Saturday morning, we woke up early to make it up to Jeju City to catch our plane to Seoul. We spent a few hours in Seoul before we had to get our plane to Hanoi! One of the comforting things about Incheon Airport in Seoul is McDonald’s! Haha it’s always nice to stop in on my way through for a greasy quarter pound cheese burger, salty fries, and a smooth vanilla shake! Hits the spot every time! I also made another little (well, not that little) splurge… We stopped in at Duty Free Shopping (something I NEVER do!) and I fell in love with some Ray Ban glasses. I wasn’t going to get them and walked away… 10 minutes later I was back and swiping my card! First Duty Free purchase EVER!! I also got a $30 discount for being a Korean resident! BAM!! Though I do recall telling one of my friends one time that I would never even think about paying more than $30 for a pair of sunglasses… Woops!
While Karima and I were sitting at our gate, she was emailing a friend that we’ll be staying with in Seoul after our trip and she said to me…
K: Ok, I’m going to proofread this now.
B: Does this mean I can’t talk to you?
K: Well you can, but it’ll be more like talking at me, so you won’t get much of a response.
3o seconds later…
B: Karima, I’m a lesbian.
I got a pretty good response our of that! 🙂
Then we were off! I got to sit next to this little Korean bundle of cuteness for the first flight!! He snoozed most of the way. When he was awake, he was really curious about me and I kept wanting to admire how adorable he was. We were both doing that “Oh! She/He saw me! Look away!” Haha. We had a 5 hour layover in Gwangzhou, China. Nothing too exciting, but we were seeing lots of foreigners and hearing random English conversations. Kind of strange after being in Jeju for so long.
After we landed in Hanoi, we walked over to the visa counter and then out to find our driver to bring us to our hostel. It was about midnight by the time we got there, so we just snuggled up and snoozed as soon as our heads hit the pillow!
Sunday morning after breakfast, we got picked up for our trip to Hua Lu and Tam Coc. I think our tour guide said his name was Chen, but he preferred to be called “Top Ten.” Funny little Vietnamese man! Along with us for the tour, there was a French couple and 4 Vietnamese tourists. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive from Hanoi to get there, so we got to see a little bit of everyday life on the way… Scooters EVERYWHERE!! And just like in Korea, no rules of the road, besides size matters. Bigger vehicles get the right away, but little vehicles can go anywhere they can squeeze. We also noticed a lot of the buildings were really narrow and long, like the houses you see on the opening credits of Full House. (If you haven’t seen Full House, you haven’t lived.) Top Ten said people build long, narrow buildings because tax is based off of how wide the house is and the length is not a factor.
Hua Lu is the ancient capital of Dai Co Viet. When we were almost to the temples we were going to visit in Hua Lu, we could see lots of little mountains that just seemed to pop out of nowhere! The ground around them was completely flat, and then all of a sudden, you’d have a mountain. We walked by a house that you could only get to by pulling yourself along a rope in a little wooden boat.
The temples were pretty small, but very beautiful inside. We also visited the old “palace.” It was basically a big shed with an area lowered and fenced off in the center to put water in for a little pond. (I assume that’s what it was for anyways.)
We also saw little goats running around and little old women walking around, calling us “madam,” and begging us to buy something.
Tam Coc means “three caves.” We went on a row boat down the Ngo Dong River with a man and a women rowing us along. (The man was maneuvering the oars with his feet!)
Tam Coc has many similar features as Ha Long Bay, so I’ve been told. (I’ll have to check out Ha Long Bay next time!) The trip was beautiful! The rock formations were massive and quite gorgeous!
We went through the three caves, which was cool! I touched the ceiling as we were going through, expecting it to be really rough, but surprisingly, it was rather smooth. I’m guessing from the water running through there when the water level was higher.
After we got to the end and turned around to head back, there were ladies in boats trying to sell us snacks and drinks. When we said ‘no,’ they tried to guilt us into buying something for our rowers. No thanks. (We gave our rowers a nice tip at the end, so don’t think we were being cheap!) The lady rower in our boat was showing us some pictures of her family making some embroidered sheets and pictures and then tried selling us some of the sheets, pouches, bags, pictures, etc. her family made. We declined, but after that I wondered if the pictures were really of her family or if she just carried them around to help convince people to buy them.
While on the river, there were photographers EVERYWHERE trying to take our picture. Karima and I always turned away, and good thing we did! Once we were back on shore, there were women everywhere trying to get people to buy the beautiful pictures that were taken of them on the river, and they were VERY pushy about it. People were getting really frustrated and annoyed with these women. Karima and I just looked at each other and smiled. We avoided this whole fiasco by not letting any of the photographers get any snapshots of us and were not approached by any of these women. Good thinking!!
After we got back to the hostel, we picked up our train tickets for that night and then headed out for a little bit. We were trying to find a restaurant that served pho (noodle soup) to soothe our sore throats but no luck. We found a restaurant on the sidewalk and had fried noodles with beef and greens and rice with veggies and beef! Delicious!! While we were sitting there, we heard someone yell, “Hey! They’re from Jeju!” Huh?! We turned to see a girl named Kristin that we know from Jeju. Who ever said this was a big world? After dinner, we walked through the night market and in some stores for some souvenirs! We also bought some of the meat and veggie sandwiches, banh mi (a popular Vietnamese street food), for the train ride.
Once we got back to the hostel, we told the travel desk we needed a taxi to the train station. We had assumed he would tell the taxi service where we needed to go, so we were quite confused when we got in the car and the driver had no idea where we were wanting to go. He didn’t understand “train” or Karima’s gesture and “chugga-chugga” sounds. Then I showed him our train tickets… Still nothing! Finally Karima said, “choo-choo!” “Ahhhh, okay!” he said. Haha.
We departed Hanoi on the Reunification Express heading to Ho Chi Minh at 11:00 pm!