Halong bay

The last day of the trip was an overnight boat trip around Halong bay. In english Halong bay means “descending dragon bay” and is made up of thousands of islands and large rocks in well known emerald water.

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Even though the weather was misty it was still beautiful we continued our journey through the bay.

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We had a stop at a cave called sung sot. There were 3 different sized caves which contained many rocks shaped like animals.

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We then stopped at a pearl farm. Here the workers would try and breed the pearls by mixing part of the clam membrane and core together. The clams would then be left for months to see if they produced a pearl. Only 20% makes pearls.

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This one made it. The guy said it was near enough a perfect pearl.

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Before dinner it was a jump of the top deck. Still cant believe I did it.

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On day two we were on top deck and 6.30am for tai chi. Was an amazing experience to do this surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

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We floated along to a floating village. There were many longtail boats selling fruits and vegetables. A very unique way to buy your groceries.

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We stopped off near the village for a spot of kayaking. Its a must do if your there. Kayaking around the huge rocks. There were lots of jellyfish but they dont sting you.

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After kayaking we made some classic vietnamese spring rolls in a cooking class on the boat and ate them with a delicious lunch before the trip ended.
The whole trip was amazing and there were moments that I will never forget.
If anyone is interested in doing a similar tour I booked with Asiacharmtours.com I would highly recommend them. I loved every moment of it and vietnam is a beautiful place to visit.

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Sapa day 2

Today was another hike. This time 6 miles.

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We started walking down steep mountain sides and around rice paddy fields. We were followed by a group of villagers. They follow foreigners who are headed to their village and try to sell you things at the end.

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This was my following friend. She comes from the hmong tribe. These hmong people settled in vietnam and surrounding countries when the indochina wars broke out. She was a lovely lady who helped me down the steep slopes and asked lots of questions. Her name was Jee.

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Jee carries a basket with her things to sell. She only wears slip on shoes and walks with no problem while the rest of us are slipping and sliding all over the place. Each tribe wears different clothes.

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Jee made me this made of small leafy twigs twisted together. Vietnamese people are very good at making things.

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These are the rice paddy fields. Its an amazing site and all the villagers help plant the rice. The rice will be ready in the summer for them to harvest, eat an sell.

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There are so many children walking about trying to sell you bracelets. These children were very dirty and came from very poor villages living in shacks.

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The views here were amazing. There was a panoramic view of all the rice fields with a waterfall at the bottom. The views here are very unique and a must see.

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This was at the end of our walk taken from a bridge. We had walked through very poor villages and seen people with virtually nothing. Its definatly an eye opener and a hike I will never forget.

Sapa Vietnam

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The journey to Sapa started on an overnight train ride. It was a true travellers experience. Shared with 3 lovely ladies from England and Germany. Didnt get much sleep but the beds were pretty comfy. The ride was 8 hours from Hanoi to cao lai.

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Today I went on a hike around the villages of sapa. This was the first glimpse of the rice fields. The tour guide was amazing and actually took us to his parents house and then to his house he has with his family and we met his daughter called lee. Was so welcoming to be invited to there homes.

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Some albino buffalos taking a stroll.

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Some of the locals kids eating a bag of candy from tourists. These kids have virtually nothing and were pretty grubby but they were playing and laughing and very happy. Shows how much of our possessions we dont need to be happy in life.

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The children and women wear the most beautiful traditional vietnamese clothing. Made from colorful embroidary and decorated with beads. Women sit outside stiching the material. The kids will try to sell you things but they are so sweet.

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Just a baby in a box cot. She was smiling so much when we were making a fuss of her. The mom was nice too.

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This village is not a popular tourist route and not many of the locals have seen foreigners but they were not phased when we walked past. The views were amazing and above us was a cable car going to the highest mountain peak in Vietnam called Fansipan. this was an amazing way to see real local life.

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View towards the end of the village. All the houses are traditional mud hut houses. Behind us was a small school which was a nice sight to see that these children were having an education.

