Great news! My Uncle Mark got me a camera for Christmas!!! Pictures of Halong Bay will be up soon!
I've been traveling for about a week in Vietnam, and have spent time in Hanoi, Halong Bay (one of the most beautiful places I've ever been), Hue, and Hoi An. The thing that has struck me most has actually been the number of foreigners around. We're traveling on what has become informally known as the Banana Pancake Trail because of the industry that has sprung up to to provide tourists with Western tasting food and amenities (like delicious banana pancakes), and it definitely feels like we're always interacting with people associated with the tourist industry. Prices are relatively high--a bowl of noodles in a tourist area can cost up to $2.25, while it should cost a dollar, and candy bars, sodas, and beers all have inflated prices. Right now, I'm taking a twenty-four hour bus to Saigon, and I'd say 85% of the passengers are foreign, mostly European, with a couple of Chinese tourists mixed in. It's odd--I'm used to being the only strange foreign person on a bus. There are so many foeigners around and foreign food is everywhere so I keep feeling like I'm traveling in the States.
So far, Vietnam has been gorgeous, and pretty interesting. We went to a few museums in Hanoi, and a few other sites. The museums weren't that great, but I found them really interesting because everything was written to support the viewpoint of the Vietnamese Communist party. There were common references to "the enemy," "our patriotic sister....," and quite a bit of self-aggrandizing fluff at all the exhibits--even at the Woman's Museum. The biases of museums are fascinating. Like, at the air and space museum the Enola Gay is just displayed as a B-29, with no mention of dropping the bomb.
Anyways...the museums weren't objectively great, but I enjoyed them a lot anyways.Halong Bay afterwards though was awesome. We stayed on a boat and cruised around this gorgeous rocky outcrops. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a little bit of sun, but the scenery was fantastic, and we did stuff like stopping at an island to check out these caves, going kayaking, and jumping off a boat.
Other than that, Vietnam has been a really lovely tourist trap, which I can totally deal with. I feel bad, but I've really been taking advantage of this trip of eat a lot of Western food. I mean, I've had a lot of pho and banh my and all that good stuff, but having a banana panckae with bacon (on the side) makes me absurdly happy. The baguettes and the coffee here are spectuacular., the people are friendly, and not worrying about class is really nice.
p.s. The bus ride is long, but the scenery is gorgous. To my left the ocean is this gorgous torquouis, the beacues are white and sandy, and the sky is amazingly clear. If I could get to my camera I'd totally be snappingn pictures right now.