Halong City

Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
Trip End Jul 18, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  , Quảng Ninh,
Monday, June 7, 2010

From Cúc Phương we headed northeast, along a rudimentary highway towards Hạ Long Bay, one of Vietnam's most famous tourist attractions, and also one of the places I was looking forward to visiting the most. It was where Clarkson, May and Hammond just about managed to make their way to a floating bar at the end of the Top Gear Vietnam special.

As the taxi drew in to Hạ Long City, we could see the misty shapes of the hundreds of karst islands looming in the distance, and this was also our first sight of the sea. In spite of this, we arrived in Hạ Long City's Bai Chay area, and discovered a down with very little but streets full of hotels. By this time, however, it was late and we were tired, so we looked on the internet for somewhere cheap, found an absolute gem, and paid a cabbie to get there.

There's not too much to say about our evening in Hạ Long City - we went and found a restaurant, where I had some fried rice with squid, which was excellent (I'm looking forward to the seafood here), I then went to the internet cafe, and onwards to a (finally) comfortable night's sleep. One more thing I did, which turned out to be quite important, was text Big Dom about what he got up to. And he let us in on the key secret - Hạ Long City is a complete waste of time and there's no point visiting there - where you really want to stay is the largest island in the bay - Cát Bà. So we decided we'd up sticks and move there in the morning.

Our next issue was finding a ferry. which proved to be difficult when the internet and guidebooks were saying several different, but equally arduous options, which meant we'd probably have to get a bus down the coast to Hải Pḥng, the town actually nearer to Cát Bà Island. Luckily, we asked at reception (we're always dubious of asking the locals because their English is so poor), but this time we had some lovely directions written down to a ferry that left not too far from our hotel. As it happens, in the past year they've built a causeway out to Tuần Châu Island (Hồ Chí Minh's former residence), and a ferry port on the island, from which a cheap ferry (used by local holidaymakers and no Westerners) could be taken. After picking up a baguette and some cheap sausages & cheese to make lunch later on, we headed off.
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