Just checked out for an overnight trip to Halong Bay for a boat cruise. 3.45 hour drive over 180 kms. Stopped after driving for about 1.5 hours. Half way point. Massive shop. Toilet stop. And to shop. Tourist trap. Must be paying the usual hefty commissions to the tour driver and guide. Must revise what I wrote earlier about only petty shop keepers. This place is massive. Well organized.

Obviously highly inflated prices. Artisans working on jewelry and embroidery. ID cards with name, photo, age, years of skill of each craftsman or craftswoman. The Vietnamese Way! Separate huge rooms for embroidery, jewelry, carved stone and onyx like idols and artifacts, coffee, cafeteria, tourist crap. Well organized. Good forex rate, 1 USD=23,390 VND.

Super clean posh loo with Japanese Toto brand urinals and wash basins. Who has financed all this, I wonder? What impresses me is the organization. Well thought, simple and efficient. Every passenger alighting from our mini bus or big tourist bus, is given a plastic printed card on a ribbon to dangle from your neck. On it is printed the number of your tourist bus which waits for you at the rear exit of the huge shop through which you must perforce pass through to hopefully linger and spend your money on their wares. Polite, discreet, effective. The Vietnamese Way!!

The countryside is unremarkable. Flat. Densely populated. Countryside is very Indian. Hills in the distance. Flat fields on either side. Some banana plantations and what looks like paddy to my untrained eye. Surprisingly, very little coconut or arecanut and other valuable cash crops which are typical of coastal India. Similar narrow street front, deep running shops and houses, stuck to each other in roadside hamlets and countryside as seen in Hanoi city scape. Very Indian. However, you don’t see a house in a walled plot like you see in Goa, Karnataka or Kerala. What is un-Indian is the neatness and cleanliness. Relatively no litter. No dumped garbage. No filth. No accumulated plastic dumps which are the blight of urban and rural India. Obviously, strong civic sense with an underlying strong government action force both of which are sadly lacking in India.

Crossed big canal. Cement concrete banks. Pretty full. Discernible current. Must have cost a bomb. In the 1970s, RBI through ARDC, (subsequently spun off as an independent NABARD), had financed the brick lining of the Rajasthan Canal, which was horrendously expensive but which reduced seepage and evaporation by thirty percent, if I remember correctly. Other rivers not lined with cement. Tanks have side walls of stones set in concrete. Expensive but long lasting.