Halong Galaxy Cruise & Thang Long Water Puppetry

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Halong Galaxy Cruise Junk

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, June 2, 2012

Two Day, One Night "Halong Galaxy Cruise"

We packed just a few essentials for our overnight Halong Bay Cruise with "Halong Galaxy Cruise"

Galaxy's bus picked up at 8:30am sharp for the 140km, 3.5 hour bus ride to Halong Bay. The sky totally was overcast and I worried about the visibility or even possibility of rain. But the weather gods were smiling upon us.

We could see some limestone karsts in the distance as we approached Halong Bay on the bus. We also spotted small patches of blue sky opening over the bay. When we got to the pier we were disappointed and a little worried because we saw not one of the traditional brown wooden junks, with gorgeous brown sails, that were featured on the promotional video we had been shown, the one that enticed us to splurge on this cruise. All we saw were white painted boats that looked nothing like the advertising.

At the busy pier, we boarded a small boat that ferried us to our junk boat. The small boat stayed with us and was towed behind our big boat. It ferried us to sights while the big boat anchored off shore. Our large boat had 2 decks with cabins. I didn't count them but think 10 to 12 cabins, four on our deck and the rest on the lower deck room. They have capacity for 18 guests total. The dining room is small with wood paneling, a small bar and 4 beautifully decorated tables. We got a glass of juice and were assigned to our rooms. I had to remind our guide, Twan, that we reserved a room on the top deck and after a little huddle we got room 203 on the top deck. Twan went over our itinerary for the afternoon and mentioned that we needed to buy all our own drinks including water. The all-inclusive apparently didn't even include coffee, tea or water AND he added "if anyone brings their own drinks they will be charged for that as well and he rattled off some charges referring to different drinks i.e. wine , whiskey or soft drinks. Naturally we expected to have to pay for a bar tab but water, coffee and tea???

We were given the key to our lovely cabin and soon forgot about our disappointment. The cabin is small also paneled in dark wood, had a small refrigerator, queen-size bed and window with a view! The bathroom was a compact all-in-one shower, sink and toilet. Very nice!

Behind us, over Halong town, some dark clouds formed but ahead of us the blue patches appeared to open up in the sky. Our tablemates were Manon and Nynke, two cute Dutch girls from Utrecht. They are traveling for 5 months. Actually Nynke is cutting her trip short because she misses her boyfriend too much. They are both vegetarian and were served tasty dishes as well.
We were served a nice and ample lunch of large prawns, several stir-fried dishes, vegetables and a fresh bite of fruit for dessert, all beautifully presented while we watched the seascape of limestone karsts go by.

I spotted several jellyfish so no swimming for me. Now we were under mostly blue sunny sky.

Surprise Cave with its fantastic view over the Bay was our first stop. We climbed the steps up to the entrance of "Surprise Cave". As far as caves go, it was not the most impressive cave but the view from there over the bay was breath taking. We spotted our boat easily; it had raised its brown sails.

We then were ferried to a small dock where we got into the kayaks and paddled around the karsts and the gorgeous bay.

After all that fun we got back to the boat and moved on to our night location in a picturesque secluded channel surrounded by karsts.

The trash floating here in the water was more disturbing than the jellyfish. Plus the water looked slightly murky with a film. Three people of our group overlooked that and swam before dinner. We checked out our bedroom, showered and found a comfortable lounge chair on the top deck to watch the sunset behind the karsts. Like two naughty kids, we concealed our wine in a water bottle. We played cards till dinnertime at 7:00PM.

Dinner was delicious and beautifully presented, see pix.

Before bedtime, I joined a few on the stern to give squid fishing a try. Large floodlights were directed into the water and we were handed a long sturdy Huck Finn bamboo fishing pole with lure tied on to a 15 foot line. Not even a nibble so I gave up when my eyes got heavy.

6/3 Halong Bay Cruse Day 2 and to Hanoi

I hoped to be up for the sunrise but missed it by 30 minutes. At 6:30 AM,  I was the only one who showed up for Tai Chi on the top deck. The pre-stretching felt great. Dave showed up a few minutes later and joined in. The guide Twan, who has to fill many shoes, also was the Tai Chi teacher. His style left a bit to be desired but still it was great fun.

Breakfast was a poor effort considering the cook probably does this meal almost every day of the year. The overly fried eggs were cold and rubbery and the bread was old and dry. They served complementary coffee with the meal though!

Our first stop today was at fishing village of Ba Hang, population 400, nestled in between tall karsts. Their small houses tied on floating platforms. Ba Hang even has a small schoolhouse and bank.

We stopped at a place where we could buy fish and have it prepared it for lunch. We didn't but one Malaysian surgeon in our group bought crab for her table.

Back on the boat we had a brief cooking lesson and made some tasty fried spring rolls.

We lazed on the top deck and took in the views of this unique scenery. We understand why this is one of the new seven natural world wonders.

By lunchtime, we were off-shore of Halong City. We enjoyed another delicious meal. Our spring-rolls were a success. We took care of our drink tab and were ferried to the shore where we boarded our bus back to Hanoi. Again we made a mandatory 30 minute "bathroom" stop at a touristy shopping center where they sold overpriced wares. They had very clean bathrooms!

Evening with the Water Puppets of Hanoi

We were dropped off at our Holiday Diamond hotel where they welcomed us back and asked how our trip had been. While sipping our welcome lemonade, we told them all about it. The girls there are so friendly. It was about 5 PM. We showered and went to the 8 PM performance of the renowned Water Puppets of Hanoi.

The water puppet show is a unique treatment of a 1000 year old Northern Vietnam folk play tradition. The puppets are manipulated by puppeteers behind a screen and the puppets are attached to the end of sticks hidden in the water. The puppets appear on/in the water. The small orchestra performed on traditional instruments at the left of the stage.

We had a late dinner and walked back to the hotel via the night market which covers a km or more down a street. It is made "pedestrian only" on market nights. I was pretty tired by now it had been a long and wonderful day.
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