Before I begin this post, I wanted to thank my boyfriend, Trevor, for taking the time to do some work on my blog. If you click the menu at the top, you’ll now see a drop-down list where you can find my posts by category. Hopefully this makes it a little bit easier to follow along and find what you’d like. Let me know what you think of my new menu – I’m always looking for new ways to improve my blog (and my life for that matter)!
I spent just one day in Ninh Binh, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t want to take a direct 12 hour bus ride from Phong Nha to Hanoi. There was not much going on in Ninh Binh, other than their main attraction, Tam Coc, which is known as “the Halong Bay on the Rice Paddies.” After speaking with a few girls at my hostel, I decided to visit Trang An instead, which is similar to Tam Coc but less expensive and touristy to visit. I rode a motorbike to Trang An in the morning and ended up taking a boat with the kindest Vietnamese family. They were from just outside Saigon and were visiting the north on vacation. We rode through breathtaking caves and limestone rocks together for 3 hours and we talked about jobs, religion, traditions, etc. I’m so happy they adopted me into their family for the morning!
Now, if you’ve been following my travels, you’ll know that I’ve been ill lately. I’m quite sure I jynxed myself because shortly after confessing to the blogosphere that I had not yet fallen victim to illness, BOOM, I get sick. At first it was just a cold…annoying but manageable. But then in addition to the cold, I came down with a stomach “bug.” We’re not talking about your typical stomach bug that involves vomiting and diarrhea and is out of your system after 24-48 hours. We’re talking sharp, excruciating, centralized stomach pain that persisted for 4 days straight. My first thoughts were that I either a) had a stomach ulcer or b) my appendix was about to burst. Knowing that the healthcare system in Vietnam is not as good not as accessible as the states, I decided to self-medicate, hoping that it would pass. But it did not, and I spent 3 full days and nights in the worst pain of my life so I finally visited the hospital to get checked out by a doctor.
The hospital in Vietnam looked a lot like hospitals in the states. The only major difference was that the doctors and nurses don’t really speak English. It was difficult to explain to the doctor what was wrong, especially since I didn’t have any symptoms other than pain. After a few minutes of pointing to my stomach and making very expressive faces, he was able to understand. They conducted a blood test, urine test and ultrasound and after two hours of waiting for the test results, everything came back normal. He gave me some nexium and painkillers to help ease the pain but it still baffles me that nothing was found. I feel that the trip to the hospital was a waste of time and money (a lot of money) but find a tiny bit of comfort in knowing that everything is supposedly normal. Last night was the first full night of sleep I’ve had in a week so progress is being made…slowly but surely.
In better news, I’m writing to you from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The center of the city, known as the Old Quarter, is a bit hectic but once you venture a few blocks outside of the old quarter, it feels like you’ve been transported to a different world. There are a plethora of upscale coffee shops (like the one I’m writing to you from now), boutiques, cathedrals and museums, all of which line a big lake. Hanoi is also the first city where I’ve seen American shops and fast food joints which makes me feel like I’m a little closer to home. There is a HUGE ex-pat population here and I’ve gotten to meet a few Canadians and Europeans who now consider Hanoi to be home. There is certainly a real charm to this city and I’m not ready to leave just yet. Thankfully, I’ve got some time before I head to Laos next weekend.
Tomorrow I’m heading to Ha Long Bay and doing a 2 day/ 1 night boat cruise around a remote part of the bay. Many travelers I’ve met have said that Ha Long Bay is the highlight of their stay in Vietnam so I’m excited to finally see what all of the hype is about!
After that, I plan to head to Sapa and do a one or two night homestay there. Sapa, which is north of Hanoi, sits in the mountains and overlooks fields of rice terraces. I’ve heard the harvest is already over so it’s not as green as it once was but it should still be beautiful nonetheless.
My American friends are getting into Hanoi this evening so I’m planning on seeing them for one last reunion before we part ways (for real this time). They live in Colorado, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to get together again once we’re both stateside.
As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned to hear about my final week in Vietnam!