Bus picked us up on time at 8.00am and we were soon traveling through Ha Noi heading for the outskirts and countryside towards Halong Bay approx 3 and a half hours away. Managed to kip for some of it mainly through the bits that looked all the same with the red hammer and sickle communist party flags flying all over the place. This soon gave way to open paddy fields as the tour guide explained how Vietnam’s exporting of rice had recently overtaken Thailand and their coffee is now exported in greater quantities than Brazil!
He also gave us an un depth explanation of Vietnam’s turbulent history which I found really interesting and it was nice to hear how after many years Vietnam is turning and has turned things around regarding the uniting of a whole country and a booming economy. Had a pit stop half way round and Al bought some beautiful souvenirs, was dead chuffed with them.
We arrived at our boat and was quite relieved to see that everyone had life jackets during all small boat transfers (not as relieved as our Al) we settled into our cabin then lunch was served. A lot of variety and very tasty, consisted of fish, squid, breadcrumbed pork, salad, rice, some white spongy stuff made from green rice and a beer.
After lunch we jumped in the transfer boat and climbed steps that took us into a huge interconnected limestone cave that was truly amazing to see. We then transferred to another small island where we climbed some 400+ steps to get a fantastic view of Halong Bay as a pair of sea eagles soared above our heads. We then walked back down the steps to the beach for a dip before heading back to the boat. A cuppa later and fruit!! (What happened to cake!) later we are chilling in our cabin for half an hour before dinner is served.
Think the plan is dinner then music and Karaoke? Have met two couples Sarah and David from Newcastle and Sarah and Wong who now live in Beijing, she is well travelled, a bit gobby, a dancer and irritating, he is from Beijing and can’t do “Betty Batty bought some butter, but the butter that Betty Batty bought was bitter, so Betty Batty bought some better butter that was better than the bitter butter that Betty Batty bought before”
Going to lunch now………
Lunch was fab and the second Sarah wasn’t as irritating as first thought and Wong turned out to be a pilot for Air China. He told us so much about life in Beijing and how he hated it and wanted out but was tied in to his job by the Chinese government. I could spend an hour recounting some of his tales as he really opened our eyes to life in Beijing and just how safe planes are.
We ended up calling it a day at about half ten, it was Thai Chi at 06.15 so said I would give it a try (got up at 7.30)
It was raining but it didn’t take anything away from the beauty of Halong Bay, we had breakfast and after a bit of a chill we said goodbye to Sarah and Wong as they were on a longer tour and got our life jackets on for Kayaking. It lasted about an hour with Sarah and David in one Kayak zig zagging all over the place (sorry, if you’re reading this) and a rather happy and loud Italian and his wife in another Kayak with the guide and a nice lad from Santiago Chile taking up the last one.
It was so peaceful with the only distraction being the funny, happy, singing Italian who was quite happy at the front of his Kayak, enjoying the view as his wife paddled behind him.
To end our amazing Halong Bay trip, we enjoyed our final meal before checking out and slowly sailing back to the small port, it is now just gone about half four with about half an hour to go till we get back to the hotel. We are travelling quite slowly at the moment as about ten mins ago, a Police van with lights flashing being followed by two VIP type cars and another police van came rushing up, overtaking the bus with one policeman hanging out of the window waving his truncheon, I think the bus didn’t get over quick enough as he battered the side of the bus with his truncheon and then took out the drivers wing mirror completely! The police vans and Vip’s just carried on rushing past leaving us unable to overtake vehicles as the driver could not check if anything was coming!
Think it was a good example of what might happen and what actually goes on in North Vietnam, to be honest, Ho Chi Min City seemed to be a friendly place with the people having an open outlook and friendly disposition obviously influenced by the west while the North (Hai Noi) definitely had a different feel to the place. Not threatening in any way but just occasionally gave you a feeling of uneasiness.
So, our ETA of 5 will probably be extended slightly as now ten too and still quite a way out from the centre. Next stop, Hanoi Boutique 1 hotel.
6.30pm, Al in bath, not going far now, maybe a drink in the bar later, streets outside, chaotic, everyone out buying stuff for the Lunar New Year.