Halong Bay, Vietnam

Little late here, but we went to Halong Bay and the world needs to know!

Tyler and Nick met us in Vietnam which, after being gone for 4 months at this point, was the best thing to ever happen (not dramatic or exaggerated). We got to show them the best pho (Bat Dan St.), take them to get 25 cent beers on the side of the road (every street), and lead them to our favorite hangout spot on An Bang beach (Soul Kitchen).

We also did a 3-day tour of Halong Bay with Imperial Cruises. We booked it the day before when we were drunk and wandering around Hanoi's Old Quarter, because that's always a good idea. It turned out that it WAS a good idea because Halong Bay is a beauty, but if I were to do it again I would probably go straight to Cat Ba island without a tour group and do a day trip to Halong Bay. It's nice being on a tour because you don't have to think or plan anything yourself, but it also means you're eating the same meal 16 times in a row and stuck on a pretty desolate little area of Cat Ba in bungalows on night 2. Around 7:30 it got really dark and there's not really anything to do so we were like "why WOULDN'T we go pile in one bungalow and watch a documentary about scientology on the laptop right now?"

As for the cruise boat, we got insanely lucky with some clear, sunny days. Tyler got weirdly excited that it came with a disco ball and fake grass on the upper deck. It's the prettiest place on earth in the Bay (that's what we call it now, the Bay, because it sounds cool). It doesn't even look real. At times we would be cruising along talking amongst ourselves and then we would look around and realize where we were: HEAVEN.

^ Tour guide Alex, just being a boss. Alex would wear a button-up and slacks during the day when it's a million degrees and put on his party clothes at night time. He was very smooth with the ladays. He also loves shotgunning beers, which he learned from a group of Americans on a previous tour (obviously).

Hoi An (and a funny thing in Vietnam)

Among the long list of funny things Vietnamese people do in Vietnam, perhaps my favorite of all is how they try to get you in the door of their shop. 

"Hey lady, you come eat here!" they'll shout as I walk by. At first I was like, wait what? Are you yelling at me right now?  But then somehow, oddly, you get used to it. Most times it's not so much an offer or question but a demand. 

"You buy something!" (Danny's personal favorite)

At restaurants there is always someone standing in the street. They yell at you when you get near, telling you to sit down, and watch you as you page through the menu. It was unnerving at first, having someone watch you so intently while you look to see if they serve cao lau. Sometimes they will nod or murmur in agreement as you pause at something on the menu. Yes yes fruit shake, they'll mumble as you scan the drinks. When we've decided to eat somewhere usually Danny and I will ask them how their food is just to hear their response. So is your pho good here? Yes yes! Best pho! Grandma make it in the back for you sit sit, sit down!

This marketing (?) tactic is especially apparent in Hoi An, which, we learned, only really started seeing tourists in the mid '90s. This is mind blowing to me, it is SUCH a touristy town. Am I making Hoi An sound kind of terrible? Because it's definitely not. It's actually been my favorite in Vietnam so far. I love its small village feel it somehow retains, how everything is washed in yellow, the picturesque alleys, and how the entire town is lit with colorful lanterns at night. If I were English I would call it lovely. Old houses now converted into restaurants and coffee shops line the streets, and some of the roads are gloriously blocked off from motorbikes and cars. Danny and I pretended we were in France for a while, like 10 whole minutes, until we saw a rat run by. 

On our last day we rented bicycles and rode to An Bang beach and were pretty upset we hadn't done it all of the other days before. By the way, am I supposed to be getting a tan on this trip? Because I'm definitely not. Our prerogative is to find shade, lots of it, with comfortable chairs near the water. And in close proximity to mango shakes, obviously.