After my bus ride from Nanning that turned out to be a bit better than I was expecting, I arrived and spend 3 days in Hanoi. It is the capital of Vietnam, and a really cool older city. Everyone says the vibe is very different from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), and that Hanoi is very laid back, and easy going. I went to church after waking up early and tracking down the branch. Quite a few Americans which surprised me. 1 senior missionary couple, 2 sets of missionaries, an Intern from BYU, and a family. We all ended up having dinner with the McClellan family from Ohio who have lived in Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia in recent years. Very interesting to eat and listen to their stories.
The next day I woke up and booked a overnight tour to Halong Bay. The scenery is unique and very famous for the little mountains that are now thousands of little islands that sit in the middle of the South China Sea. It was a beautiful 2 days. We ended up someplace in the middle and spent the rest of the day kayaking and swimming around the boat. A 5:45am rise to see the sun come up was a great way to head back to the harbor, arriving around noon.
After a quick shower, I had an overnight sleeper bus booked to take me to Dong Hoi. Being a sleeper bus, there were 3 rows of “bunks” that you got to sleep on. I’m in Vietnam so these “bunks” were built for a tiny 5′ tall Vietnamese woman, not a giant like me. I win the lotto and had a top bunk, meaning I curled up the best I could and spent the next 12 hours banging my head into the window as the bus lumbered along at 45 mph. The road we were on is a major highway linking the north to south, and runs right along the coast. It was crazy that this is really the roadway linking the two cities, as it seemed more like a pothole ridden dirt road like you’d find out in a desert wash. After not so many hours of sleep, we got kicked off about 6am with 5 other people and split a taxi that was headed further inland to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Here lies literally thousands of caves including the worlds largest and longest.