Archive for July, 2011

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Vietnam Trip Photo Report #5: Hà Nội and Hạ Long Bay

As promised, I present herein my final photo report from Vietnam, finally, nearly eight weeks after we returned. I always forget how much I get carried away with travel photography and how much time it takes to process, curate, tag, group and upload the photos when I get home. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’ve been on 3 separate trips out of the country since then… But I digress. The main thrust of this post will be to present a small selection of photos I took in Hanoi (Hà Nội) and Hạ Long Bay.

We really liked Hanoi and found it to be a charming, bustling, intense, quirky and friendly capital. Hanoi (and especially the Old Quarter) provided a compelling peek into the past – once you got past the teeming hordes of motorbikes. Hanoi really tested our road-crossing mettle but we applied our hard-earned experience and were moto-dodging like old hands around the merchant lanes (Undertakers Lane, Blacksmith Street etc). At least we never succumbed to the cyclo touts – we saw more than one organised mass cyclo tour with bored-looking tourists stretching off down the street and wondering what they had agreed to.

Umbrella Roof at Nola Bar, Old Quarter, Hanoi

Old Quarter Rooftops, Hanoi

Blacksmiths shop, Old Quarter, Hanoi

Hanoi Alleyway

Tourist Cyclo Hell, Old Quarter, Hanoi

We used Hanoi as a bit of a home base as we made tracks for Sapa and then Hạ Long Bay, returning to the city twice, and appreciating it more every time. We even made it out to the Hoan Kiem lake three separate times before 8AM to observe and participate in the morning exercises around the lakeshore. These exercises were often comical to watch, with people seeming to see Tai Chi more as an inspiration rather than something to be adhered to, and we saw more than one elderly Hanoian vigorously punching themselves in the stomach/head/crotch. We even saw the same chap furiously shadow-boxing his way around the lake every morning. All that exercise made us even more keen to dip into Hanoi’s famous street food scene, and we ate very very well indeed…

Exercise around Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Exercise around Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

We did do a bit of sight-seeing, visiting the beautiful Temple of Literature and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi

But the true experience of Hanoi is always going to be wandering through lives lived mostly on the street, from the roving portable kitchens and merchants to the unbelievably cute kids who always mug for the camera with the biggest shit-eating smiles they can muster.

Old men at play, Old Quarter, Hanoi

Flower Seller, Old Quarter, Hanoi

Jack-in-the-box, Old Quarter, Hanoi

Whatchu lookin' at, Old Quarter, Hanoi

Gutter sailing, Old Quarter, Hanoi

I look very fondly on our time in Hanoi and hope to return here again someday. For more Hanoi photos, please see my Flickr group here.

Hạ Long Bay
Next it was on to a fabled destination: Hạ Long Bay, the jewel of the North, the fairytale of limestone karst islands and languid journeys on a faux-“junk” (really a party boat with a sail whacked on top for show) around cliffs and visited floating fishing villages – and even the odd cave.

The view from our front door, Paloma Cruises, Ha Long Bay

Bamboo boats of Vong Vieng floating fishing village, Ha Long Bay

School in Vong Vieng floating fishing village, Ha Long Bay

Cavern Passage near Vong Vieng floating fishing village, Ha Long Bay

Lone Fisherman, Ha Long Bay

Interior of Sung Sot "Surprise" Cave, Bo Hòn Island, Ha Long Bay

In truth I was looking forward to Hạ Long Bay with a bit of apprehension as my research indicated that the bay, while magnificent to the naked eye, tended not to come across so well in photographs, as the vast majority of photos were taken from sea level and lacked perspective. So I made a point of asking our tour boat if it was possible to include a trip to somewhere with a vantage point and they obliged.

Islands of Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay Panorama from Above

My final image of this post (and indeed my Vietnam trip) will have to be of the sunrise I captured by rising at 5:15AM onboard our boat. I had the deck – and seemingly the world – to myself, and I was happy as I could be.

Ha Long Bay Sunrise

There are quite a few more photos in my Flickr set of Hạ Long Bay here.

Next time
Well, it is with relief that I can say that this is the last of the Vietnam photos (for now). We did visit Kuala Lumpur for a while and I did take a boatload of videos on the Canon 7D, but both of those will depend on further review and quality and/or time issues. But never fear, I have a few more posts on the boil:

  • Dubai
  • Catalunya: Barcelona and Alt Emporda
  • And I am sure I will have a London post brewing before too long…

Welcome to new visitors

Due to a welcome surprise of being linked from the home page, one of my recent posts about Vietnam has received a mini-flood of Likes and comments (not to mention views). So thanks to WordPress for featuring this post and thanks to you for coming if you’re visiting the blog for the first time.

Do come back and visit (or just add this RSS to your news reader of choice) because coming up in the next couple of weeks will be photo reports from:

  • Vietnam: Hanoi and Ha Long Bay
  • Dubai
  • Catalunya: Barcelona and Alt Emporda

Thanks again for having a look!