i can't beleive how hard it is to keep up with this blog!!! but i SWEAR i am going to be done sharing my trip experiences and photos before the end of the year.
we took the bus from teddy and lisa's school to the temple of literature. i don't think i have ever been so conscious of how much space i use up. granted i am carrying some extra pounds and vietnamese people are generally short and slim, but i felt like a wide giant on the bus. it was so crowded i would say multiply a new york city subway at rush hour by two. not kidding. i swear people were somehow creating space out of nothing. i was thinking of the seinfeld episode where george costanza's wallet finally just burst because he tried to fit just one too many things in it. i was wondering if one of the bus windows could just pop!!
however, i did not have to figure out which bus or know where to get off or how to pay or any of that. teddy and lisa were so fantastic that ian and i just had to follow them around in hanoi and they took care of everything and led us everywhere and paid for everything!!!! it was definitely a great way to ease into vietnam. and we kept saying "you are paying again??" and they would either tell us how much stuff was in US dollars (which usually was amazingly cheap - not to minimize all of their treating!!!) or remind us that we were the only people that visited!!
so...the temple of literature. i am now going to copy directly from the awesome national geographic traveler book that ken got me before i left:
Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) is an extraordinary place of worship and a rarified expression of the Vietnamese esteem for education and literature in general and Confucianism in particular. Between 1070 and 1919, Vietnam's best and brightest gathered in this 14 acre compound of temples, pavilions, courtyards and dormitories to study the master's teachings and strive for recognition as a tien si (doctor laureate.)
it is modeled after a temple to confucius in china.
this is the entrance (great portico)
the grounds were very well kept and there were some interestingly shaped bushes
just outside the temple of literature, people playing badmitton
a shop selling.......pigment?? color?? i think lisa said it was for paint. i was totally confused but it made for an interesting photo.
now onto part 1 of halong bay - the coolest travel experience of my life. it is an amazing place east of hanoi where we went and took an overnight boat. have to go back to the national geographic traveler book to give it its due props:
Ha Long Bay, with its sweeping seascape of craggy karst towers that rise hundreds of feet from jade-green bay waters, is a spellbinding wonder and a must-see destination. Nearly 2,000 distinct islands stud this 620-square-mile offshot of the Tonkin Gulf. In 1994 UNESCO designated 174 square miles of the bay a World Heritage site, a long overdue accolade for one of the world's most stunning natural marvels.
see - isn't that better than "it's so awesome you just can't even believe it!!!!"
there are a bunch of tours that involve getting you there from hanoi on a van, boating you out to the big boat, and then taking care of your food and fun on the boat like it is a mini cruise ship. but man, is it way better than a cruise ship. the boats are wooden and look like replicas of old ships, and are all pretty small. we went toward the fancy end for our overnight tour and it was so amazing that i can't even imagine what the top end tours are like.
this was the small open-sided boat that got all of us and our luggage out to the big boat.
next entry: lots LOTS more of halong bay!!!!