Getting ready to work on an oyster
Preparing a pearl oyster for its only job in life (bigger version).

Wednesday, November 9: from
Ha Long Bay to Hoi An

Ha Long Bay-dwellers

One last view of picturesque Ha Long Bay (big image, small).

A line of oyster-workers

Big image, small.

Precision oyster-work

Painstaking work on the oysters (big image, small).

a tray of pearls

Pearls to be sorted (big image, small).

Our last hours on our tourist boat — have breakfast, make sure our things are packed up, and pile into our bus, which was waiting dockside. Before leaving the Ha Long area, we stopped at an establishment devoted to raising pearl oysters, and producing jewelry from those pearls that were of sufficiently high quality. My journal, in an unusually jaundiced mood, says, «We saw people inserting the necessary seeds by invasive surgery into the poor suffering animals, which would only live to be slaughtered for the jewels that they produced during their agony-filled existence.»

The whole procedure was really quite in­ter­est­ing — I was particularly surprised to see the very great variation in the color of these pearls. It seems that the various colors are produced by different species of oyster.

There was a big brightly-lit showroom for jewelry made from these pearls, as well. I took a couple of snapshots, in spite of the signs saying No Photography, but out of politeness, I haven’t put them up here. There, Mark found some nice simple necklaces, one for each Daughter, that he brought back home to be delivered in Greene.

It was a long drive from there to the airport in Ha Noi, and not specially scenic, though at some points I wished I could have stopped to photograph the strange narrow houses. My journal picks up at the airport: «The plane was delayed a half-hour, not a great inconvenience. Since we all had had no lunch yet, MTK and I went into a sit-down restsurant within the security area where we each had a bottle of beer (Bia Ha Noi) and a rice-heavy meal of pork of various cuts (pork belly for him, ribs for me) with a strange green vegetable that looked as if it might have been rind from a melony or squashish fruit.»

Our flight was to Da Nang, and on arrival there, we got onto a bus for Hoi An, to arrive at our hotel Almanity, a supremely elegant establishment. Our guide for Hoi An was to be Mr. Vinh, who turned out to have even more fluent and colloquial English than Hung, just the opposite of Mr. Truong, the local guy from Ha Noi.

My journal says, «Our supper was at the hotel, a carte fixe, and all was fine, though I think that I do not care for water spinach: it has been rather fibrous both times we have had it.

«I think that Mark and I could have gone right to bed, but part of the ticket was a 45-minute massage, two nights. Not ever having had the experience, I was dubious, but went through with it anyway. In the event, it was most pleasant and relaxing.»

From there, right to bed, and I for one slept very well. Maybe it was the massage. Anyway, from here, you should go on to the next day’s page.

Wide shot of Ha Noi airport
Ha Noi Airport, where we waited for a bit.