Vietnam: Hanoi To Ho Chi Minh City [Day Ten]

Tuesday 6th December 2016:

I had to sleep lightly in fear that I may miss my flight. I promptly got ready and went downstairs to check out. I found the staff sleeping, I didn’t want to wake them up but I had to get my taxi. The taxi came on time at 6:00 am as requested. I left the hotel after paying for my stay.

The receptionist asked where to drop me and I asked for the Hanoi domestic airport for Ho Chi Minh City, he replied: “Let’s go”. He kindly helped me to carry my bag out to the boot of the taxi located in front of the hotel.

I stepped out of the hotel and the whole city was sleeping. The smell of the morning hit me and it felt like time stopped again. I stopped and looked at the early sun rays kissing the edges of the buildings in the horizon as we departed. Once again the driver was very quiet and I didn’t want to insist on making conversation for the muted feeling of the waking city was more hypnotic. There was hardly anyone on the road. The motion of the car gently transported me into a light healing sleep.

We arrived at the airport quite quickly, I asked the driver how much the price was (as the hotel quoted me 335 000 VD). He said to my surprise: “It’s ok, the hotel paid for it”. I tried to explain that I didn’t pay for it but he was having none of it and quickly got back into his car and even refused a tip. He left quite promptly and I stayed puzzled not understanding what just had happened.

I had no choice but to walk away. I entered the domestic airport and got to the VietJet desk to check in which was very easy, it was then 6:45am and boarding was at 8:15am.

I had a lot of time to kill during which I met a guy called David from Australia, a young fella who was travelling to Da Lang. We spoke and he left quite shortly after due to his boarding time.

I was then by myself and I caught up with some emails and other stuff then it was time for boarding. The flight was very quick (2 hours). I felt like it was a crazy time to leave and there were a little bit of turbulences. The domestic flight was insane. I hate flying!

الحمد لله we arrived safe and sound, everyone made their way to exit the plane and as I came off the plane the heat difference hit me. It was so strong. I got so happy for I knew my Vitamin D levels would peak up straight away. I entered the airport after being dropped by a small shuttle bus. Picked up my luggage. There were so many more people than in Hanoï. I presented my passport and went through the small security gate.

As soon as I entered I tried to locate the taxi desk which was on my right hand side and the lady asked me where I wanted to be dropped, I gave my hotel reservation paper and she wrote a receipt that she asked to present to the taxi person upon pick up. I was happy as I had read so much about the scams with taxis in Ho Chi Minh City. I paid and made my way outside, the heat again was very strong. I was already sweating. I was asked to wait for my taxi inside in the meantime.

A lady came and prompted me that my taxi had arrived. I had never seen so many taxis in my entire life. One after an another.

Surprisingly the journey to my hotel was rather easy and very little amount of traffic was noticeable but it was then 10.45am so it was understandable.

The difference of temperature was so dramatic from North to South. The air con was lovely. The driver was also very talkative and the difference in interaction was also evident.

I was looking at the world go by from the window seat and felt like time was slowing down. A feeling of intense rest took over me and excitement too.

The taxi all of a sudden stopped. I was puzzled and he said: “hotel is here”. I was shocked of how quick it was. I asked him to confirm that we had the right street and hotel. He confirmed by showing me the street name. He helped me to unload my stuff from the boot and I thanked him. He left quite promptly too.

The ride from the airport to the Dragon Hotel was a little lengthy due to the traffic. I entered the hotel to check in but it was 12:00pm and check-in was only from 14:00. I couldn’t check-in as the guy occupying the room had just left 20 mins before I turned up.

I asked the guys if I could leave my backpack behind so I could kill some time and be back in time for a check-in. They agreed. I took opportunity to walk around and realised there is a bakery just on the doorstep of the hotel. (should the breakfast be rubbish). I bought an apple pain au chocolat which was awesome.

Before leaving the hotel, I grabbed a map of the city so I could navigate through Ho Chi Minh City. The time was approaching Dhuhr and I knew I could reach the mosque just in time for the salah. After 30 minutes of intense walk, I finally found the mosque. I felt so happy and the sun was so good. Ho Chi Minh City really reminded of some of the streets of Tokyo.

I prayed at the mosque and replenished on energy. I bought a bottle of water from the corner K Shop and made my way back to the hotel using my memory to return back to the district.

Arriving at the hotel, overfilled with joy from the discoveries of the last hour, I paid for the accommodation and asked to put a wash in after checking-in.

Tayne sent an email with a lovely plan for the evening dinner to be, Sushi!!! He advised me to get a moped taxi to get there. I was quite nervous about it and I opted to walk there. Tayne was shocked but I really wanted to do it. He also asked me to get a sim card but I was quite uneasy about it due to the fact that I was only going to be there for a little while. I fell asleep for a power nap and showered to regain energy. I went downstairs and spotted my washing bag in the corridor. I asked them why it wasn’t done, they said I had put it late so they couldn’t process the request on the same day.

I couldn’t be bothered to argue after all this travelling. I decided to go to Ben Tranh Market to get a new t-shirt as I had no clothes to wear for the next day. I bargained for a t-shirt for 120 000 VD. Ben Tranh Market is known for their thirst of bargaining. Before leaving the hotel, I booked my trip to the Mekong Delta for the next day.

I made my way into the madness of the traffic night. The rain was so abundant and I was sweating evening more making me doubly wet. Despite the intense heat and night struggle to get to the other side of the city via the river, I struggled through and enjoyed the difficulties. I, before leaving the hotel, I took screenshots of the directions from the market to the restaurant.

I nearly got ran over multiple times already, I spotted another mosque on the way and stopped in multiple places such as pharmacies, restaurants, to ask about Vinh Khank Street and other streets alike. The locals kindly pointed me to the right place. Whilst walking in the busy streets and open terraces restaurants, I stepped into several water holes. My socks were so wet.

I walked up and down the street and finally found Sushi KO and was happy to know that I had made it. As expected, I messaged Tayne to say I was there. What is surreal in Saigon is the ability to have Wi-Fi in many places even when on the streets. I couldn’t see anyone but I spotted a couple that was standing next to the entrance. The restaurant was open-air only and the tables were typical of Vietnam (small tables and small chairs). I am usually incredibly shy with my introvert self but I took my courage in hands and asked the couple if they were waiting for someone called Tayne and puzzled, they said:”yes”. I introduced myself and we went to sit down at a table where two other guys were sitting waiting for Tayne too. Tayne is the man, his popularity was so evident haha. The guys were from Russia and New Orleans. I was amazed of how far people came from. What a small world.

