On location

Ha Long Bay panoramic

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, is a location made famous in James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies … although I did some research and found that it was filmed in Thailand because of a dispute with the authorities.

Nevertheless, I almost expected to see 007 do running double leap somersaults and catapult himself into the limestone mountain scenery. No such luck. But the dreamy scene is no less spectacular for it.

~ Spotted Cow

Karst mountain, Ha Long Bay Tourist boats at Ha Long Bay

Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move

Officers on a boat ride

On the move, albeit at a leisurely pace. I imagined that these young officers were enjoying their day off by taking a boat ride down the scenic river. Have you noticed that their “driver” is rowing with his feet?

This Weekly Photo Challenge picture was taken in Vietnam, at Tam Coc, which is a (return) day trip from Hanoi.

~ Spotted Cow

Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a photographer’s paradise because everyone plies their commerce on the pavement. Historically, each street had its own trade – Cloth Street, Silk Street, Tinsmith Street – although sadly many do not exist anymore and some have changed custom to keep up with the times. Still, it remains buzzingly atmospheric – not least due to the regular hum of motorcycle engines – and you can spend hours walking around, shooting pictures.

~ Spotted Cow

bamboo shop Hanoifan repairer Hanoi restaurant Hanoi food shop Hanoi

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Commercial life in Hanoi takes place on the street, especially in the Old Quarter. This café is typical. The shop front is shallow, with just enough space for the proprietors to lounge, waiting for customers. And the stools and tables sit on the sidewalk.

~ Spotted Cow

Hanoi cafe

Visiting Uncle Ho

Ho Chi Minh, venerable leader of Vietnam in the 40s, 50s and 60s, is embalmed, lying in state at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.

I thought I was clothed respectfully enough in my summer dress, but my sleeveless arms were offensive. I was ushered off to buy a cheap scarf to cover up.  When I got back in the queue, it moved at a fairly good pace, winding round the block until I stepped into the mausoleum itself.  It was heavily air-conditioned.  You’re not allowed to put your hands in your pockets. No talking, no mobile phones, no cameras, no hats, no daypacks.

Uncle Ho was lying in a glass box, like a waxwork laid down for the night. You can see up his nostrils when you’re standing at his feet. Do you know that the body is sent to Russia every September for upkeep ? It’s a bit disturbing, looking at a corpse of man who died 4½ decades ago. However, any unsettledness is eased quickly. It takes less than half a minute to walk around before you exit.

You can then drop by next door and see Uncle Ho’s lurid yellow palace (no entry) and check out his car collection, both of which sit adjacent to a well-tended lake.

I don’t think I’m inspired to do a world tour of embalmed dead leaders. For the record, I believe the socialists in glass cases are Lenin, Stalin, Chairman Mao, Kim Jong Il, Ferdinand Marcos, Eva Peron … and more recently Chavez.

~ Spotted Cow 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh's palace

Ho Chi Minh's cars

Ho Chi Minh

Motorbikes in Hanoi

Everybody gets around on motorbikes in Hanoi, and from what I’ve seen, they carry their entire lives on them. At the beginning of 2013, they counted 36 million registered motorbikes in Vietnam. It makes crossing the road a bit of a challenge, especially in Hanoi’s Old Quarter where there are hardly any traffic lights and motorists don’t seem to obey them anyway.

I worked out that you need to do what the Vietnamese do, which is to cross the road VERY SLOWLY. Always go forward, don’t run and never go backward. The motorcyclists anticipate your movements and weave in and out, between road pedestrians. I tailed several locals before I had the nerve to cross on my own.

Needless to say, air pollution is a big problem and the fumes smell.

I’d like to hear stories of other travellers renting motorbikes in Asia.

~ Spotted Cow 

Motorbikes Hanoi Motorbike Hanoi 2