Damp, Damp, Damp. Thats all everything in Hanoi is. Your clothes are damp, the beds damp and the bathroom is always damp and very slippery all the time! I suppose this is what you get for coming in the norths monsoon season although we haven't really seen much rain as such, its that fine rain that soaks you through!!
So on tuesday 17 of us headed off to Halong Bay, east of Hanoi and after 3 hours in the minibus we arrived at the bay to a major collection of Junks, these are what they call the boats there. After clambering over about 8 boats to finally reach ours we settled into our ensuite rooms and headed back upstairs for lunch. They basically brought fresh seafood (whole king prawns with heads and everything which louise couldn't touch and squid), chicken, beef, rice, spring rolls, rice and vegetables to the table one after another nothing seem to come together and it all seemed a bit odd, but by then we had set sail into the 2000 islands surrounding us, the problem was we couldn't see much further than about 500m ahead of us because of the mist, you weren't quite sure where the sky ended and the sea began its was like looking at a white sheet of paper but we were rest assured by our guide that the mist would lift and the sun shine through, lets just say that since we landed on monday from Bangkok we have yet to see blue sky! Oh well happy days, later we docked at a cave and headed up to have a closer look with cheung the guide pointing out all the different shapes that could be seen in the rock formations it was like a giant magic eye! A dragon here, a pair of dangling legs there, a laughing buddha, it was quite a difficult task.
Once safely back on the junk we headed over to a floating village/few houses rafted together and got into some canoes and had a canoe around a few of the islands and into a lagoon. We would have had a swim but the water looked like Blackpools and it was getting a bit late and temperatures were plumeting and the likely hood of any of the clothes drying was a mere impossibility. Back on board we changed for tea and once again fresh seafood, chicken, beef, rice, spring rolls, rice and vegetables, yes thats right the same as lunch and again all brought out seperately except this time the prawns had been replaced with whole crabs, what alot of hassle for such a small amount of meat! Anyway, the drinks started to flow, music started to blast out and then the Karaoke began with Cheug starting things off with the classic Love me Tender by Elvis Presley, this then went on for the next 4 hours with the Vietnamese lady getting a bit happy with the songs, problem was she sang them in Vietnamese and so none of understood, this then got the cabin crew going and eventually the whole thing was not understandable and so we headed off to bed at around 1 ish.
Up early the next morning for breakfast, a nice 7.30am start not enjoyed by most. Luckily there was some variation in food for breakfast but nothing exciting bit of bread and a random fried egg. After Breakfast it was time to disembark and leave the 4 canadians, 2 australians and the 1 swiss to head back to Hanoi as they were only on the 2 day tour. Thus leaving 2 French Vietnamese(over 50), and a younger crew of 4 northeners, 2 southeners, 1 Israeli and 1 swiss all to enjoy another day together. We had arrived on Cat Ba Island and headed off to a very recently discovered cave, through the mangroves where we saw more rock formations and got to listen to a local boy show off his talents at playing stalagmites and tites. It was actually really good and better than some of the singing we had heard the previous night. Heading back towards the Hotel we were going to stay in we stopped for lunch and you will never guess what we had!!!! We then checked into the hotel and headed down to the harbour to get on a small boat to head into the 300 islands around Cat Ba Island. It was a very bumpy ride and I can't remember seeing a face that enjoyed it, lots of people felt sick and again we couldn't see much cause of the mist we then had chance to relax back at the hotel before a tea of...yes you guessed it. Kinda a recurring theme of the 3 days. After tea we went to Cheungs favourite bar which after an hour or 2 turned into a Karokee bar and so me, lou, emma and laura headed off to find banana pancakes with chocolate sauce (yummy) down on the front which looked as tacky as blackpool illuminations.
Next day we travelled back to Halong bay on the junk we had left the previous day, once back we went for lunch and then back onto the bus back to Hanoi where we had to say our goodbyes to Laura and emma who were getting straight on a night train and to Jim, Steve, Anat and Raffy who were off on a night train also but up to Sapa on another trip, leaving me and Lou on our own again.
Halong Bay is suppose to be beautiful and I can imagine it is when the suns shining, luckily the company we kept was brilliant and it was a great few days despite the lack of variety in food. So for tea I had Burger and chips and louise had a good ol' fashioned fry up. Vietnamese food isn't the best, it lacks flavouring and variety so its nice when we can find a western food cafe, believe me there is only so much rice and noodles you can take.