We discussed many things and all of a sudden the conversation got deep onto religion. Then Tayne arrived!!!!

Tayne came and wanted to sit next to me which I was really touched. We ordered our food and I ordered my ever evident green tea. We all took different platters of sushi, sashimi and maki.

We enjoyed the amazing food and incredible conversations with awesome company, hours went by so quickly and the rain had stopped.

It was getting late as it was the middle of the week and everyone was working early the next day we paid and planned the next few days with Tayne, I insisted on walking back to the hotel by myself and I got lost on my way there. It was fun but I was also exhausted.

I popped into K-Mart to get some oreos, lychee juice (the best I ever had), and some pains au chocolats. I got home, took my fourth shower of the day and went to pray and bed straight away. I had to send some emails and terminated the day.

 

Vietnam: Hanoi [Day Nine]

Monday 5th December 2016:

I woke up after a turbulent night, the air conditioner unit was so disruptive and made the whole room very cold.

I reluctantly went to get some breakfast after my shower which was quite poor and I had no appetite. Today was a low day. The difference of temperature was so evidently strong, I could notice the lovely scent of incense burning throughout the hallway downstairs in the reception. I left my room and took the awesome set of stairs to the next level but realised there were 12 levels. I looked all the way up and perceived the ceiling. What an incredible building this was, the architecture made it all special and the air being cold made it feel all so royalesque. The interior was strongly influenced by French architecture.

I decided to take the lift and got to the last floor of the hotel with the intention of getting a beautiful view of the city. As the doors opened, a lady came in, shocked, I said: “Oh hi”. She replied excited: “Hello hello hello”. She introduced herself, her name was Ba Twe from Myanmar, Burma and uttered that it was her first time in Vietnam. I replied accordingly and said that I wanted to have a view of the city so I shyly left the elevator and said my farewell. She took a step back as the doors of the lift closed and said that she wanted to discover Hanoi in a better way. She asked me if I wouldn’t mind her following me on my quest to discover the beautiful spots of Hanoi.

I took the pictures I wanted whilst chatting and replied that I didn’t mind.

The first thing I explained Ba Twe was to be careful of her belonging. She insisted on walking all the way to the Old Quarter.

I suggested to get egg coffee on her first day in Hanoi. One of my notes was ripped so could not be used, I had to pop in to a bank to change it which they did without any hassle.

Today I had planned to go on the perfume pagoda excursion but I couldn’t be bothered to travel again on a day trip. My energy was wearing thin. I was already exhausted and we were blessed with a 27 degrees Celsius weather all day, the weather felt very sticky/humid.

We set off onto the first part of the trip into this madness, the city was waking up. She arrived late in the night so didn’t see much of the city. We took a different route to get to the cafe, we went through a side street and passed a micro-market where people were cutting meat on small metal plateaux and were selling all sorts of vegetables. The smell was very strong.

We could see a huge mist in the air around 10am and the station was packed. It felt like the whole city was already active.

We went through a different way to get to Cafe Giang. We finally reached the café after a great walk. 

We entered the long corridor and the kitchen was in front of us. The sweet smell of condensed milk and roasting coffee beans hit our senses so delicately. Excited I walked up the stairs leading the way for Ba Twe. Ba Twe was smiling so much she was so happy. 

The cafe was not busy at all and what a lovely time it was and everywhere was clean. Ba Twe was so excited. She was so happy that it brightened her day, the coffee was so good.

Ba Twe thanked me at every sip of her coffee and even asked for a second cup.

After a lovely shot of Coffee we decided to hit the road again and not waste any more time. The weather was so lovely reminding me of France in summer.

We walked around the Lake Hoàn Kiem for a while.

Ba Twe wanted to do the rest of her trip by herself as she had to go the Old Quarter. We both went separate ways and it was the last time I saw her.

I wanted to take time around the lake Hoàn Kiem to relax and write some stuff and record on paper what I had experienced so far but my love for photography took over and the heat got too much. I decided to walk back to the district. I was now fully operational in this district of Hanoi and knew my way around.

I was also very determined to finish my roll of Fujicolor 100 which was dear to me as when my friend Takugo gifted me with a roll when he used to live in UK, I used it for my cherry blossoms series back in London. I liked the tones so much I wanted to try more of it.

I went back to the hotel to pray after buying some Kitkat matcha, a bottle of water and lychee juice then hit the spot straight away at Cosiana D’lions restaurant for lunch time.

As I mentioned earlier on in the post, I was feeling quite low today but it was due to the fact that my very good friend Wayne had passed away a week ago and I didn’t get a chance to deal with it due to the intense travels and constantly having to be on the go. Today I guess, was the day I had to face my emotions. I confronted my feelings as I knew this sadness would perdure the more I was putting a plaster on this wound.

My sadness was great as I miss him a lot. I didn’t even get to see him before he passed though I travelled to Wales with the intention to visit him, not knowing that he would pass away the very next day. Wayne didn’t want me to see him in this state but he would have been the first person to read my diary in this beautiful place (Vietnam).

To him we belong and to him is our return.

My friend Hernan contacted me and told me to go out to change my mind. I broke down in tears at the receipt of his message as his kindness touched my heart, I walked to the mirror and spent 10 mins staring at myself seeing so much of him in me. He helped me become the man I am today. Thank you Wayne….I miss you…. I wiped my tears and made my ablutions.

Hernan still insisted that I should go out so I grabbed my bag and left. The weather was incredible, he was right and the feel of this pastel amber setting wintery sun made me feel so at peace.

Perhaps that was my gift from الله عز وجل that even when things are difficult there is still beauty in this universe. My heart felt calmer. Verily our hearts are wild creatures, perhaps this is why our ribs are cages.

My pace slowed right down the more I was walking. I was trying to absorb the wonderful pace and energy of this insane territory.

I just couldn’t believe that I was in South East Asia in the middle of Hanoi. I was pondering about life a lot, this entire chaotic environment allowed me to concentrate on my life and focus on what really matters in life. It’s amazing what travelling does to your heart and brain, it’s like a drug that completely opens your mind. You get to know about yourself and you get to know about the world around you. I learnt so many new things about myself and most importantly I became more aware of the wonderfully breathtaking world around me. – MS

After some time walking in the city, I spotted a few guys with film cameras but I was obviously too shy to approach them. I went back to the Vintage Camera Shop around 17:00 and I asked the guy where the photo lab was as I was adamant to not leave Hanoi without finding it.

He left the shop and asked me to follow him to the place which was kind. He showed me the sign of the lab on the side street. I thanked him and went there. I had all my rolls with me so I could enquire about the processing time and price. I walked up the stairs with excitement. The interior of the flats were incredible.

