At home, bargaining is not unheard of. You might try to negotiate a price at a garage sale or similar, and it’s quite normal for larger purchases (furniture, car, house, business deal). But most of the time, if you are buying a snack or a shirt or a pair of sunglasses, the price is as marked, and if you try to haggle people will just think you’re weird. I prefer this system because it makes all of those small transactions quick and unambiguous. By contrast, tipping is quite normal in Canada, if not quite so endemic as in the US.
Halong Bay is home to a few floating villages. This particular one is much less atmospheric than the one we visited in Cambodia, despite its stunning karst island harbour location, but it seemed a bit more of a working village. In addition to income from tourism, the residents fish and cultivate oysters for pearls.
View from our window: Charming II Hotel, Hanoi, Vietnam. 8:45 am, 08 December 2013.
Sunset and sunrise in Halong Bay
We took a 2-night, 3-day excursion to Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay aboard the Treasure Junk. The former is a World Heritage Site, but rather overrun with tourists; the latter is a bit more remote and quite uncrowded. We chose a kayaking tour so we could get up close to the soaring limestone karst islands.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… …on Celebration Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. (Doesn’t feel like Christmas, though).
Food wise, our stay in Hanoi was all about street food: we didn’t eat anywhere fancy, but that didn’t mean we ate badly. Barbecued beef with noodles, herbs and papaya, deep fried dumplings and pasties stuffed with beef, pork or crab and veggies, fried cuttlefish, stir-fried beef and chips in gravy*. All accompanied by lashings of “fresh beer” at 25 cents a glass. Ambiance consisted of tiny plastic stools and tables in shop fronts and on the pavement, mopeds whipping on by. No meal for more than $4 a head, with a slight additional cost in worrying whether we may
Hanoi’s Old Quarter: bicycles, motorcycles, cyclos; anything and everything for sale, all grouped together; buildings and monuments, shops and houses.
A bit random: this is a wedding reception set up in the middle of the street in Hanoi on an otherwise non-descript Wednesday. Basically the same as your standard street food set-up, but with tablecloths.
The Temple of Literature was once the centre of Confucian learning and philosophy in Vietnam, and the names of graduates were engraved on [large turtle stones] for posterity. It is still very much an active temple today, with people making offerings, and new graduates coming to celebrate their convocation.