Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Pronounced hway, Hue was Vietnam's old capital. Not much going on there now, and what's worth seeing can be seen in a day. Much of it was bombed heavily during the war, and while reconstruction efforts are underway, most of what's left consists of the old palace and a pagoda up river.

Drills are still carried out inside the first wall, where the bureaucracy was located.

Inside the second wall lies the yellow zone, or royal palace.

And inside the third, or purple zone, well, that's where the emperor kept his statuary and his harem. It's good to be the king.

Up river is a pagoda/monastery that's been around since before any monks came to the new world. Visitors are kicked out at 11:00 so the monks can get down to business.

This is what gardening at Home Depot can look like if you do it right.

I try and dress for the occasion.

And then it was dawn of the lizards. They're cute. They're everywhere. Get used to it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ha Long Bay

Like I said in the original post, words fail in this place. It's beautiful, surreal and fantastic. Even at the harbor, one gets a sense of the magic that's about to unfold. I'll let the images speak for themselves (mostly).

Our quarters on the Hanoi Opera, in case you were wondering.

Throughout the bay, one-womaned merchant skiffs (it's almost exclusively a female operation) ply the waters, pedaling their wares to tourists lingering on aft decks.

It's like a 7-11 in a boat. And it comes to you.

Many of the islands (karsts is the geologic term for these limestone formations) feature caves. One climbs to reach them, but the views are awesome.

As are the caverns themselves. Really massive chambers--bigger than anything I've seen before, including Carlsbad, Bad Durrenberg and the Yucatan's cenotes.

Back outside, we went kayaking in this harbor. Lots of fun provided you don't get run over by a junk unmooring itself for the night.

If you look closely at the top of that hill, you can make out a pagoda. We climbed up there (400-odd steps) for the views.

It wasn't the direction, but how nicely it was framed that impressed me.

As far as I could tell, no one lives on the karsts themselves. Rather, arrays of connected, floating structures provide shelter, fuel, food and schools (all the kids here get a free education).

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And with good reason. Not to be missed.