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Fell in love with this little girl. She got shy as we walked towards here and she started to turn around and walk the other way. Maybe we were the first foreigners she saw.

I have fallen in love with Vietnam already. The people are so welcoming and they are so happy even when they dont have much. Its an amazing sight to get right in the thick of the culture and the real locals and see how they live. I feel so lucky to be able to see and experience countries in this way.

DMZ

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The division of North and south Korea happened after world war 2. Japan had ruled the country for 35 years. When Japan finally surrended Korea was left with no goverment. The US and Soviet Union agreed to step in and help korea politically. It became that the US occupied the South and the Soviets occupied the North. However tensions rose over a unified country and arguements over the countries political status. As they couldnt come to an agreement the country remained divided. These high tensions led to North Korea invading the South on June 25 1950 which led to the Korean war which lasted for just over 3 years. From this the DMZ was formed.

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Thats me by the D haha.
The DMZ (demilitarized zone), the divide of North and South Korea. It is 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, both sides heavily guarded. Withing the DMZ is the joint security area where negotiations take place. Solidiers from North and South guard this area. Soldiers wear sunglasses so not to make eye contact with each other.

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This is a landmine warning sign. Scattered all around the DMZ. South koreans have accused the North Koreans of planting these but they have denied. It has been said that wooden fragments from exploded mines had paint on them used by the North. North koreans have argued that if there is no video evidence then they would not be held responsible. I hope this sign was for show we were pretty close to it.

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This is the 3rd infiltration tunnel dug by the North koreans from North korea to South korea. It was discovered in 1978. 1 of 4 tunnels discovered. We were able to walk so far through this tunnel. It was low and narrow with an eerie feeling knowing soldiers were in this very tunnel digging their way to South Korea.

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Where the yellow markings are are holes which were made to put sticks of dynamite in.

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This is as far as you can go. This is the 3rd blockade to stop any North koreans coming through. If you look in the 2nd picture you can see the 2nd blockade through the window. An even more eerie feeling here.

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This is North Korea….
There is a row of telescopes here. What I could through the telescope were scattered villages a lots of farm land. No cars or movement was seen. You can clearly see the North Korean flag which stands on a blue tower. It stands taller than the South Korean flag which is a few miles to the right. This is said to be because the North want to be better. The North Korean flag stands within a new looking village. White houses with blue roofs. Its not a real village, No one lives there its purely for show for people who visit and for people looking on likes us, hiding the ‘real North korea’ behind propaganda.

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Dora observatory.

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Next stop was dorasan station. Before the divide this was a functioning station that headed to pyeongyang the capital of North Korea. When the divide was permanent the station was shut down and closed off. However in 2002 the station was reopened. The tracks were restored and a new station rebuilt, everyone in hope that they would be able to use the train one day but it was only used for freight to travel back and forth to a village called kaesong on the Northen border. Again tensions rose in 2008 and North Korean government blocked off the station on the their end.

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Only sign in South Korea that says pyeongyang.

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The freedom bridge was built for the prisoners of war to walk along back to freedom after being released from North Korea.

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Now the entrance to the bridge has a wall which has thousands of ribbons, pictures and messages from South Koreans for reunification or messages to their families who are in or have died in North Korea.

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Messages from South Koreans.

There are also thousands more along the barbed wire fence.

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This train was derailed by bombs in the korean war as it was travelling to the capital of North Korea with war materials. It is covered with over 1000 bullet holes and the wheels are bent. An important symbol of the tragedy of the war.

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You can see all the bullet holes.

North Korea remains a country away from the world. People live there in poverty overworked and many starving. There are many prison camps where if someone does anything wrong them and their families will be sent to prison camps as slaves. The president kim jong un brainwashes his people into thinking their country is the best and they need to live like this to build a prosperous nation and blocks them from the outside world. Hopefully one day their lives will be better.