14.12.2011 - 16.12.2011
14.12.2011 – This morning we are on an organised trip to Halong Bay. It was tough choosing a boat to sail on, as there were so many and the prices varied significantly. We ended up choosing a boat called ‘A-Class’ and when we finally got to Halong Bay (after an obligatory tourist stop of course) we weren’t disappointed. The boat, despite not being as new as they had said, was beautiful and our cabin was lovely (including 2 roses on the end of the bed, a fruit basket and some bottles of water). The bathroom was bigger than some of the hotel bathrooms we’ve had recently, and we’re on a boat! There are about 20 people staying on the ship tonight, but the majority of them are only staying for 1 night, and we are doing 2, so we will have another group of people when we are on the ship tomorrow.
We have lunch on-board, which was a delicious feast of several dishes including some fresh seafood, before starting our sailing around the islands. Halong Bay has between 1900 and 3000 islands, depending on whose facts you choose to read, and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s currently petitioning to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.
We sailed throughout the afternoon and transferred to a smaller boat to head out to a floating village where some people did kayaking. We were rowed around the village by a local fisherman who was lovely and let us all have a turn rowing the boat, despite us not being very good! We also saw the little fruit boats and supermarket boats that row around the village and surrounding boats selling their wares. These women seemed to have everything you could think of.
Back on-board, we had a welcome party and were taught how to make spring rolls, which we then got to eat. Yum! Later we enjoyed another feast for dinner – certainly no complaints about the food. The bartender made us a few cocktails and we enjoyed the serenity of Halong Bay before heading downstairs for some late night squid fishing.
Apparently it’s actually really difficult to catch squid, particularly as none of us knew what we were doing, but somehow or other, Chris managed to be the only person on the boat who caught one, after he began talking to the fish (‘here squidy squidy, that’s a good squid’) which quickly excited everyone into giving it another turn. We didn’t catch any more though, so he was the hero for the evening.
15.12.2011 – This morning we woke on beautiful Halong Bay and had breakfast on the boat before saying goodbye to the rest of our group. We transferred to a smaller boat and spent the day kayaking and visiting the islands with another English couple who have been teaching in China. The water was warm, but an afternoon breeze and clouds came through which put us all off swimming. Somehow I think they forgot there were only 4 of us for lunch as we still had a mountain of food come out of the kitchen!
We made our way back to the main boat where the new people had just finished up making their spring rolls from the welcome party. The group wasn’t quite as good as the night before, but it was still an enjoyable evening and another lovely dinner.
16.12.2011 – This morning we are leaving Halong Bay, after a stop through some large caves on the way back to the mainland. We took the smaller boat again and wandered through some nearby caves for nearly an hour. Eventually it was time to say goodbye to Halong Bay as we made our way back on the bus and back to Hanoi.
Hanoi has a large market in the centre of the Old Town on Friday/Saturday/Sunday, so we had dinner in one of the BBQ restaurants nearby our hotel before heading down to check out the (very over-rated!) markets. There really is a whole heap of crap you can buy if you have more money than sense.