Me and Chairman Mao
  Halong Bay
Once again, I'm back. My excuse this time? Moving into an entirely new house, which, as most of you know, is fairly time consuming. Especially when most of your stuff has been in boxes for years (literally, at this point), and, thanks to getting rid of furniture before going to China and moving into a bigger place, you don't have nearly enough furniture to actually fill up house, meaning, for example, that you have boxes of books but not bookshelves, which makes it difficult to unpack, to say the least.

But enough about how hard my life is. (Oh, poor you! You have to unpack all your possessions in your own decent-sized house but you don't have proper bookshelves! Boo-fucking-hoo!) I think, at long last, it's time to get back to my vacation, which increasingly seems like it took place a long, long time ago. Which technically, of course, it did, but you know what I mean. Or you don't--really, I'm past caring.

Anyway, while we were in Hanoi, we took an overnight trip to Halong Bay (in Vietnamese the name means "Bay of the Descending Dragon"), a bay--no, really?--that's a few hours outside Hanoi, in the Gulf of Tonkin, where, incidentally, an incident took place at some point in the past that helped propel the US into a bloody, mostly pointless guerilla war in a far away country. You know, sort of like we are in now, except this latest one has no corresponding incident and even less point. Tomato, tomatoe, whatever.

But, as usual, I digress. The point is that Halong Bay is very, very pretty, which is why tourists flock to it. Why is it pretty? Because it's full of these huge limestone islands that jut up out of the ocean and look real pretty, and … well, mostly that's it. In fact, for the most part, our trip (an overnight one) consisted of getting on a boat, floating around between islands while we ate and drank, and taking pictures. What was I saying about my hard life?

So now that I've talked in circles for four paragraphs, I think we can finally get on to the pictures …

This first one is of the town where we caught our boat out to Halong Bay. I don't know why, but for some reason the town seems very un-Vietnamese looking. Which is weird, because, you know, it's a town in Vietnam:

Someone said this looks like Greece. Sadly, I wouldn't know. (See previous "hard life" comments.)

(Side note: Actually, I have been to Greece, but that was a long time ago so I don't remember it so well. And mostly I was on Crete, which hardly counts.)

The pretty islands. If floating around between these for 20 hours or so seems like a good time to you, you should go to Halong Bay. If not, well, maybe just go to Thailand or something instead:

At one point, we climbed to the top of one of the islands and watched this storm roll in. It was cool because you could literally see the wall of rain coming toward you, which is not something I've experienced too often. (In Seattle, I'm more used to just being surrounded by rain …) Of course, when the lightning started, I thought to myself "Is it really a good idea to be standing in this pagoda on the top of the highest hill around for miles while this big electrical storm is coming right toward me?" I decided it probably wasn't, so I double-timed it back down the trail. But not before I took a few pictures …

Dusk. Or maybe dawn. I forget. Whatever:

Of course, Halong Bay isn't just about tourist boats, although there is certainly no shortage of those. (When we went to sleep for the night, we were surrounded by other tourists boats full of other tourists doing the same thing.) There's also plenty of fishing boats around, which is nice for two reasons: 1) it meant the food on our boat was really fresh, since the cook would buy it from the fishermen and then put it on the grill; and 2) they provide a lot of good photo opportunities, since taking pictures of big rocks in the water (AKA "islands") gets old after a while:

Fishing boat with actual person fishing!

This seems to be everyone's favorite fishing boat picture. Honestly, I don't see it:

Here's our boat, which I've already forgotten the name of. I'm pretty sure it was "The Lagoon Explorer," for whatever that's worth:

We made two stops on the boat. One was to climb "Should I get out of the way of this electrical storm?" Hill, which I mentioned above; and one was to look at a cave that the French called "The Cave of Marvels" or something like that. Either way, it doesn't matter because the French apparently have very low standards when it comes to marvelous caves. (Which is odd, because you think with Lascaux Cave they'd have better judgment about such things.) Anyway, it was basically … a cave with gaudy, colored lighting. Apparently during high season you might have to wait up to an hour to even get in the cave (in the hot, hot sun, no less), which would have pissed me off, but since it was the low season and we didn’t' have to wait at all, I was mostly just bored.

Here's the cave:

Here is the most interesting feature of the cave--yes, it's a natural formation, although it HARDly look that way, ha-ha--which should tell you all you need to know about how interesting the cave is overall:

The dock by the caves. I liked this view better than the caves themselves:

More random—but pretty—boat pictures:

Here's a fishing boat (with nets out) on its way home to the fishing village. Which, in case you can't tell from the picture, actually floats on the water, making it a floating village. Like Waterworld, but without Kevin Costner, making it--like most things without Kevin Costner--that much better:

(Side note: Oddly enough, I visited another floating village on this trip. But you'll have to wait until I get to Cambodia for the next one. I'm sure you'll manage, somehow ...)

In a floating village, I think this counts as "going for a walk":

These boats were roped together on the outskirts of the floating village. Think "trailer park":

And that's it. Well, in actuality, that wasn't that--post-village, we floated around for a few more hours and had lunch before going home--but it's close enough. Next stop, Hue, which is actually pronounced hway, if you care about such things. And while I'm talking pronunciation, pho is fuh, not foe. Deal with it.

Previously, on my vacation:

- Hanoi: the Random.
- Hanoi: Water Puppets.
- Hanoi: the "Hilton."
- Hanoi: the People.
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hanoi: the Streets.
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Hanoi: the Random.
Hanoi: Water Puppets.
Hanoi: the "Hilton."
Hanoi: the People.
Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
Hanoi: the Streets.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I'm b-a-a-ck.
Dawn patrol.
Island in the sun.

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