I got to the top floor and found the guy who ran the lab. I asked him about the processing time for a few rolls. He replied to me that it could take more than 24 hours for processing and scanning. Disappointed, I had to decline the service as I was flying to Ho Chi Minh City the very next day and this wouldn’t give enough time to come and pick them up. I sent a message to Tayne to convey my disappointment but he boosted my morale by letting me know about his lab in Saigon.

I left happier and went onto taking more pictures. Time for salah was approaching so I missioned to reach the masjid in time in the other district. I experienced the intense rush hour and it was so overstimulating. My senses were all over the place.

I managed to get into the masjid and sought refuge within from the incredible rush hour madness. It was already getting dark and I rushed to the bathroom to perform my ablution and got ready.
I met some brothers from Vietnam, Indonesia, UAE. I stayed in within the masjid until Ishaa. Feeling tired and drained, I knew that good food was needed. I left the mosque and went to the Old Quarter to find a restaurant. I felt like eating vegetarian food again so I visited Viet Village again to enjoy a beautiful mushroom steak cooked in soya sauce with chips and eggs. Topped with a wonderful cup of Jasmine tea.

There were no more shots to take as the night masked the sky and the city quite quickly.

I thanked the staff and returned back to my hotel, happy of what I had achieved. I arrived at the hotel after a 20 mins walk and confirmed with hotel the time for the pick up the next day.

Bed time!

Vietnam: Return to Hanoi [Day Eight]

Sunday 4th December 2016:

The night went very quick in this beautiful paisible tea plantation. It is not everyday that one can relish resting in such a place.

I got ready quite promptly knowing that my taxi was booked for 7.30am.

I went to get my breakfast as I knew the return to Hanoi would be very long and tedious, I returned to my cabin to pick up my bag so I could check out. I made my way to the reception with my backpack and my Non La hanging from the top side of my backpack. I sat quietly in the reception area waiting for my taxi to arrive whilst watching the sun rise in the horizon and sipping on some artichoke tea which was quite unusual …getting ready to leave! The landscape was so beautiful.

The taxi came as expected at 7.30am. I thanked the receptionist and to my surprise the taxi journey was approximately 10 mins long. The taxi dropped me to town, where I was originally picked up on my arrival a few days ago. It was rather odd seeing so many people leaving at such an early time on a Sunday.

As I finished paying the taxi guy, an old lady opened the door of the taxi, grabbed my arm, directed me to a bus and asked me to jump on the small local bus in front of me. I was very reluctant and tried to explain that I was expecting a sleeper bus due to my previous experience but failed with no avail. AH! anyway my aim was to get back to Hanoi no matter what. I confirmed with her that the local bus I was about to get on was going to Hanoi and she nodded.

As I was making my way on the bus, I saw that the rate was 110 000 VD and I knew that the duration of the trip would be just above 5 hours. So I agreed and 5 mins later, the bus departed.

We took off and the driver stopped every 5 minutes on the way on the first hour to beg people to get on the bus. Moc Chau being a very rural place there were not many people on the way. After a few minutes drive, the lady asked me for the money to pay. I was ready to give the 110 000 VD but she said 250 000 VD. I looked at her and showed her the 110 000 VD sign. She laughed and got shy as she knew she got caught. I try to give 110 000 VD but she refused saying more. I was in need to get back to Hanoi so I gave 200 000 VD and she accepted smiling. At that point, I didn’t care anymore. This journey was hard enough.

Although they were quite nice to me (being the only foreigner on the bus), there were only 5 people on the bus, they did make fun of my beard.
It wasn’t hard to move on to something else with such beautiful scenery. I was incredibly shocked about how beautiful Vietnam was, travelling through some of its rural provinces. The greenery was astonishing and the bamboo-like houses found on the way were incredibly beautiful. I was so happy, my dream of seeing all this came true. My dreams in life are quite simple and I am glad Allah swt has given me this gift.

I didn’t want to sleep because of the crazy road and in case I’d miss my stop. After a difficult climb, we took a break at some place to replenish on food. I bought some cakes made of Durian. Oh my days! What a mistake, never again!! I quickly traded it for water and chocolate.

After 5 long hours, we arrived in Hanoi but at the Be Xe station which is one of the many major bus stations within Hanoi. It was crazy. I was shocked that I got dropped there. Be Xe was quite far from Giap Bat. A driver begged me to go on his motorbike but I refused explaining to him that I couldn’t have my backpack on his bike in the city. Another driver asked me but again I refused. He kindly showed me the way to the stop so I could take the bus 21 to Giap Bat. I thanked him.

I got on bus 21 and no one was on it, a feeling of amazement and rest came over me as I was focusing intensely on the old but beautiful brown leather sits on this old bus. I tried to place myself far away from where people would sit so I wouldn’t disturb anyone. I was experiencing the real commuting in Hanoi and for that I felt like a local.

So the bus journey was approximatively an hour long, the more the bus went from stops to stops, the more I realised I was getting lost as I couldn’t locate the area on the map. I realised that the map I had was only covering the Old Quarter which I was very far from.

A young girl was looking at me looking at my map intensely. She came towards me and said: “Can I help you?”, I replied: “Oh yes please”. Her name was Hai and she asked where I wanted to go. I was trying to locate the Le Duan road as I would know how to make my way back to the Quarter from there. She said I was going in the right direction and that we needed to jump off the bus (not literally!). We came off the bus and crossed the crazy streets of Hanoi outside the Old Quarter which are even more crazy. Bear in mind I had my huge backpack with me running on a 100 meters crossing – so much fun! (no sarcasm).

We made it to the bus stop and she taught me how to use the bus stops as they work quite differently compared to other places in the world. The bus stations are on the front of the panel and all the stops at the back of it (pay attention here!).

Hai wished me farewell and I thanked her ever so much. She departed and Bus 41 came. The pollution level was very bad but I knew Le Duan was near. I came off the bus and managed to locate the address of 292 Le Duan, I found my way back to the Cosiana hotel (92 Le Duan) elated about my success. The walk was intense but so good. I was so in love with Vietnam at that point. Writing this makes me nostalgic.

I had food and prayed and left to find the Landmark Hotel nearer to the Old Quarter for check-in time. I checked in, dropped my bag and went straight out so I could dive back into the madness of Hanoi. It was then 3.30pm and I had prayed Asr already.

The first thing that hit me was the incredibly beautiful warmth of the city on this post Asr weather. The winter colours of the sun could be felt on the buildings as it begun to set.

