My last stop before Hanoi was Ba Be lake, a national park with 3 interconnected lakes. I did a homestay in a village on the lake and stayed for two nights at a place called Duy Tho. It was beautiful and affordable. I rented a boat for a day, which was expensive and loud, but I got to see the lake. It is well worth stopping by the lake for the homestay, but I would skip the boat trip unless you are with a group and you have not spent much time on the water. I would have been happy with spending an hour in a small part of the lake in a dugout canoe.
Ba Be is quite beautiful. It was stunnning on the water in the early morning. There are all sorts of interesting animals living around the lake, but they do not exactly rush out to say “Hi!.” The boat ride includes a stop by a small water fall that feeds a hydroelectric plant and a short trek through a big cave. We stopped for lunch near the waterfall.
My host helped me find a faster and less trafficked road to get back to Hanoi, saving me countless encounters with trucks and busses and saving me a couple hours of driving. I was back in Hanoi in the early afternoon. Then it was time to get my bike serviced. It had some issues with shifting in 1st, 2nd
One of the great things about hanoi is Bia Hoi. It’s a freshly brewed keg beer that has a shelf life of a day. In the Old Quarter, you can pick up a glass of it for 5000 Dong (25 cents). It’s tasty, cold and refreshing. On my last night in Hanoi I went for Indian food at Tamarind. It was pricey but very good. I was pleasantly suprized. I found a really good place for a massage about 5km from the Old Quarter and took a walk over. For 450,000 dong ($22.50) I got a 90 minute massage preceeded by a soak in a barrel, a soak in a jaccuzi and a steam. Pure bliss.
I ended up in this tiny no where town my first night heading south, as my scheduled stop did not feel very friendly. The place I ened up was very friendly!
I checked in to the only place to stay in town, which had two rooms and went for a walk. As I was passing by an elementary school, a couple of kids said, “Hello!” and I responded. Within 2 minutes the entire school emptied out and I was mobbed by kids saying hello, asking me my name, how old I was, where I was from, on and on. They wanted to shake hands and were facinated by my tattoos. I tried to get them out of the road and used taking a picture as a motivator. As you can see from the picture, they never really stopped vibrating.
I walked them all back to the school, some of the teachers were giving me the stink eye, some were caught up in the kids excitement. When we got back in the school grounds some of the kids were dragged off by teachers but about 20 of them decided that they were going to show me around town. We went to an outdoor market and the local hospital. I think they were introducing me to their parents, but who knows. One little girl gave me a flower and that started a trend. After an hour or so of being dragged hither and yon, I made my escape.
When I got back to the guest house, the second room had been rented to 4 engineers and they invited me to eat dinner with them. Of course, out came the local hooch and a bunch of food I did not recongnize, but they schooled me and were approving of my use of chopsticks. When the bll came, they would not take my money. Of course the woman who owned the restraunt tried to get me to pay for the whole bill. Unfortuately if you are a westerner traveling here, you are nothing but a dollar sign to many people in SEA. Luckily that unpleasentness is offset by people like the 4 nice gentlemen that bought me dinner.