Ahoy Mateys

Trip Start May 31, 2012
Trip End Aug 08, 2013

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We left Hanoi at 8 am on Tuesday morning for a 3 and half hour bus ride to Halong Bay, one of the natural wonders of the world. We had booked a 2 day/one night tour on the Poseidon Sails boat, a pretty touristy thing to do but it was the best way to get to see Halong Bay and spend some time on a boat! The brochures we looked at made it seem very intimate and peaceful, and we were lucky enough to get the honeymoon suite for the same price as a regular room (about 130 US per person). This included the bus ride out there, a bus ride back, 2 days and one night on the boat and all of our meals with fresh seafood. Plus there were plenty of activities such as kayaking, swimming and a guided tour through the some pretty neat caves. Halong Bay consists of around 12 000 islands of limestone jutting up through the sea, with natural cave formations and stalactites and stalagmites aplenty. The bus ride was pleasant enough, air conditioned so that was a plus.

We stopped for a rest stop about halfway there to tour a craft/clothes/art market with the funds raised going to help people disabled by Agent Orange. Most of the artists/weavers there had been affected. We got a postcard and mailed it from there. We're guessing it'll reach home by early September.

By the time we got to Halong Bay we were pretty ready to kick back on the boat and enjoy the waves. As we were waiting to embark, the harbour area filled up with hundreds of other people waiting to kick back on their boat and enjoy the waves as well. Our tour guide was a guy named Tu and we had a group of 13 people on our boat. We boarded a little dinghy amongst many little dinghy's and chugged out to our relaxing, intimate cruise with 11 other people. There were so many boats! Everywhere we looked, more boats, more dinghy's, more intimate cruises with more other people. I don't mean to complain about it because it ended up being very nice and we made friends with all of the people on the boat, but it just wasn't quite what we were expecting (re; solitude, intimate, quiet). Anyway, we got to our boat and checked in, then met everyone else, who included a group of 4 from Ohio, an older Vietnamese couple, 3 Australians/Tasmanians and an Vietnamese father and his son (who was raised in France). A very multicultural group indeed! I felt like I was back working in a kitchen.

After we checked into our cabins and had a chance to shower/wash up, we had a superb seafood lunch with stuffed crabshells, prawns, tofu, calimari and some mixed greens. We got a chance to meet our cruise mates. Kara and I sat a table with the Vietnamese couple and the Father and son, Thong (pronounced Tong) and his son Thongi (pr. Tongee). He lives in Ho Chi Minh City and his son is visiting from France. We really got along well with them and Thong was a real enthusiastic fella, as well as a loving Father. Following lunch we toured the Hang Sung Sot caves (translates to the 'cave of surprises'). It was pretty great, but the tour left a little to be desired we felt. Tu did his best with the material provided but you can only listen to a guy with a laser pointer say stuff like 'And this formation looks like a turtle, can you imagine?!', and 'This formation looks like a DRAGON!' for so long. It was also extremely crowded as all of the tour boats that had left port when ours did (our guess is upwards of 40 boats) all toured the cave the same time as ours did. Then it was time for kayaking! All of us, all 40 or so boats, went on over to the kayaking station and we all rowed around each other and the bay for 30 minutes. Kara and I found a little alcove where no one else was so we grabbed a bit of peace and solitude before a barrage of kayaks came streaming around the bend and joined us.

    After we escaped the onslaught of kayaks, it was onto swimming! Instead of scrabbling around the beach for a spot or pushing ourselves out into the water we decided to climb the hill as there was a pagoda on top of the karsk which promised an incredible view. It only took about 10 minutes but it was pretty steep. The view was worth it though, as our pictures can attest. We basically did this for you. You're welcome. After we descended, we went in for a dip to wash ourselves off and then it was back to the boat for some supper. We had a 'cooking class' which was fun but we basically just made some spring rolls for us to eat, but at least we didn't have to do any of the prep or cleanup! I can't remember what we had for dinner but it was delicious. Kara and I turned in pretty shortly after that as we were exhausted, but word on the boat the next morning (from the Australians) was that Tu was showing off his skills as the breakdancing champion of Vietnam. Apparently he was spinning on his head and everything! Pretty cool, even though we never actually witnessed it.

    The next morning was very peaceful, beautiful and sunny. Kara and I sat up on the sun deck and read our books, ate lychees and just relaxed, with the rest of the people on the boat coming and going. We finished up with lunch and then debarked from the boat for the 3 and a half hour bus ride back to Hanoi. We got back to Hanoi at about 4:30 pm and then picked up our train tickets to Sa Pa, leaving at 9:50 that night..... but that's another post altogether....
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jackie combden on

What a beautiful and interesting place you have gone to. Everything sounds terrific.....keep the blogs coming.

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