My mission was to find the X-Lab and the Vintage Camera shop so I could buy or process some films. But on my way there, the pollution got so intense that I started to feel physically/mentally tired and unwell. I tried to find the X-Lab first that was originally at 6 Phuong Lien but was apparently moved nearer to Vintage Camera.

I gave up, feeling quite sad that I couldn’t even find this shop. I decided to settle down for the notorious and lovely ‘Egg Coffee’ at the Giang Cafe; Egg Coffee is a speciality and is only made in Hanoi. I sat at a table with three chairs not thinking much of the dynamics around, The air was stale and the smell of smoke overtook the air. People from everywhere around the world gathered here, it was beautiful. I ordered my coffee and was eagerly waiting for it to arrive. In the meantime I took my camera out of my bag to document my findings.

It was weird, the cafe looked so rundown and chaotic. Peanuts everywhere on the floor, coffee mugs everywhere and strong smell of cigarettes which was due to people being able to smoke within the premises. I didn’t pay no mind to it and was eager to get a shot of that coffee to boost me. I was totally knackered. I never drank coffee in my life so this coffee was my first coffee ever.

I connected to the Wi-Fi and 2 guys approached me and asked if they could sit next to me. I of course agreed. I pulled my bag away from the seat and they sat down.

They ordered egg coffee too and they turned towards me and asked me where I was from. I kindly replied: “London”. They became so happy as they love to practice English.

Their names: Vuong and Tuang An, both vietnamese, Vuong is a radiography doctor and Tuang An is a radiology engineer. Working together, they became friends and Tuang wanted Vuong to try egg coffee. I was shocked to hear that because it was Vuong’s first time at trying egg coffee.

We laughed a lot and often spoke via google translate when communication became difficult. The more we were speaking the more they were laughing. Then all of sudden, Vuong said: “Let’s go restaurant, do you want to eat dog?”. I replied: “dog?”. I laughed declining saying I couldn’t push myself to eat dog. I believe it is a delicacy in Vietnam (correct me if I am wrong).

I asked them if we could get some Jasmine tea and enjoy a beautiful evening. Vuong knew where to go. They fought over whom I should go behind on the motorbike. We rode through Hanoi at traffic time. It was insane. As we were riding, we were speaking at the same time, it was so much fun. Zigzagging through the traffic was so exciting and dangerous at the same time. We nearly crashed a few times.

I felt so alive and it is so difficult to describe this intense feeling of excitement into words.

After arriving at the other cafe, we bought some jasmine tea from a corner shop and only ordered boiling water in a tea pot. Vuong insisted on paying for the tea pot. We enjoyed speaking about everything. We exchanged emails and I felt so happy.

We departed and Tuang really wanted me to have a beautiful time in Hanoi so he insisted on helping find the shop. We spend a good 30 minutes trying to find it. I screenshot everything just in case. After a while I managed to find the shop and I ran back to Tuang who was waiting for me. I thanked him so much and said I was going to email him later. I did.

I spent a wonderful evening. I bought a lovely new strap for my Minolta XD-7 that I found at the Vintage Camera Shop. I also bought a roll of Fujicolor 100 which was expired of 2014 and made my way to a vegetarian restaurant where I met Victoria from Lyon, France. I always wanted to try Lotus tea so I ordered a cup and it was beautifully subtle, not as strong as green tea but still gorgeous enough to enjoy. It felt like life had stopped. The madness of the city outside the restaurant and the calmness inside of the restaurant was contrasting heavily on this warm night. I felt like I was alive and every minute counted every time I placed my lips on my cup to take a sip.

On my way home, I also treated myself to a lovely bubble tea.

I went home and showered, prayed and went to bed. I was gone!

 

Vietnam: Moc Chau Part II [Day Seven]

Saturday 3rd of December 2016:

I woke up to the sound of the ladies discussing things. The ladies were getting ready, I went to make my ablution and I prayed Fajr. It was still so very dark outside and the rural cold was slightly kissing our skin. I could hear no car passing; just pure silence.

I had no idea how the place looked nor felt like as I only arrived yesterday just before midnight.

I got ready for 7am as the breakfast time started at that time. I walked out of the dormitory to the balcony and what I saw took my breath away. My eyes were never ready for what was in front of me. The early morning fog gently rested over the hills on this magnificent landscape and the air never felt so pure.

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I went down the stairs and made my way to the restaurant for breakfast (the walk took me approximately three minutes). Oddly, I was the first one there. I asked the chef what was on the menu but he couldn’t speak English. I tried to ask if they had fish but I gathered that they only did chicken for lunch and dinner.

I had my breakfast which consisted of cabbage, steam rice rolls (called Banh Cuon) and bread and eggs (it was delicious especially the Banh Cuon which really opened my mind to new flavours and some new culinary discoveries). It was the best breakfast in a while since I arrived in Vietnam, minimalistic but great in flavours. I finished just in time before the place became crowded, I left the area and embarked on an expedition on my own in the tea plantation. It was just out of this world and I couldn’t get over the peacefulness of this place. I had read the reviews but nothing could match the description of what was before me.

000016-copy 000045-copyThese were the little container flats with full view over the plantation. Taken from the balcony of the restaurant through the window.

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000056-copy I went far into the tea plantation and walked up the hills until I reached the top but the climb became difficult and I could notice some of the wildlife on the hills. I arrived on a plateau and saw some sugar canes everywhere.

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As I reached the top I heard the vegetation move (see the picture above) so I decided to walk back just in case I would come face to face with a predator but also because I was on my own I didn’t want to play brave.

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I managed to reach the main tea plantation after an accelerated returned walk. I passed a lady picking up tea leaves in her bag. That was exactly my dream to see someone do this, the original way.

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Someone had left their Non La in this little open bamboo shed. I saw a few Asian giant hornets. I walked back the other way so I wouldn’t get in contact with any as they are notorious for inflicting excruciating pain.

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I became tired and I realised that I forgot to return my friends messages so I walked back to the dormitory to get some Wi-Fi, to answer my friend Mike from Hong Kong and Takugo from Japan.
The receptionist came and said that my room (that I initially booked for the night before) was now ready. I got so excited and grabbed all my stuff and followed her into the complex. I arrived into the room and checked in.

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I had to speak to the receptionist via google translate for the complex questions. It was quite funny.

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I checked in and had a look around in my new found room. I decided it was time to sleep for a while to regain energy until Dhuhr. After praying and preparing my cameras with the right equipment I decided to go out again. The receptionist wanted me to book a taxi and was really pushing for it. I refused as it was way too expensive. She showed me the map and I saw that it was near where I was picked up yesterday which means it should have cost me around 60 000 VD but she said it was 250 000 VD.

