Malaysia and Hanoi

I know, I know, it has been a long while since I last blogged about our trip. So this one will be long and full of images. We are currently stationed in Hanoi at a hotel with free wifi, so I can upload this blog to the Net before we head south through the country of Vietnam.

We did a seven day cruise off the coast of Queensland (I could have been happy with three days.) One of the places we disembarked was a small town called Yorky’s Knob. It was supposed to be a stopping point on the way to Cairns by bus, but Meagan and I just wanted to walk around and enjoy the scenery.

Pacific Dawn Cruiseliner

Pacific Dawn as seen from Yorky’s Knob, Queensland, Australia


The Old Railway Station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (now a hotel)


We visited the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, too. Very impressive architecture.


Okay, so this is Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. These caves were discovered about 150 years ago and steps were built up the side of the mountain to the mouth of the cave and a Hindu temple is inside of the cave. There are 272 steps up and the large golden colored statue to the right is Lord Marugan, a Hindu god of health, well-being and good fortune. Every time I hear that name I am reminded of Count Rugan, the six-fingered man from the Princess Bride.


You can see the Hindu temple in Batu Caves on the left, where all the lights are. But there are also more Hindu altars placed around the cave, too and you can see more steps going up at the back of the cave to another cave where there is a second, smaller temple. In all the height of the cave is 100 meters (app 300 feet). It is quite gaudy by Western standards and tourist shops are all the way into the caves. Oh, yes, there are monkeys all over the mountain and they love to come eat your food. While we were there, some people brought bananas and gave them to the monkeys. The mamma monkeys carried their young hanging from their torsos--pretty cute.


So this is the first thing, besides the incessant smog, that I noticed about Hanoi, Vietnam. This is a rather tame version of the electric wires that line the streets of the city. It is quite amazing that there aren’t massive electrical fires throughout the city. I am still in awe every time I walk down the streets (but the walking part is another story--see below.)


The tower at Tran Quoc Pagoda


These smaller shrines are at Tran Quoc pagoda to honor very pious Buddhist monks that lived at Tran Quoc. A pagoda is different from a temple in that it is a complex of buildings that are there to serve the mediation and worship of Buddha and not other Buddhist saints or holy men. We Westerners sometimes make the mistake of thinking the tower form with its multiple rooflines is a pagoda, but it isn’t that way.


Hanoi’s first university is over a 1000 years old. It is a very large complex of buildings and has these model mountains with bonsai trees in planters in front of many of the buildings. Being in tuned with nature and living in harmony with the Tao is very much a part of Asian religion and culture. These mountain tableaux depict that desire, and are very similar in feel to the mountain islets that rise out of Ha Long Bay (see below.)


Corner of a great hall in the first university of Hanoi


a view across Sword Lake in Hanoi (the mist isn’t mist, it is pollution)


there is a manmade island with a temple on the Sword Lake


early in the mornings, Hanoians exercise around Sword Lake


This is a typical street scene in Hanoi, except multiply the number of motor bikes by 5 times the amount seen here. The driving is crazy by American standards, but no one hits anyone else. We would walk right out into the middle of traffic and the motor bikes and cars and busses would never stop, but they all missed us as long as we didn’t stop either. One of the main reasons smog is so bad in Hanoi (top 10 worst air pollution in the world), is that no one can afford cars and everyone rides the bikes. Bikes are fuel efficient, but terrible with emissions. One bike can do the damage of five cars with carbon output.


Ha Long Bay is a World Heritage listed site. Vietnam has over 3000 islands and 2000 of them are here in Ha Long Bay. Legend is that the dragons ascended from Hanoi and descended into Ha Long Bay and became the rocky islands we see today. Very beautiful area, but also covered in smog. Crystal blue skies would have been amazing, but that doesn’t happen here very often anymore. To give you an idea of the environment in Vietnam (similar to other areas in Asia), 99% of the coral in Ha Long Bay is dead. There is also a species of monkeys living here that numbered over 25,000 in the year 2000, but now only 10 years later, there are only 65 left. The reason for that is that the Chinese come down and wound the monkeys and take them back to China to eat the brains out of them while the monkeys are still alive.


junk cruisers in Ha Long Bay


view of the junks from the mouth of a famous cave in one of the islets on Ha Long Bay

After we swam, we had dinner on the vessel, then the crew started doing karaoke very loudly and smoking in the dining room area. All of our group stayed a while, but then left and went up on the roof deck of the boat. It was much quieter there. Soon the rest of our group (it is so large we had to split it among three junks) came over on a tender and we all sang and had a wonderful devotional time up on top, then several went down for karaoke for a few minutes.

Now comes the interesting part. Once the others left to go back to their junks, we all retired for bed. Meagan had planned on taking a shower (one shower door missing), but the water quit working. A crew member came and fixed that. Then the air conditioner, which is located over the head of the bed, started leaking water. Apparently the drain tube was blocked. So we moved the bed away from the wall, put a towel down to catch the drips, and we turned the air off to stop the dripping--it never stopped dripping. (Some kind of Vietnamese water torture, I think.) Oh, and did I mention that the boat leaned significantly to the port side the entire trip?

While we were settling in , we started hearing scratching in the walls and ceiling. Okay, so the boat has mice, rats or very small dogs in the walls. This is fine as long as they stay in the walls and ceiling. Meagan has a CPAP machine that needed plugging in. The outlet was halfway up the wall on my side of the bed, but the nightstand was on the other side of the bed. No problem…she has an extension cord that would snake around behind the head of the bed and up the wall and plug into the wall outlet.

Just before we turned out the lights, the scratching was very loud in the ceiling just above my head. Sooo we turned out the lights and warily crawled into bed. As I was just dosing off, I turned over and apparently my leg pulled on the extension cord. Now, if it had just been the plug at the end, nothing would have happened, but there was a plug converter box hanging on the end of the cord that was plugged into the wall. The converter and cord fell down on the back of my leg and both Meagan and I were out of the bed with me yelling. We turned on the light and saw what had happened, then quickly relocated the extension cord to another outlet a little more out of the way.