How Long To Ha Long Bay



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Adam Levine Writing 3020

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How Long To Ha Long Bay

6:00am good morning Vietnam! It was my second day in Hanoi and my fifth day in Vietnam. I started in Ho Chi Minh City, (or Saigon depending on who you ask), in the south and had managed to make my way up north to the very communist capital of Hanoi. During my time in Saigon I had managed to pick up some sort of stomach virus, and I will spare you the details but it made for a very uncomfortable journey north and a few restless nights. However, this was a new day. Aa guide was picking us up at 6:30am for our four hour car ride to Ha Long Bay where we were to take a boat trip around the small islands in the area and to see the caves and beaches that we had heard were so amazing. We headd downstairs to have breakfast and meet our guide for the day.

We are greeted by our “English” speaking guide. Nnow, I say “English” because her English was just about as good as my Spanish. I can get a few words out and maybe form a sentence, but once you start taking to me I can,t understand a thing and neither could she. We are persuaded to skip our breakfast and are rushed out to meet our driver and hit the streets of Hanoi by 6:45am. Very few things in Vietnam are organized and regulated; the roads are no exception. and no exception to this is the roads. This was going to be no peaceful four-hour drive to the beach. In Vietnam it seems everyone and their sister rides a motor scooter, and they ride them everywhere including the sidewalks and opposite lanes of traffic. This ride would have me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the trip. Wwe begin by driving through many poor neighborhoods, seeing the great poverty of the nation but none of this phases me because I’m focused on the roads. Allow me to set the scene: Wwe are in a van driving down a two-lane road with three or four motor scooters on either side of ourt van and at least one other vehicle attempting to pass us at all times. Wwe continue to drive in this fashion until our driver notices an vehicle at which point we speed up and try to maneuver around the motor scooters and other vehicles to get onto our side of the road as to avoid a head on collision. This process repeats it self about every three minutes for the entirety of our ride to Ha Long Bay. Nneedles to say, I saw my life flash before my eyes very many times over the course of this car ride.

About two hours into our trip, we are told we are going to be making a stop at a local art and clothing factory where we can use the bathroom, get a drink, and of course spend money on souvenirs. We arrive at this factory to the welcoming sign of “Factory for disabled workers,” not really what I was expecting for our first stop on our cultural journey through Vietnam. I’m and easy going person and open to all kinds of new experiences, but this place was not on my list of things to do. , I’m we are talking sweat shop conditions: dust and dirt everywhere with horribly disabled and disfigured men and women working sowing machines and carving rocks. s, Tthis place made the car ride to get herethere seem like a relaxing experience. I couldn’t wait to leave and finally after about thirty minutes I found my guide and driver and informed them I was about ready to leave. We continue our death defying drive for another two hours before we finally reach Ha Long Bay.

We arrive in the heat of the day and our guide tells us to take a seat while she goes and purchases us tickets for the boat ride. , Wwe couldn’t be happier finally to get out of the car, and we were ready to get on the boat, see the sights and of course eat lunch. Our guide returns about ten minutes later, she comes up to me hesitantly and says “ I have good news and bad news, what would you like to hear first?”

Tthis is not good. Wwhat could she possibly have to tell me ? Sso, I respond, “B bad news first. Tthat way Ii end the conversation on a high note.”

Sshe says, “Bbad news is there are no boats going out today due to new government regulations.” Mmy jaw drops; Tthe whole purpose of this day was to go on this boat ride and se Ha Long Bay and now she’s telling me that’s not going to happen the disappointment immediately begins to set in but in the back of my head I’m thinking, ok well she said there is good news lets hear it.

I ask, “Sso what’s the good news?”

Sshe says, “Wwe are in Ha Long Bay.” Nnow I’m really confused.

“Hhow is this good news?”

S she responds, “Yyou are here that is good., Nnow we must go back to Hanoi, and by the way there will be no refund for any of today’s planed activities.” I almost can’t believe my ears.

“Tthis is the good news you have for me? I tell her “Tthis is unacceptable!”

Bbut she says there is nothing she can do. Before we leave we ask to use the bathroom and are pointed in the right direction. Wwhen we reach the bathroom we are stopped by security guards demanding money to use the facilities. like Iits bad enough I have to pay for a boat trip I can’t go on buty now I have to pay to use the toilet! We get back in the van and begin our ride four-hour ride back to Hanoi. i, Bbefore we begin we ask the guide if there is somewhere nice we can stop for lunch along the way as to avoid completely wasting the whole day. , Sshe says, “Yyes, yes, of course we will stop for a very nice lunch for you.” I’m still very upset at this point but I’m starving and the thought of a good meal sounds pretty good. We drive about two hours, and I’m yet to see a place where eating would even be a possibility for a westerner like me, but whatever I’m going with it. Suddenly my guide pipes up and says, “Wwe are here!”

I look around and I must admit I am very confused I see nowhere where good food could be had and as we make the next turn what do I see but the factory for disabled workers. I can’t believe it . Tthis is the nice restaurant that we are being taken to? Tthis must be some kind of joke, e I’m thinking, but of course it isn’t. I tell the guide I have no interest in eating in a factory and to please take us back to Hanoi. SShe reluctantly agrees. We drive another two hours and finally make it back to Hanoi, but before we get to the hotel the guide pops up and says,



“Mmy company would like to buy you lunch.” Wwe refuse many times, but this message just isn’t getting through, and before we know it we are parked in front of a Vietnamese restaurant in the old quarter of Hanoi. We go inside begrudgingly but happy to be eating since we haven’t eaten all day. Soon after we sit down food arrives without us even ordering, and we are informed we will be eating from a set menu. , Sso now I’m at a restaurant I don’t want to be at, on a tour I no longer want to be on, being served food I don’t want to eat! Tthe meal consists of the staples of Vietnamese cuisine: lemon grass, chewy pork, rice and vegetables smothered in some sort of sauce. , Aat this point, I just want to get back to my hotel. Tthis day has been all to much. We eat what we can force down and go outside in search for our guide, but not after being ridiculed at the restaurant for not finishing ourt food., Nnow I’m really starting to love this country and its people. We find ourt guide and are finally taken back to our hotel. Wwhen I see the gate, feelings of joy and relief overtake me, and I just can’t wait to get out of the car. I quickly open the door to the van wanting nothing more but to run away from this awful experience, but just before I get away, I’m stopped one more time by my guide for what I’m sure is going to be an apology. , Bbut that would be much to nice a way to end this day. Sshe looks and me and says, “Ttip for me and driver now please.” I could do nothing but smile and laugh as I walked away. TThis day had just been all too much.

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