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Ì politely denied but was also saddened by the rip-off-attempt, I made my way by myself out of the complex and onto the street. I ended up going for a 10 km walk on the main road (no towns around) just houses and small villages.

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It was insanely rural and the smell of the livestock and cows was quite dominant. I had only my XA with me and it felt so great walking with so little things on me.

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It was rather strange to walk on the main road as everyone was either looking/staring at me or waving at me which was also adorable. They must have thought: “Why is a there a brown dude here?” haha.

000042-copy 000048-copy 000047-copySome of the houses were really beautiful and the passing cars were beeping their horns waving at me.

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I stopped at this butcher. The meat and vegetables were on display. People came a picked up some meat, paid and left.

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After a long walk from the main road, I decided to return to the room as I didn’t want to get lost. I couldn’t eat any of the food they had to offer at the restaurant as I didn’t know how it was prepared, there was no vegetarian meal neither so I bought two packs of crisps on the road and a few cans of 7UP.

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Due to tiredness from the intense walk, I relaxed watching this view.

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I then took advantage of my relaxation time to write my diary.

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After a last walk out, a trip to reception was needed. I asked the receptionist if she could book a taxi  for me for 7:30 am.for tomorrow. She kindly did.

I retired back to my room as the sun was setting already. This day went so quickly it was surreal. I looked at the sun set. I decided to not eat anything.

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I called my mother to tell her about my adventure. Dad was away with my brother so she was by herself at home. We stayed almost three hours on the phone. Then it was time for me to go to bed because of the intense ride to come the next day.

This post was more photography than words.

 

Vietnam: Moc Chau Part I [Day six]

Friday 2nd of December.

I bothered Da so much about finding out how to get from Tam Coc to Moc Chau with one bus. I had so many questions and because Vietnam is such a big country it is almost impossible to know it all.

I even asked some shop keepers on my outings if they knew a direct way to Moc Chau from here without having to go back to Hanoi.

In the end, I didn’t want to indulge in over stretching myself. I accepted that I had to travel back to Hanoi.

So I got ready in the morning with a feeling of melancholy. Having so much fun with Marc and Maddie and all the other people I had met. I wanted to stay but of course I had a journey of my own to make. After missing the time for breakfast [due to oversleeping]. Da kindly asked me if I wanted something to eat. I was surprised and I asked him for a simple omelette and toast.

I went to sit down. Marc came and we were discussing the next step of our trips. I told him that I needed to leave soon. My clothes still needed to be delivered and to my surprise they had been washed and dried! I was very happy to finally have some fresh clothes to wear despite the suffocating heat.

Marc and Maddy were so excited about their trip the day before and told me everything about it.

I knew that check out was going to be in 2 hours. I went to see Da to ask him one last time about going back to Hanoi and he assisted me with it. Da offered me to drop me to the Ninh Binh station which is 10 minutes away from the homestay. Time went by quite quickly.

Da got ready and placed my bag on the front sit of the motorbike waiting for me as I was saying my goodbyes. Marc hugged me and I realised that I lost my ability to give good hugs leaving on my own. Perhaps I will learn again one day.

I was confused as how to put a 70L backpack on tiny scooter? But of course, in Vietnam this is not a problem. I was amazed at their problem solving skills. I jumped on the bike behind Da and we left. Again a feeling of sadness took over as I was absorbing the last portion of the landscape I was seeing.

We left and I asked him where the station was, he said that he didn’t know. I stopped utterly confused. He stopped the motorbike on the junction and we crossed in a very hurried manner. He said to me to wait by him as the traffic were flowing alongside us. He said: “There will be a bus coming soon around 12:20pm (it was 12:18pm) and when I say go, you have to go”. I nodded all shaken. A few seconds after, a bus approached at traffic pace and Da waved to the driver and the bus slowed down but didn’t stop. Da said: “Go”, I quickly hugged Da and I ran towards the moving bus with all my luggage and Non La. A guy jumped out and helped me get on the bus by grabbing my backpack, once safe on the bus I sat down and I showed my receipt that Da previously gave me when I paid for this journey. I had to remove my shoes, it was a sleeper bus. I sat next to the guy and showed him the receipt and said: “Hanoi”, he nodded and told me to at the back to find a bed. I managed to find a bed and rested for a few minutes to recompose myself from this craziness. There were no bus stops on the way, it seemed that I had to be at the right place at the right time if I wanted to get to my destination.

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I prayed and fell asleep a few minutes after for a few minutes. I woke up again and changed my films.

The journey was not that long, the bus took me to Giap Bat. Two hours later and asking myself where Hanoi was, I finally saw the cityscape. I went to the driver and asked him. He signed with his hand 10 minutes. I went back to sit down and got my backpack ready just in case I had to do a crazy jump out.

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We arrived at Giap Bat, straight away, guys from everywhere came to ask what I needed. I didn’t have the time to ask or debate so I made my way to the kiosque. I asked what bus stop it was for Moc Chau. The lady at the kiosque wrote on a piece of paper, the number of the bus and the stop I had to take the bus from. I went to line 13 at the kiosque and realised it was the line 16 for departure for Moc Chau or West Vietnam – I realised that I was at the wrong station altogether. I asked another lady and she wrote on a piece of paper that the bus I had to take was in My Dinh. This is another main station within Hanoi.

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-16-35-42That was one hell of a challenge. The ticket was 7000 VD. The bus to my shock took an hour to go from Giap Bat to My Dinh. I tried to be patient. I was also running very low on cash so I needed an ATM to replenish on money. Not knowing where I was going, I was praying that the place I go to would have an ATM very close to me. I waited until the end of the journey to make my decision on where to go. We arrived at My Dinh – at 15:24. I made my way to the main station. I asked a lady receptionist for the Moc Chau bus and she said 15:30 [bearing in mind that it was 15:26].

I still had to go the ATM and the lady assisted me saying that it was out of the station on the left. I ran out trying to find it and couldn’t find it at all and crossing this busy junction was no joke. I felt stranded. I managed to cross after 15 minutes of struggling knowing that my bus was gone.

I managed to find an ATM which was quite. I was relieved after getting my money because I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to run this distance and back to catch the bus. I accepted the fate.

