Next on the H themed locations was Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. We stayed in the old quarter, which is very cute. The streets are still themed as they were back in the day, with things like painting street, music street, lacquer street, etc... It was another very early morning when we arrived from the train at 530am, so we did what any normal person in Hanoi would do, we went to watch all the people exercising, which was hilarious! It's barely 6am or even light out and loads of people are out walking, playing badminton, and doing 80's style aerobics.
The last place was famed Halong Bay, which in Vietnamese means Descending Dragon Bay. This is an UNESCO world heritage site and is filled with towering limestone peaks surrounded by lakes. Thousands upon thousands of years ago earthquakes and volcano eruptions caused portions of the earth to break off, creating the sharp peaks that dot the waters of Halong Bay now. We spent a lovely afternoon on a boat puttering around the bay, taking in the beautiful scenery, along with a little spelunking and kayaking. Kayaking was lots of fun and a great way to take in the views from another perspective. During our kayaking we got to see the floating villages, which greatly fascinated me. Due to war starting about 1,000 years ago people went to the water for safety and literally never left. Our guide for the morning, Mr. B, was a 9th generation floating village member. Some of these people have never been on land! Using huge plastic barrels, bamboo, and rope they have created floating homes, offices, and fishing villages. They even have dogs as pets. Everyone has a boat to get around, they all must have arms of steel, mine were aching after a couple of hours of paddling around. The children take their boats to school either on the mainland or, of they aren't close enough, a school in another floating village. What started as several hundred people has turned into over 2,000 people living in a thriving floating community. It really blew my mind, I can't begin to imagine living my entire life on water.
It was now sadly time to say good bye to the group. Part of me was sad to say good bye, but mostly I was super anxious about being on my own after a month of organized tour bliss. As I was saying good bye to my closest group of friends from the tour, I realized that this was the longest I had spent with anyone since leaving home. Then I got really really sad. Then I got horribly lost on my way to the travel agency for my Sapa tour and had a near anxiety attack worrying about missing my train. I want my friends back, I screamed in my head to myself! We had an amazing month together and shared so many incredible experiences and had a blast doing so. So many places I've been during this journey is marked more by the people I've met along the way, than some of the actual sights I've seen.