendid news! Hillary and I LOVE pistachio ice cream. When we were rock climbing the two of us were in a group and did a great dance to express our passion for pistachio ice cream. Although we tried to go out tonight, so many of us were exhausted that we returned to our hostel and went to sleep!

(Sunday) Today we went to the Museum of Ethnography. The museum was very nice and had a variety of artifacts that represent the different types of Vietnamese. There were clothes, tools, household items, musical instruments, etc. It was really great to walk around. Outside were different houses. Many of them resembled ones we stayed in with our home stays. After this we went to the Temple of Literature. It was so busy and overwhelming. We were supposed to get a guide, but there was an hour wait. Therefore, we walked around by ourselves. I enjoyed some of the architecture before leaving.
We all ate lunch at a place called KOTO which stands for Know One Teach One. The concept is similar to Baguette and Chocolate in Sapa. It's a non governmental organization that employees street kids and also provides an educational experience for them. I absolutely love this concept. I think I may have found my calling :)
We went to see a water puppet show. It's an old tradition that used to be performed in rice fields. It was very interesting. I was surprised with the amount of detail that was displayed. I thought it would be very basic, but it exceeded my expectations. There were old ladies next to us who were very loud, however. they talked almost the entire time in outside voices. Manners seem to be a bit different while traveling.
After the show we had free time. I mostly hang around the guest house. Four of us went to dinner at a street cafe. We had passed it the previous day when our noses had guided us down an alley thanks to the smell of garlic. What can I say? Garlic is the best ingredient in cooking. Sam and I split two meals. We ordered some crunchy fried noodles with beef. My favorite was the garlic shrimp we ordered. It was perhaps one of the best shrimp entrees I have ever eaten. I wish I had bread to dip in the remainder of the sauce. After our stomachs were satisfied, we headed to the train station and took a night train to Hue.

 (Monday) We arrived in Hue in the mid-morning. After checking into our guest house we ate at Cafe on Thu Wheels. The service was so great as well as the food. We only had a short time before we headed out for our Moto tour. We had a great four hour tour through Hue which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There's so much history and beauty. The motorbikes took us through rice fields, villages and historical sites. The views were amazing. We rode through the hills with views of the mountains and rivers on our side. I absolutely loved being on the bike. I haven't been on the back of a bike in a long time. This was a different experience though. My arms were not wrapped around some guy who has no significance in my life. I was not keeping my parents up worrying about where I was. There was no highway with paved roads and street lights. Instead, my hands were in my pockets to keep them warm. My head was turning left and right to catch a glimpse of all the beauty I was passing. It's such a liberating feeling. I love the wind blowing through my hair and the rush of being on a motorbike. For once, I felt like part of the Vietnamese traffic instead of just an intruder. It was excellent.
For dinner we went to a Japanese restaurant that also helps street kids. The food was good. I was hoping to speak with the owner, but he was not there. It was back to bed for us shortly after dinner. It was a splendid day.

Monday, February 21, 2011


(Tuesday) I haven't been in the mood to write for almost a week now. This is not my finest, but it's an update! Today was Blair's 21st birthday. Some of us girls pitched in to get her a silver bracelet. Inside "We love you kaa" was inscribed. Although it's supposed to be kha, the meaning is the same for us. I'm so glad we could celebrate with her. She is an amazing girl who is definitely going to do good things for this world. She has so many admirable qualities. We all decided to have breakfast together and ordered pancakes with sugar and lemon. Of course there was plenty of hot tea to go with. Afterwards, we all got cozy in a room, lit a fire and watched tv. For lunch, our whole group met at the restaurant of our guest house. We sang Happy Birthday, and ate a delicious lunch. While sitting there, the curtain of clouds finally opened. We all rushed to the patio to enjoy the mountain caps and a glimpse of sunshine. Moments later, it was gone. The clouds gave way a few times throughout our lunch. These moments created much happiness as we eagerly watched the mountains and village come to life. Sapa is a beautiful mountain town, and it's unfortunate the clouds have masked it most of our stay. However, these small moments create a sense of appreciation. There was a bit of giddiness for some including myself. Our giantly delicious burgers made the moment even better.We left Sapa and took another night train to Hanoi.

