After a 7 hour wait in Phuket airport, an 8 hour wait/sleep in Bangkok airport and a lost debit card later I managed to haul myself into the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. What can I say Hanoi was bustling mad, a drastic change from the islands of Thailand. Located on the right bank of the Red River, It was a lot rougher around the edges than Thailand, less developed, less western influence, hectic traffic and plenty of filth and dirt in places. It gave me the energy and mayhem of Mumbai, India, the cultural similarities of Thailand and for some strange reason I found a french feel from it especially some of the city architecture and road structures (I was only in Paris once!), that may stand to reason since the French occupied it back in the early 1900's.
I know, I know, very few people like history lessons but Vietnam is steeped in history and it is important that a brief understanding of what happened is known. Severely simplified here is a very short History lesson!!!
The Vietnam War first began in 1959, five years after the division of the country by the Geneva Accords (France to withdraw troops). Vietnam had been split into two, with a communist government (state runs everything) in the north under Ho Chi Minh and a democratic government (government by the people) in the south under Ngo Dinh Diem. Ho Chi Minh launched a guerilla campaign in South Vietnam, led by Viet Cong units, with the goal of uniting the country under communist rule. The United States, seeking to stop the spread of communism, trained the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and provided military advisors to help combat the guerillas.In the end North Vietnam won, the U.S forces basically outsmarted in foreign territory and agreeing to retreat their troops, leaving Vietnam united once again under a communist government in 1975.
One of the most famous places in Vietnam is Halong Bay, located in the gulf of Tonkin east of Hanoi. It contains over 1,600 islands and islets forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars [unesco]. Although a little overcast, this was quite an amazing visual treat. A steady rooftop boat cruise was how we toured through the many mountainous peak tops that seemed to go on forever. There is a highly impressive large limestone cave (Dau Go cave) to see on the way along with a floating market selling local fruits etc A two night stay over in nearby Cat Ba island was also very cool with a few bars and pretty beaches to keep interest. There is a jungle trek that is worth doing on the island, although the fabricated steel structure at the very top is held together by spit and tissue and missing half of a floor on the platform! baby steps I tell ya.
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