I ran the second time and somebody came to help me. They said 16:00. Unfortunately the moving bus (local bus) was already on its way out. I couldn’t board it. A guy saw me and asked me for my help, I told him where to go. He showed me the bus and it was him the driver. He took my purchased ticket. I asked him if I could have a receipt as I had no idea if he truly was the driver. He gave me a receipt and asked me to come back in a few minutes. I didn’t leave the premises and only bought a few biscuit for the road. The whole place was immense and so busy and noisy. I asked the driver if I could board the bus whilst waiting. It was now 16:10 and I was informed that the bus would leave at 17:00. I had another 50 minutes of wait to do. I was defeated already. I had been on the bus since 12:00pm.

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The hour went by quite quickly. I took advantage of my time to write my diary.

The bus departed and the hustle bustle never stopped. It got dark quite quickly and we were hitting the motorway in no time. I knew that the trip was going to take five hours but had no idea on where to stop.

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For the whole way I was making dua that I get to arrive in Moc Chau with no problems.

A lady was violently vomiting at the back of the bus during the whole way. The sleeper bus was so packed, people were sleeping on the floor in the aisle making it difficult for people to leave at their respective stop. This was an insight into the South East Asian culture. I was in love.

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The journey was long and I realised how patient I was as this was a serious test but I wasn’t feeling bored at all as I was contemplating life and figuring out my problems and resolving them one by one al hamdullilah. I was also wrong on so many levels on how I was living my life. Capitalism had driven us mad, sucked in a rat race not even worth running for.

I was a stranger in a land.

I stood out so evidently but people paid no mind to me. They looked at me and smiled. One of the guys sat next to me was pulling his cover over himself an to my shock I saw that he had a gun. He noticed that I saw it. I looked away and try to avoid eye contact for the whole way at all cost. When he had to pay for his ticket, he had a stack of money with him. It was just so interesting to see the dynamics between everyone.

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I fell asleep for a few hours, When approaching 21:30, I became a little unsettled as to where and when I should get off. Then all of a sudden after making dua, the neon lights left room for the normal lights and a guy shouted: “Moc Chau”, I grabbed my bag and my Non La and my small green bag (where I had put my shoes in) and jumped out of the bus.

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Initial reaction: Where am I?!!!!!!!

An old taxi man came to me and said: “Where do you need to go?” I replied: “Moc Chau Arena” showing him the plan and the hotel address.

He said to me: “60 000 VD” I accepted as there was no bargaining to be done at 22:20 in the middle of nowhere. He drove me to the place and his English was excellent. It was so dark outside, I could see no lights and the stars were so beautifully visible.

He gave me his card after I paid him should I needed him again.

I entered the place and I wanted to check in. I could sense that they were being weird. I asked straight away “is there a problem?”, the lady laughed nervously and said: “because you came late, we had to give your room away to someone”. I was like….say what?? but I looked at the time and said to myself: “Don’t argue, show respect, it’s too late and they look tired too”.

She then said: “We can give you the dormitory room for free and you don’t have pay for this night”. I got myself a deal. All I needed as a place to sleep and I couldn’t careless where it was. I got given a bed in the dormitory and went to bed straight away after praying. The dormitory was occupied by a Chinese family. 

I fell asleep after almost 12 hours of bus journey. Vietnam I was never ready for this!

 

Vietnam: Hanoi [Day Three]

Tuesday 29th November 2016:

I woke up with one hell of a struggle to eat, appetite was at its lowest but I had to force myself to eat. I just had to do it as I knew the day to come was no joke. Just like yesterday, looking over the beautiful view of Hanoi from the hotel’s top floor.
Thoughts of the numerous conversations I had with my friend Imme in London resurfaced. Imme is one of the main motivator for my visit to Vietnam as she travelled there on her adventure to South East Asia and was so patient and passionate about sharing her experience with me. My planning would have not happened without her! Tack Så Mycket Imme.

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I was anxious as I knew that I knew nothing about Hanoi, looking at the horizon and the rising sun through the clouds. I could tell the cold of the morning affected the rising city. Yet, the sun was so strong and looked like a winter fire ball. After managing a few bites here and there, I made my way back to my room to pack my bag with cameras and the adequate films for the day to come.

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I then went to the reception and asked the receptionist about how to get to Ninh Binh for tomorrow’s trip and the map of Hanoi. She kindly assisted me with the requests. I had to buy the map of Hanoi but it wasn’t that expensive.

I said to her that I wanted to go a specific area of town. The hotel was located on the border of the Old Quarter taking roughly 10 minutes walk to get there. I pointed out the area and she said: “Oh I went to that mosque before”. “How could she know?” was my initial response, I was taken aback by this, to say the least. I asked how to get there and she explained the quickest way to it and also circled the good spots of the city on my newly bought map. Happy, I thanked her and started my way into the urban jungle of Hanoi. Yesterday I had broken the lower zip of my Eastpak bag, I may have forgotten to mention it, the receptionist assisted me with trying to find somewhere to fix it.
The Old Quarter is an odd place. Each street has a theme in the trade they are selling, so you will tend to see several of the same shops on one street.

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I left the hotel and was already so scared to cross. I literally was on my own. In the end after much hesitation in crossing I finally found courage to do it and I began to understand the technique behind. If you find yourself in Hanoi, if you cross the street, do go at a steady pace, people on the motorbikes will be dodging you but you must NOT stop at all, carry on until you finish crossing and beware of the buses, the buses won’t stop nor will see you.

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I walked from Cosiana Hotel to Ha Trung. Ha Trung is where you can find all types of shops regarding sewing, cuttings, knitting, replacing the leather seat of your Vespa etc….

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I crossed the street and followed the way to Pho Hang Ga and was pleased to have found the Ha Trung street. I stopped at a corner couturier and asked if she could fix my Eastpak bag. It was then 10:40am and she said to come back in two hours. I couldn’t speak any Vietnamese. I communicated with her via sign language supported by words in english.

I took advantage of the situation to change my itinerary and made my way to the Mosque. I knew it wasn’t far but it wasn’t close neither.

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I found and adventured into the ever-so-famous semi-used train tracks that Hanoi boasts so well. I spent a good 40 minutes taking pictures on the tracks and trying to absorb everything from this intense place. The train track was located on the doorstep of the people houses. It was surreal!

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People had their kitchen just outside on their doorstep.

I saw a few photographers along the way standing on the tracks equally excited and blown away by such experience. I already had to change my roll. I put my XD-7 away for a moment and used my Olympus XA to capture some of the places.

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I walked quite far and stopped at each junction to make sure I was on the right path using the map. The noise of the city was surreal and the constant beeping of the motorcycle became background noise the more I was walking. The weather got quite hot due the sun being at its Zenith.

