Note: I mean to post this yesterday, but I was having terrible problems uploading pictures.

The story of last week:

To make it short, I was up in the northern part of Vietnam. I think that I’ve made my opinion of the north well-known, at least to some people. I generally don’t like the time that I spend there. The language is very different from what I know, the coffee isn’t very good and they don’t give you as much tea as you can drink, and I basically just get bad vibes while in the north.

The reason that I was going up north was for the MCC South-East Asia retreat. We were meeting at some high-class hotel out in Ha Long bay, arguably the most well-traveled tourist site in Vietnam. I went to Ho Chi Minh City a day early and got my pizza fix and watched enough of the Discovery Channel so that I could perhaps someday pretend to be knowledgeable on some obscure topic. Then the flight to the north, and as usual, another hard landing (they really annoy me and I get really nervous now). And then the bus ride out to the bay.

When I got out there, I met my friend Charles. Charles and I were at Bluffton College together for several years and actively involved in several of the same clubs and got along well. We were rooming together, and stayed up rather late talking about old times and people that we knew.

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The place where we stayed was a four-star hotel. A swankier place than I’ve ever stayed in my life. Especially the shower: I didn’t want to get out of it in the morning. The food was good and I ate my share of bacon in the mornings. However, the actual sessions only lasted for 1.5 days, so we ended up having a lot of time to relax.

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The big activity of our time up there in the bay was going on a boat ride that lasted most of the day. I’ve been to Ha Long before and gone out on a boat and done the whole deal before, but it’s still amazing and awe-inspiring to be out there on the calm water with the huge formations of rock around you, covered with growths of greenery. We even saw a rarity out there on the water: a sailboat.

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We stopped on a small island and I had my picture taken next to sign saying that Uncle Ho Chi Minh visited the same spot.

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After the few days in Ha Long, I spent a few days in Hanoi, mainly to hang out with Ben and Alisa. We had been in email contact a few months before, and had both scheduled a few extra days in Hanoi to hang out. We did a little shopping, found a movie theatre, took lots of breaks from the heat with cool drinks, etc.

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I finally started to appreciate and even like this city of the north. Some of the streets seem to simply ooze with history while cool breezes rise from the many lakes and comfort you in the heat. Ben and I even saw a small turtle on the edge of the famous Hoan Kiem Lake. However, it slipped back into the murky water before either of us could snap a picture of it.

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Another day, we visited the Temple of Literature, which was founded before Columbus sailed. I had previously visited the place before, as a student, but this time I found that I enjoyed and appreciated it much more. I was a nice and very peaceful place to stroll around and think again about all the history that was surrounding us.

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Then I was heading back down to the south. I had communicated with Steven and we had a cheap hotel room lined up, and the first order of business when I arrived was to order some pizza. We watched a lot of the Discovery Channel and went shopping for some necessities like cheese and tobasco sauce. Then the next morning, it was back on the road.

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And finally, crossing the brown water of the Mekong on the ferry before arriving back home in Long Xuyen.

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