As i sit here watching the sunrise from our little bamboo beach hut over looking the beautiful limestone islands of Ha long Bay. I thought i would write a little something for everyone back home and let you all know we are doing great.
We have been in Vietnam for 4 days now and are having the time of our lives.
First off, we arrived in Hanoi around midnight on Tuesday, March 5th. After 30hrs of travelling, briefly sleeping on airplanes and airport floors, we were more then happy to be somewhere to call home for a little while.
Our hotel had arranged a driver to meet us at the airport and take us back to our room. I don't think we could have handled the hustle and bustle of Vietnams capital on our own for our first night, so that was a great help.
Once we arrived at our hotel, which was maybe 30mins from the airport, we were greeted by the sweetest little vietnamese man who insisted on carrying our 30 pound bags and even offered us a warm midnight meal as he knew we'd been travelling all day. We politely declined and headed straight to bed.
The next morning was such a surreal feeling. The sounds of the streets from our bedroom, the rooster across the street crowing, it was all pretty cool, and we were both ready to hit the city, so which we thought.
Pho is a very popular breakfast for the vietnamese people. So we both decided we would start our day with a nice bowl of the spicy rice noodle soup.. it was perfect.
Hanoi has roughly 3 million people living in it and you sure can tell. The streets are beyond crowded with motorbikes, taxi cabs, and just everyday people living their everyday lives. At first we were pretty intimidated by the crowd but had no choice but to sink into the culture and dive right in. Crossing the street in Hanoi can be somewhat tricky. Like most over populated countries, traffic laws seem to be completely inexistent. People just drive. Ducking and dodging each other, lanes are only suggestions, and it seems the bigger you are, the more freedom you have to do what ever you want. So you can imagine how crossing the street can feel somewhat like a game of russian roulette. However, you begin to understand that they trust each other.. basically you just walk, and they will do the rest.
After taking in some sites (The Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda) and spending a few hours drinking Saigon Beer on a street corner with some new friends from australia, we decided it was time to book our Ha Long Bay cruise for the next couple of days.
Our hotel was great, they ended up booking exactly what we had asked for (One night on the cruise ship, and one night on Monkey island)
We decided to go with a company by the name of ACLASS and the ships name was THE OPERA. Great reviews and we are glad that we did.
The ACLASS crew picked us up from our hotel bright and early on Thursday morning and we headed out of Hanoi.
After a 3hr bumpy ride through the mountains and rice fields of Ha long, we were finally there.
The harbour looked something like a retirement retreat. Surrounded by Golf courses, Restaurants and 5 Star hotels.
It was a little different than what we had expected, but none the less more beautiful than anyone could have anticipated.
The bay is completely surrounded by a few thousand limestone islands that resemble something out The Pirates of the Caribbean. Possibly because they filmed most of the movies here, and you can see why.
We jumped on a small boat and headed out to sea.
Once we arrived at our ship, we were greeted by the crew. A group of about 4 or 5 young vietnamese men. Some as young as 18 i'm sure.
Our room was awesome. Nice big bed, sea view window, a mini fridge, safe, and what appeared to be a brand new bathroom with all the amenities. It was beyond what either of us had expected. So that was a great start to our little Ha Long Bay adventure.
Our first excursion was a trip to a floating fishing village. There are several of these small villages spread all over Ha Long Bay. The one that we visited was one of the smaller communities (approximately 120 people). The villagers make their living selling fish and souvenirs to the thousands of tourists that visit daily. They live here all year round and are protected from typhoons and extreme weather conditions by the large surrounding islands. They have a small school that the children of the village attend. They get fresh water brought in from the mainland in a concrete bottom boat. It was incredible to see how they live with so little and seem so content. We were paddled all around the area in a small rowboat by one of the local villagers and took in all the sights. It was absolutely beautiful.
When we were finished here, we headed back to the main ship where we all gathered in the dining room for supper with some new friends.
At first we were a little hesitant as to what kind of a crowd we would be onboard with, but managed to luck out and were joined by 4 or 5 young couples which made the experience that much better. One of the couples whom would later come to Monkey island and Hanoi with us for the next few days. We actually made plans to possible meet up with them again in the malaysian islands in April if time persists.
Our second day was my favourite by far.
After watching the sunrise and joining in on some 7am Tai Chi. We were picked up by our next day boat to take us to the "Amazing Cave". It was awesome.. the biggest cave either of us had ever seen. It was quite the sight.
Ashley must have taken over 500 pictures with her new camera.
After our little visit to the cave we headed back to the main ship to be picked up by our next boat to take us to the island shortly there after.
Taking in the sites of the bay and stopping for a nice kayak through some of Ha Longs breathtaking caves before heading to the island.
Lunch was later served on the boat for the small group of us, 5 to be exact.
The island was this perfect little haven. Surrounded by jungle and limestone cliffs. We spent the remainder of the day soaking up the sun and enjoying some bevies with our new found friends Dustin and Jenn (from chicago).
After a delicious meal and a few games of "I win" pool with one of the fellow chinese travellers, we headed to bed.
Now we cant write home and not talk about the food…
If you don't already know this, Asian cuisine is by far our favourite (The spicier the better!), so it was definitely something that we had been looking forward to since we've been planning this trip.
So far, it has been exceptional. Each meal has included 5-7 courses starting with delicious soup, flavourful salads, vegetables, endless seafood, chicken/beef dishes, and ending with fresh fruit or fried bananas and cream for dessert. Traditional breakfast here in Vietnam is Pho (beef noodle soup) which we have been indulging in almost every morning. It seems a little weird to have soup for breakfast, but "when in Vietnam"! They also offer the regular breakfast foods that we are used to back home, such as crepes, eggs, bacon, french toast, etc. Ashley had the crepes this morning topped with honey which was delicious. I of course opted for the Pho.
The coffee here is also something to talk about. Traditionally they make it with sweetened condensed milk, served either hot or iced, which has been a daily favourite for us as well.
At the moment we are just sitting here at a nice little table on our last day boat cruise back to civilization (ha long city) to get back on our bus and head back to Hanoi for the night.
Tomorrow we will be flying to Siem Reap Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat. Our second wonder of the world…
Hope everyone is doing well!
We will stay in touch over the next week or so.. Let you all know about our time in Cambodia!!
Ashley and Aaron