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I found a very cool looking cafe and entered. The lady spoke to me in excellent English (I was so surprised). I asked her if they did the Egg coffee that everyone talked about. It is a coffee that is made with egg (such an unusual blend of ingredients). She replied that they did not do it but knew of a famous cafe that did it. She wrote on a unused receipt the address and the name of the cafe. I thanked her and wished her a nice day. I was thrilled of the new addition to my list of things to do.

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I couldn’t find the cafe so I made my way to find the mosque. After 45 minutes of intense walk in the heat, I finally found the mosque.

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I entered and a brother guided me to the right entrance. There was no one in the mosque as it was only 11:50am. The lovely scent of the beautiful carpet gently hit my nose. I took notes of the prayer times for future reference later on the day. I spent time by myself to recuperate from the long walk and enjoyed reading Qur’an for a while.

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After almost an hour, I felt that it was time to leave and go back to Ha Trung to pick up my bag. It took me (no lie) only 15 minutes to reach the shop. My memory didn’t fail me and my strong determination made it easy.

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I really wanted to try the Olympus XA’s focusing mechanism with this shot. I am so impressed.

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I arrived at the shop and I asked the lady if she had finished, she answered yes. She finished some of the touches on it and I was done with it. I paid her, thanked her and I left to go back to the restaurant to have my lunch. I ordered Chicken and Rice. This meal was incredible.

After finishing the food I went to pray and slept a little until afternoon so I could replenish on energy to get back to the mosque for Maghrib (17:11).

I got ready and left at 16:30 just in case I would get lost again. The weather got darker quite quickly. I knew that Maghrib was approaching but it was such a dramatic change. I sped up the pace so I could get there on time.

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I absolutely fell in love with these little houses and the plants were gigantic.

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I wanted to walk back onto the tracks once again to enjoy the experience one more time.

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The sun was setting quite quick but this did not decrease the traffic nor the amount of people.

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I managed to get to the mosque at 16:57 so just a good 10 minutes before salah. I waited and waited and only one brother came to pray. He prayed and spoke to a sister that wanted to pray as well and then left. I was a bit surprised that no one had turned up so I got up and just as I was about to being my prayer, I heard the door of the mosque open and turned round. Another brother entered the mosque making its way to the main hall. I went to him and asked him if he knew about the congregational prayer and asked him how come no one was there. He replied that he didn’t know as he was new in town. I asked him and his friend who just turned up too where they were from and they said from France, Paris. I was overjoyed to hear that. We began speaking French. We spoke for a while but realised no one was coming again so I suggested that we should pray otherwise we would miss the salah. We prayed and sat chatting about life, dunya, France, London etc…until time for Ishaa came. I was so happy. I asked their name and they told me Hamza and Elias.

They suggested that we could go and eat after Ishaa. I actually had in mind to go back to D’Lions to eat but it wasn’t too hard to choose their company over the restaurant. We completed Ishaa and left for the restaurant adjacent to the mosque. Hamza and Elias led the way. We were laughing a lot and trying to realise that we were so far from Europe سبحان الله.

We finished our delicious meal and set off to a night trek through the city. I was really happy that الله عز وجل joined our paths 10000 km away from home in the middle of such an insanely big city and allowed us to meet.

We walked back to their hostel which was two minutes away as Elias wanted to change into something more comfortable. I waited in the K-Mart with Hamza. We bought more water as we were all dehydrated.

Elias fancied some Dunkin’ Donuts badly and the idea of it kinda grew the more we were walking towards the centre of town. We then reached one of the busiest junction of Hanoi when suddenly both crossed the street without prior consultation with me (haha) and joined the madness of traffic, leaving me behind because I was too slow. We laughed.

We ate the donuts and enjoyed the beautiful conversations about Islam. Hamza wanted to go for a lovely night walk around the Lake Hoan Kiem so Elias and I followed. I started feeling thirsty again (I couldn’t believe how much water I was consuming daily) and stopped into K-Mart (again) to get water but opted for a nice Lychee juice and introduced Red beans Mochi to Hamza and Elias around the French architecture district. It was Elias and Hamza’s first time trying those. They absolutely loved it, I was so pleased that they did.

It was time to go home and I was beginning to feel tired. Hamza and Elias had to leave as they had a flight the next day to Indonesia. I told them that I would still be in Hanoi in the morning as I had to travel to Ninh Binh but their flight was so early that we decided to not bother.

We exchanged numbers on the doorstep of their hostel and said our salaam. It was quite an emotional moment. I felt like we knew each other forever.

It was now 11:47pm and I was walking by myself in Hanoi. Avoiding the dogs at night and dodgy streets. At one point a guy on a motorbike did a three point turn and made his way towards me. He came by the side of the street alongside me and showed me his phone. I couldn’t see properly but it looked like he showed the picture of a naked lady and said to me: “do you want to see nice ladies?”. I walked away disgusted as I understood that it was a prostitution thing.

I managed to reach home safely making dua. I hit the shower because of the intense heat. Then wrote my diary until 2pm.

End of the day!

 

 

 

Vietnam: Halong Bay [Day Two]

Monday 28th November 2016:

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!

…Where do I even start? Today was an amazing day!

But…there is always something about waking up in a new country with everything being completely different. Waking up in Hanoi meant I was in one of the most congested place in the world with millions of motorbikes and a high level of pollution. But it didn’t matter. I was not ready yet I was. A paradox.

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I woke up multiple times throughout the night, the jet lag set in within my system. I prayed Fajr and returned back to bed to relax when I suddenly saw after 40 minutes the first ray of light creeping behind the window curtain.

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Very curious about what I was about to see as this was my first look on Hanoi.

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I grabbed my camera and managed to open the window despite the complicated system. As I opened the window, the fresh air hit my spine. I went to grab my jacket as it was really cold and started shooting.

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Before leaving the UK, I bought a tour online to the famous Halong Bay as I knew I wouldn’t have the time to do so in Hanoi.

I got ready and went to the top floor using the lift to get to the restaurant to get my breakfast which was really good. I was surprised to see that the bakery was very good too. I took my breakfast with a panoramic view of the first few hours of Hanoi. It was quite special.

After a while, one by one the customers began to leave the cafeteria and I stayed there for an extra 10 minutes just to absorb the awesomeness of it all. But most importantly, to grasp that I was actually in Vietnam, Hanoi.

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Returned to my floor and I realised the hotel was facing the back of Hanoi Central Station (Pretty cool huh?)

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Lovely to see that a few people were already up and playing tennis outside.

I returned to the flat to prepare my bag and cameras then went straight to the lobby to wait for my tour guide to come and pick me up.

