We flew with Brain and Bless from Luang Prebang to Hanoi. On weekends they block vehicles from around Hoan Kiem Lake in the old quarter of Hanoi, and people wander around, eat, shop and people watch.
It's getting near the end of our trip so we headed out of town to a little village near Ninh Binh. We had probably the best meal in out whole trip at a small restaurant near out guest house: roast goat with lemon grass and chili (you take a piece of the rice paper on the plate in the upper left, add some leaves, add some goat, and dip it in peanut sauce), and burnt rice (the stuff that looks like big slabs of rice krispie squares in the lower right) with mystery vegetable soup. Wildly delicious!
A lot of the area around Trang An was either rice fields or baby limestone mountains.
We bicycled to the Trang An Grotto caves. Ladies in rowboats offer to paddle passengers through caves beneath abrupt limestone peaks surrounded and connected by rivers.
Waterways and limestone peaks of Trang An.
...and inside cave!
Another 14 km down the road was the Bai Dinh temple, the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam. The main temple is spectacular with three giant Buddhas plus about 1000 more small Buddhas iining the 20-ft. high walls.
There is also a 12-story pagoda at the Bai Dinh complex. This is what the 12th story looks like from the inside.
Bai Dinh Pagoda.
The main temple and part of the Bai Dinh temple complex from the top of the pagoda.
We spent a day tramping through the jungle at Cuc Phuong National Park. Along the roadways there were thousands and thousands of butterflies.
Along the jungle trail there is the Cave of Prehistoric Man, where human graves and tools were found that date back 7500 years.
Vietnam grows terrific coffee. It comes either with ice or hot, and with or without condensed milk. The cashews at this cafe were a bonus.
Hanoi1: Our final stop before flying back to Canada was back in Hanoi.
Hanoi2. The pedestrian walkway around Hoan Kiem Lake on the weekend. Before we flew back to Canada, we also went to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum where a perfectly preserved Uncle Ho is laid out in a glass case, and thousands of mostly Vietnamese file by every day. No photos are allowed so we can't show it, but Uncle Ho is still extraordinarily lifelike 48 years after his death, probably because he is shipped off to Russia every year for touch-ups.
Current residence of Ho Chi Minh (compliments of Brian).