Hạ Long Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for emerald waters and limestone islands. Tourist often make day trips, from Hanoi, or book a few nights on local cruise ships. Once here, they can take kayak expeditions, visit caves, go scuba diving, rock climbing, or hike. Many also visit other locations, like the Cát Bà National Park. I booked five nights, at a Novotel Hotel, and signed into AppleTV. I own all fourteen seasons of NCIS Los Angeles. I started at the beginning and (four days later), I’m on season three.
To say that, after three months of traveling, I’ve hit a wall would be an understatement. That day-long boat trip, from Phuket, started my downward spiral. Getting on and off that boat, in and out that kayak, simply wore me out. I was still worn out, by that day-long tour, in Hanoi. I bailed, on all the activities, … the kayak, the bike ride, the 500 steps (up a mountain) for the view. Let’s face it. I’m not in Vietnam on a classic nine day tour. I’m hitting all the same spots, Hanoi, Ninh Binh (Tam Coc), Ha Long, Da Nang/Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh, but I have thirty days to do it.
I’ve been traveling through out Southeast Asia, in five to seven day periods. In Thailand, I booked an initial five nights in Bangkok, then seven in Chiang Mai, and another seven in Chiang Rai. I continued the pattern in Laos, with week stays in Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang. When my visa to Vietnam fell through, I returned to Thailand and booked another week in Bangkok and then head south to Phuket for five days. Then, it was back to Bangkok, for another four nights, before heading to five nights, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Then, I did one final pre flight, over night, in Bangkok, before flying to Vietnam.
I’m I doing too much? Maybe? Although, there is a method to my madness. I get to a new city, check in to my hotel, and have a rest day. I might do a neighborhood walk around, if I’m not too tired. I then pick particular areas that I want to visit, based on what’s nearby. I’ll spend a day or two hitting those places and then maybe book a one day tour, further afield. So far, I’ve just been walking, as I explore. Although, my Tuk Tuk game was really good in Laos. In Hanoi, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. All the Tuk Tuks, in the Old Quarter, were human powered. I just couldn’t bring myself to being biked around. I also spent one day, on a Hop on Hop off bus.
In Ha Long, men driving electric carts stop every tourist they see on foot. When I finally left my hotel, for a walk to the beach, I was immediately stopped, to see if I wanted a ride. I said no. By the time I arrived to the beach (a short ten minute walk) the guy was already there, waiting to ask me again. His offer was outrageous, a one hour city tour for $10.00. You can book a full day boat cruise, with lunch, for $28.00. I didn’t have any money on me. The guy offered to take me around and figure out the money, after dropping me back at the hotel. I hopped in and we set off!
I, of course, paid him the $10.00. First off, he was very nice and did a great job with the tour. But, more importantly, there’s no one here! This part of town has really not yet recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, I checked in, on a Tuesday. It took two full days, before I saw another hotel guest. I was the only person at breakfast and basically had an entire hotel and pool to myself. I just think of the higher price tags, being ask by the locals, as a COVID-19 tax. My tour guy asked if I had lots of money. It’s hard to say no (although I did) when you’ve spent the last three months traveling around Southeast Asia.
Today, I walked across the street, from my hotel, to check out the Sun Plaza Grand World complex. I passed by it, when I walked to the beach. The area reminds of the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood. Nothing is open. The townhomes are empty. There are a few small hotels, within the complex, but they looked as empty as the one I booked. I stopped for a Vietnamese coffee, at a hotel, with an outdoor seating area. I was the only customer. While walking back, an auntie came out of her hotel and talked me into buy something from her cafe. I got two scoops of ice cream.
As much as I’m struggling to keep going, the same can be said of the tourist industry here. I guess we’re all trying to keep up with the pace. The good news is I’m feeling better, after this short respite. Sa Pa will be another restful spot. At first, I was going to hike, to an overnight homestay. It’s an unique experience to learn about local minorities and really connect with their culture. Then, I remembered my three homestay adventures as a Peace Corps volunteer. I’m guessing that I’ll be able to figure out a way to connect, with local minorities, without the homestay. Plus, that the hike, through the mountains, to their village, would probably have killed me.
I’m three months into five years of travel. It’s not going to be the end of the world, if I miss this, that, or the other. I’m OK. XOXO—GGT
We all need some lazy days at times. I’m glad you took the time out to rest, and that room looked just perfect to do just that.
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