It was now 07:45 am and pick up time was at 08:00 am. I took opportunity to go out of the hotel to witness my first impression and experience of the madness of the city and in the space of fives minutes, I learnt how to cross the streets [avoiding the traffic] by observing the locals. The smell of Pho already intoxicated most on the street. Pho is the national traditional breakfast soup/stew that everyone has in the morning in Vietnam. Prepared with noodles and beef.

I returned back into the lobby to wait. I emailed the tour coordinator and he emailed back saying that there should be someone soon. At 08:30: Still no one. I started to think that I should probably call it a day when all a sudden a guy walked up the stairs of the hotel and called my name. I was so happy I quickly followed and got onto the minibus. I got onto the bus and there was only one seat available and that was at the very back.

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The live guide (Victor) didn’t even check my ticket. I guess there could only be one Nadeem in Vietnam.

I tried my best not to disrupt anyone with my big bag and large built. I sat down and dropped a big relieved sigh.

The lady sat next to me asked: “Where are you from?”. I replied with London. She got excited and said: “Oh I love London, I was there a few months ago”.  She said she visited London four times in her life. I asked in return where she was from and she replied: “Japan”! So I got excited haha [I love Japan and yes I know you guys know too!!!].

I explained to her that I visited Japan four years ago. She was very happy that I had a big interest in her country and that I visited all these places. We carried on our conversation and the most important question surfaced: “Why Vietnam?”. I asked what was her name and she replied: “Shigeko”

Knowing that it was a four hours bus drive to Halong Bay from Hanoi we took our time with our conversations which went from travelling to spirituality to life to religion to then work. She said she worked with people with learning disabilities in Japan and I was gobsmacked! How similar our lives were.

Then the conversation went onto religion and comparative beliefs. I didn’t choose these conversations (let’s be clear haha).
Shigeko asked me why I had chosen Islam as a way of life. I explained to her how happy it makes me and how it makes me a better person. She stopped, looked at me and uttered: “why are you so different, there is something about you son, your spirituality is beautiful”.
I looked at her humbly, lowering my gaze as I couldn’t find the words to answer, anything that would do justice to such lovely humbling words.

We spoke throughout the whole journey noticing the incredibly beautiful sceneries of the rice paddies on our way to Halong Bay. It was very odd that Vietnam looked so similar to my home country Mauritius. The harsh sun that was gently kissing our arms on the bus. Most were sleeping and we were the only one speaking non-stop. I learnt so much.

We stopped on the way in a car park to use the toilet and go to the shop. Shigeko and I decided to walk around the little traditional shopping place. As we got in, we could spot on the right hand side many women doing art sewing, canvases and stitching. A lady approached us and spoke Japanese to Shigeko and then asked me a lengthy sentence in Japanese as if I was Japanese. Shigeko said: “why are they speaking Japanese to you?”. We laughed.

We knew we were approaching Halong Bay as the landscape started changing. The smell of the sea penetrated into the bus which confirmed that we were soon to arrive.

I asked Shigeko if she could teach Japanese in the meantime and she did and was very patient. I must have had so much fun because in no time we arrived at destination. She congratulated on my good first-time Japanese accent.

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We got off the bus and went into the main station where they sell the tickets. I was so happy because I was already telling myself that there was no way I could have done this by myself. I was glad I booked a tour.

Victor (live guide), asked us to stay in the same place as they were so many people and we didn’t want to get lost. He went to collect all the tickets for all the attractions of the day. I was anxious and thinking about Salah already. Victor came back with all tickets, distributed them to each one of us and asked us to keep them and not loose them otherwise we would need to buy new ones.

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Our boat arrived and Victor asked us to remember the name of the boat “White Dragon 11”.

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We carefully went down the stairs and started boarding. They explained to us that we were going to have lunch on our way to the bay.

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I went to do ablution and prayed whilst everyone was eating. Most of the food was fresh seafood from the water. I was pleased and relieved.

We could see the amazing sceneries. Everything looked like a scene from Jurassic Park.

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Everyone was engaged into their beautiful lunch.

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We finished our delicious meal and everyone went to the top deck. I stayed downstairs admiring the beautiful place that it was.

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The bay was immense and the scale was incredible. The smell of the sea was so refreshing.

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We passed many limestone mountains with epic proportions. The formation of rocks was stunning.

After another 20 minutes boat ride, we reached the bay where the locals row their boats in exchange for money to survive. It is a very touristy attraction so beware when booking. We were very fortunate to have very few people.

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As you can see in the background, the little village on water.

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We arrived and I was so unaware of what was about to happen.

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During the travels to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Victor said that there are a few people that had booked the kayaking on the bay. My name was on the list but so was Shigeko’s. I asked her if she wanted to do it with me? She said she was a little afraid [I don’t blame her I was too].

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As we got to the pier, I wanted to back down but she grabbed me and said: “No, we are doing it” I laughed and said: “ok”. haha.

I made my way to the kayaking side of the pier and I said to Shigeko: “Let’s do it”, I ran back to the boat to drop phone and camera just in case the kayak capsizes.

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It was one of the most amazing thing I ever did in my life [apart from Great White Shark cage diving].

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We nearly crashed a few times but Shigeko and I worked as a team.

This kayaking activity lasted a good 40 minutes and we were told to come back. It was sadly over.

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The kitchen was superb and so rustic. It looked so real and had so much character. The light on that day was rather harsh but full of goodness.

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We arrived back at the pier and they said that we would leave in 10 minutes. I asked if I could go and take pics on the boat.

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We got ready for the next excursion which was the cave.

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The boat departed and went to the other side of the bay to reach the caves.

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I could feel the sun setting and it felt like time was stopping.

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I took opportunity to refill my Olympus XA with a new roll.

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The sun really made us tired. I fell asleep for 10 minutes and when I woke up it felt like I was in a dream.

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We arrived at the pier and entered the cave. At this time I was way too tired to take pictures so I stopped for a while.

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After the tour guide had explained to us the story of the cave. It was already 16:00 and we needed to return back to the bay as the day was now finished.

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The landscape was breathtaking.

We were blessed to witness the sunset.

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I fell asleep again [perhaps the jet lag affected me].

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Back to the bus! We rushed to the bus and quickly left the Bay to go back on the road. Everyone on the bus fell asleep.

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We arrived back in Hanoi for 20:30 [slightly late], the driver dropped everyone to their respective hotels in the Old Quarter. It was totally worth it. I shot 7 rolls altogether and that was my first day in Vietnam!

I got home, showered and went to the restaurant and had Halal Pho at D’Lions Restaurant. It was excellent and it was my first time having it.