We took a train up the coast from Danang to Hanoi yesterday, it was a pretty long train ride, over 12 hours, but very pretty. The tracks edge right along the coast so the view was pretty spectacular. We booked a soft sleeper compartment which had only 4 bunks, and about half an hour into the journey Miles looked under his bottom bunk and found 2 boxes of live pigeons! We thought maybe someone had forgotten them on a previous trip so we told one of the porters and a guy came and took the boxes away. Very strange!

After we go into Hanoi we checked into a really crappy hotel and took some quick (and cold) showers then headed out to see if we could book a 2 day tour to Halong Bay. We were able to find what looks to be a pretty fun tour aboard a “luxury junk” through a reputable tour company recommended by Lonely Planet (Sinh Cafe).

Then we ate some breakfast and checked into a better hotel. It’s kind of amazing how much of a difference 5-10 dollars can make in the quality of a hotel room.

After that we took a taxi out to the Temple of Literature, which was a scholarly institution built in 1070 as a center of learning and knowledge founded by Confucian scholars. The buildings are all in Chinese style architecture and the grounds were really well kept and relaxing.

There was a huge school group of 12-13 year old girls and they thought I was the most fascinating thing at the Temple. After I said hello to them they actually surrounded me to ask me more questions and giggle every time I answered that my name is Caitlin and I’m from California.

It was on to the Museum of Ethnography after the Literature Temple, and the museum was full of neat displays about the traditional cultures of many of Vietnam’s ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the museum was not air conditioned and was super stuffy (and about 100 degrees inside) so I didn’t spend a ton of time examining all of the displays. Outside on the grounds they had recreated a bunch of small villages in the architechtural style of several different peoples, so we walked around those (and entertained yet another school group) then had a super tasty lunch at the museum’s cafe.

Tomorrow morning we’ll head out for the Halong Bay trip.

Random notes about the trip so far:

Strangest things seen carried on a motorbike:
– a mid sized refridgerator
– a basket of live geese
– a 20 foot long bamboo ladder

Best oddly translated tshirt:
– Las Vegas – where I lay my mac down (a Mac-10 gun reference, worn by a youngish woman)
– What a great day my mind is paralyzed! (on a children’s t-shirt)