(Wednesday) Two bus and two boat rides later, we were at Halong Bay. I was in complete awe. The limestone islands were absolutely breathtaking. The water sparkled beneath as we rode to our private island for the evening. It was semi-private actually. There was another group of eight travelers on the island. They were very pleasant. We stayed at a beach camp in little huts. Anna and I were lucky enough to get one with a bathroom. It almost looked like a honeymoon suite with our big bed and frilly mosquito net. Before lunch, Anna and I walked across to a smaller island where a boat was turned to be fixed. The tide was low so we were able to walk easily. While walking we saw a starfish and the imprints of many others. We also saw some crabs and what appeared to be a sea cucumber.
For lunch we had fresh seafood. It was soooooo good! After we settled in, we went sea kayaking! It was my first time ever kayaking. Isabel was my partner. We had such a good time. The group went around for a couple of hours. About half way through, Isabel and I sank into some deep conversations. Our kayaking pace turned into a leisurely pace so we could talk and take it all in. My arms were so sore, but it was a great way to spend the afternoon. I was hoping the sun would come out to play, but it never did. Still the air was warm. After a hot shower we sat outside drinking coffee and tea while waiting for our dinner. Hillary brushed our hair for us. It was so nice! I forgot how relaxing having my hair brushed is. Mom, I'm sorry for always shooing you away when you touch my hair. Lesson learned. You can brush my hair whenever you'd like :) Dinner was so delicious. There was grilled squid, steamed clams, chicken, pork, salad, friend rice and the most amazing garlic French fries! I was so full and ready for some sleep.

(Thursday) I woke up to the sound of the tide breaking against the sand. It was calming. I had woken up in the middle of the night and scared myself thinking the gibbon would come into our hut. Our kayak guide said the gibbon would come inside if we left food out. Ever since we visited the gibbon sanctuary in Thailand, I am fearful of them. They are vicious!! I also had another crazy dream last night. The malaria pills have made me dream up some crazy things that are nightmares to me like kids and marriage!
Breakfast was served outside before we boarded another boat. We were taking that boat to go kayaking and then transfer to a larger boat known as a junk. We stopped in the ocean for some members to kayak. I voted against it today . I was very content with reading on the sundeck despite the lack of sun. Again, the air was warm and the rocking motion was very relaxing. Half our group stayed on deck, and we played games and had a nice afternoon. A few times the "7-11 boats" came by to sell snacks and drinks. I like the concept of having small paddle boats come and bring you food and drinks. When the other half of our group arrived we continued our ride. However, we stopped before transferring to the other boat. There was news that a boat had sunk the previous evening, but no other news was provided. Eventually we learned that they were not letting tourists stay on boats overnight due to this tragic incident. Unfortunately, 12 tourists died in the early evening. My heart goes out to them and their families.
Plan B brought us to a hotel where we had a group dinner. Some of us went for dessert afterwards. We heard some Modest Mouse playing so we decided to grab some there. The music was better than the dessert. We tried to order ice cream and chocolate cake. They brought out packaged ice cream cones that we politely declined. Then came the cake which looked like a twinkie with chocolate syrup. Although there was no filling, the cake was the same consistency with a hint of coconut. Oh well, we tried.

(Friday) In the morning we had breakfast before heading to a national park. Wee had breakfast before heading to a national park. We hiked up to a gorgeous look-out tower on top of a mountain. From there we had an unobstructed view of the mountain range. It was absolutely stunning. Abundant green mountains expanded as far as my eyes could see. The cool breeze felt nice against my sweaty body. There were no sounds but those of our own voices. The hike was worth every step and stair. My legs are also thankful. We stopped at a Hospital Cave as well. There's literally a hospital built into a cave that was used during war. It looked like a scene in a Saw movie, but it was brilliant at the same time.
We took another speed boat in the late afternoon and after a two hour bus ride returned to Hanoi. The city was alive. We checked into our hostel which was the Backpacker's Hostel. It was awesome! it's new and absolutely great. There were so many travelers and twelve of us shared a room. They were clean, spacious and modern. There was a pool table, computers, dart board, movies, etc. For dinner a few of us dined at a street cafe we had noticed earlier. There were a ton of locals every time we passed which is a good indication that the food is worthwhile. We sat down, ordered some beer and then the beef. They brought out hot skillets and raw seasoned meats and vegetables. There were giant pieces of garlic mixed in. We used one set of chopsticks to cook our food and the other to eat. The food was so good. The meat was tender and seasoned so nicely. They also made us sauces with lime, seasonings and chilles. We ate everything.
There were 2-for-1 cocktails at the hostel afterwards where we tried some Mango Leg Openers? When the bar closed the entire hostel headed over to another bar. About six of us girls went out. It was Gill's last night, and we were ready to dance. Although the music was obnoxious, we loved every minute of it. Everyone was into it. There was a great dance party going on upstairs. What a fun night. We stayed out until 12:30 which is super late for us! It's nice to be a part of the city night life again. I almost forgot what that felt like :)

Game face for our uphill bike ride

This is how dense the fog was when we rode our bikes


Halong Bay

Hospital Cave