Serenity (and karaoke!) in Halong Bay

Trip Start Aug 07, 2011
Trip End Jul 14, 2012

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Some boat on the bay :0)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hiya, it's Fran today.

So we arrived into Hanoi on Monday morning at 5am after our overnight train. We had originally thought about riding to Halong Bay but we found out that we couldn't get Harold back until late morning (the luggage office was closed at 5am... how rude! Haha!) and we didn't want to hang around the station for 4+ hours and waste a day so we decided to head to our hostel that we had booked for the upcoming weekend.

Thankfully the night manager of the hotel, Michael, (very Vietnamese name!) heard us outside and let us in. We asked him about tours and times etc and luckily we just about had time to squeeze in both Halong Bay and Sapa trips - yey! The service we received here was AMAZING! Michael gave us hot teas, breakfast and let us squat in the reception with free internet until 7.30am when he tried to find us a tour to go on. Luckily he found one available so we packed our bags to take with us to Halong Bay. This was also the hostel where we had sent up one of our backpacks in the post, and they had been looking after it for us. It meant we could get some clean clothes to take on our trip - such a luxury! I can't tell you how much we have come to LOVE clean clothes! Oh, the simple things!

Anyway, we were really looking forward to Halong Bay, not only because we'd heard great things about it but also because we had some wedding present activities to do as well! Mark and Jackie Mahoney bought us a kayaking experience in Vietnam and Chris and Graeme Butt bought us an experience on Cat Ba Island so we decided to join them both together and treat ourselves to a lovely three day boat trip around Halong Bay.

We got picked up at our hostel at 8.30am and made the 3.5 hour journey by mini-van. We realised on the way there that we hadn't missed anything by not taking Harold with us - it was a really dull and industrial drive! 

When we arrived at the port we split up into the groups who would be with us for the next couple of days. Luckily we had a good mix of ages and nationalities which later proved to be a lot of fun! We all went to meet our boat, which we were a bit nervous about because the picture looked brilliant when we booked the tour but it's always a worry/wonder what will actually turn up! Luckily, we were pleasantly surprised! The boat arrived and after a quick intro we were shown to our room - it was gorgeous! The only other boat we could compare it to was on the Whitsundays and this boat was much better equipped and much more comfortable! Happy days!

Once we'd settled in we went up to the sun deck to look at the beautiful views as we cruised around the bay. We were very lucky with the weather because often at this time of the year it's so foggy that you can't see a lot, or even anything, but we had the perfect day for it - a slight mist to give it a magical feel whilst still being clear enough to see the islands. It was so beautiful, peaceful and serene... a wonderful combination! And it felt like such a treat to have everything done for you... transport, food, drink, activities! It was a rest from so much planning.

Our first stop on the boat was the largest cave in Halong Bay, Sun Sot Cave. It had huge limestone rock formations which were lit up with lots of multicoloured lights! Not quite what we were expecting, but it worked in a Vietnamese-random way. Our favourite part of the cave was where there was a hole in the roof and the sun beams were shining through... it looked almost heavenly! There was a second cave we also had a brief look at but it was nowhere near as nice so we climbed back on board the boat.

After some more cruising around the islands, our second stop was a floating fishing village near Tiptop Island. This is where we could have our wedding gift of kayaking. We jumped in and paddled towards the first cave that we could see. Once we were through the cave we came out into a gorgeous hidden lagoon. We took turns paddling each other around the lagoon, marvelling at the quiet and beauty of it. We then returned to kayak around the fishing village and couldn't believe that there were dogs running around on a floating fishing villages! Those little blighters get everywhere in Vietnam! ;0)

Anyway, it was a really lovely kayaking experience which allowed us to get more up close and personal with the humongous steep cliffs and hidden lagoons of the unique islands in Halong Bay, so thank you very much to Mark and Jackie for this gift! 

Once back on the boat we had a cheeky beer whilst watching the sunset and had a lovely dinner served. One of our guides had mentioned karaoke earlier in the day so low-and-behold after dinner the sound system was brought out to play. The crew sang a few Vietnamese songs but no one else looked like they were going to volunteer their singing services anytime soon.

Well, there was only one thing to do... The Mahoney's stepped up to the plate! I lead the way with a cat-dying rendition of 'Ironic' by Alanis Morrisette. Andy followed with his professional version of Jonny B. Goode. Soon everyone else followed including a US gangster rap from a posh Brit and a very funny Dutch guy who sang 'Born in the USA', which unfortunately had a cringe-worthy line in it about the USA fighting the Viet Cong! Oooops!

Anyway, everyone managed to get up and sing which was a result and everyone had a good laugh, which is what it was all about! 

The next day was the start of our second wedding present, a trip to Cat Ba Island. Most of the group went back to Hanoi as they weren't on the longer 3-day trip, but two other couples came with us. After breakfast on the boat we cruised to Cat Ba Island where we were picked up in a mini-van which took us to our first activity, a trek up to the viewpoint in Cat Ba National Park. We had rather stupidly kept our flip flops on as we forgot to change into our walking shoes which made the hike a bit more interesting! We started off up the steep stone steps but soon we were on muddy paths full of tree roots sticking out. I know I've said this before, but we must be getting old because we really enjoyed the trek! It reminded us of trekking in Indonesia. We continued to climb up the hill and somehow we got a bit lost in the jungle (following the French!) but we were soon rewarded with stunning views at the top, overlooking the huge and craggy national park. 

After a rest and a few pics the weather looked ominous so we made our way back down before the rain made the route treacherous. We drove to the town on the island and checked into our hotel which again wasn't bad! (Phew!) We were going to try out rock climbing in the afternoon but unfortunately the weather was not good enough so we walked around the town briefly before we went to chill out in the warmth for the evening. 

We met up with a Russian couple for dinner who were also staying at our hotel. They didn't speak any English which made conversation a little difficult, though we did get to see pics of the snow they'd had back at home. At the end of dinner they invited us back to their hotel room for some Russian Vodka. We politely declined, which they didn't take very well to be honest. The problem is that Vodka + Andy = 'Vondy', Andy's very emotional and slightly aggressive alter-ego! They do not mix well - trust me! How on earth we could have explained this to two non-English speaking Russians was beyond us, so they promptly left! Oh well, can't win them all!

Anyway, after dinner we had another walk around the bay to see more of Cat Ba Island at night. It was lovely to experience the trek and the stay at one of the Halong Bay islands, so we'd like to say a big thanks you Chris and Graeme Butt for this wedding gift! :0)

The next day on Weds was our last day and after some breakfast we headed back to Hanoi on the boat and mini-van. Tonight we're off to Sapa on another night train!

Until later peeps,
Mrs. M xx
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