Raj & Vikki: Over the past 3 days we've been spoilt on a 5-star cruise in Halong Bay. This was the highlight of Asia and will no doubt be one of the most memorable parts of our trip. We only experienced a little of the bay which is 1,553 square kms and made up of dense clusters of 1969 monolithic islands mostly topped with thick jungle vegetation which rise spectacularly from the sea. We struck perfect conditions, met heaps of interesting people from different countries on the boat (or "junk" as the locals say), and ate far too much gourmet food. Even Raj turned down a course at our first lunch (well, at that point he had had about 6+ courses as he was polishing off the kids plates' so a real porker lorker as Shona would say!). The staff and service was top notch as were the cabins - very spacious - and the kids had their own room once again. Nice. The only disappointment was a stupid law came into force on 1 May requiring all boats to be painted white on the outside, so all the beautiful dark, natural timbers are now gone. Some nutter had a brain explosion and the protests were not listened to. Still, this was a fantastic trip and is a must for anyone visiting Vietnam.
On day 1 we had a swim at Titop Island, visited Cua Van floating fishing village (the girls took a bamboo boat rowed by one of locals and the boys kayaked), relaxed on the deck and watched the sun go down with mocktails, and ended the evening squid fishing (unsuccessfully but it was still fun watching others who had more luck than us).
On day 2 we had an early start with Tai Chi on the top deck, followed by a buffet breakfast with more choices than you could eat. A group of 12 of us then headed off on a separate smaller boat, for a day of leisure and cruising. We swam at a small isolated beach, kayaked around islands and through caves and visited a pearl farm (even got to open an oyster and see the pearl inside which was actually really neat). Another 6 course spread at lunchtime continued the gourmet eating. A fabulous relaxing day, with really interesting people and great conversations. The kids did superb at kayaking, and always a winner was the number of different creatures spotted throughout the day including fish, jellyfish, bats and kites.
Our last day started again with Tai Chi on the deck, then our final trip to Sung Sot or "Surprise Cave", the largest cave in Halong Bay which was discovered by the French in 1901. It is made up of 3 caverns, each one bigger than the last one and full of stalagmites and stalactites, just amazing. The last cavern was just massive and impressed, hence the name "surprise".
We are now back in Hanoi with our last day of sight seeing to come.
Harley and Anouk: We've had a great time in Halong Bay and done some exciting activities like kayaking, Tai Chi, squid fishing and swimming. We've experienced new foods like squid, shrimp, dragon fruit and Asian soup. We saw a few jelly fish in the water and one was right in front of Anouk when she was swimming - a bit scary. We made some new friends and learnt facts about the area.