|One of the more innocent street peddlers.|
We fly into the chaos that is Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. In the streets motorbikes flow like blood through the arteries of the city. The backpackers ghetto is in an area called Pham Ngu Lao. It's busy with hagglers pushing over-priced foods, massages, pot, and prostituted sexual acts, among other things.
|insense burns in a quiet pagoda in Ha Noi|
We stay for a few days, long enough to meet some friends, then we flee the city by train to Ha Noi, in the north. After a 40 hour journey we step off in the more relaxed atmosphere of Ha Noi. A central lake in the Old Quarter of the city provides a scenic backdrop for the citizens to do early morning calisthenics or for evening strolls, post dinner. After exploring the narrow picturesque street, we have depleted the activities to do within the city.
|Views along the river.|
We take a day tour to The Perfume Pagoda, an area named for it's many fragrant, blossoming trees. Along ride by bus, and a more enjoyable, beautiful ride, up river in boats paddled only by women, put us at our destination. The hills are filled with a number of pagodas built in classic oriental fashion. The most impressive, The Cave Pagoda, is fond at the very top of the mountain, two and a half kilometers up the stairs. The enormous cavern is very impressive and was home to many Buddhist monks before it was, bittersweetly, discovered by the tourism industry.
Traffic in Hanoi:
|In the hills of the Perfume Pagoda.|
We return to Ha Noi and board an
overnight bus to Sapa the next day.
Sapa, within shouting distance of the Chinese boarder, is a serene mountain town, first colonized by the French. It's 1650 meters above sea level and the cool, misty air is refreshing after spending time in the heat of the low-laying coastal areas.
|View near Sapa, looking into the valley.|
The pace and pushiness of the cities is exhausting. Finally, in Sapa, we relax and slow down. Ahh, this is Vietnam...