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Friday, May 7, 2010

Halong Bay and Trekking in the Northeast

This past week has been the most fun and eye-opening yet. I am truly in love with Vietnam and with 3 days left in the country I know I will be back! I signed up for one of the package tours out to Halong Bay - which is basically the only way to do it and it is a bit of a toursit trap. I was fortunate though and ended up with a great group of people all around my age and from all over the world.

The first day was exploring the "Amazing Cave" in one of the Islands. It was quite a cave, but the beauty was sort of lost with the blue and gree lighting they had set up and the hoardes of westerners being shuttling along the the roped off path. All it needed was the Indiana Jones theme song and I was at Disneyland. BUT from there we got on a boat and cruised around the bay which has thousands of islands of all sizes that rise straight up out of the water. Made for some realy great kayaking. I decided to take my sleeping bag up to the deck of the boat that night and sleep under the stars. Waking up to sunrise on Halong Bay and diving off the deck of the boat for a morning swim will be a hard one to beat. It only got better when we spent the second night in huts on a secluded beach on Monkey Island. And to top it off, our Vietnamese tour guide sounded EXACLTY like Borat everytime he said anything in English. Absolutely amazing! I've never laughed so much in 2 days in my life!

I am now sitting in a cafe in Sapa, a town in the North East region of Vietnam, near the border to China. I came up here via train with 2 friends I made on Halong Bay who were dying as much as I was to get into to the hills and do some hiking. We've been trekking along the valley of rice paddies from village to village sleeping in some VERY hunble homestays at night. The trekking has been great in the Valley, but a few of us are dying to climb up the the peaks above the valley and really get the panaoramic view. So tomorrow I'll be setting off to hike up to apparently the tallest mountain in Vietnam - a 2 day hike that we've hired a local guide from the Balck H'mong hilltribe for at $5 a day! I'v got my mozzy net and some rice and mangosteens(best fruit EVERR) and I'm ready to go!

This area of the country is so lovely; the air is fresh and the village kids - while hounding you to buy their textiles and bracelets nonstop- are still so cute and their traditional attire is awesome! The most fun though is the conversations you have while trekking with other travelers from all over the world who work in all kind of different careers. Their stories have added to my endless list of places I want to see - there are just too many things to see in this world. I think Nepal/ India has definitely moved to the top of my list! Who's with me??!