Dan and Lu's Travels
Got on the bus for Halong Bay at 8am. Could have sworn that the woman sat next to Dan was Joni Mitchell..... Minibus for 3 1/2 hours which meant that Dan could hardly walk by the end of the journey! We had lunch then got on a boat to sail into Halong Bay, which is about 160km from Hanoi, on the east coast. Ha Long literally means descending dragon(s) and according to local myth, the story goes as follows: 'Long ago when their forefathers were fighting foriegn invaders from the north, the gods from heaven sent a family of dragons to help defend their land. This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long bay and began spitting out jewels and jade. Upon hitting the sea, these jewels turned into the various islands and islets dotting the seascape and formed a formidable fortress against the invaders. The locals were able to keep their land safe and formed what is now the country of Vietnam.' We docked at one of the bigger rocks and went inside the caves. The stalagmites and stalagtites that had formed were incredible. The caves, and all other rocks in the bay, of which there are over 300, just out of the water at various angles, which makes for a very dramatic landscape. It was overcast and slightly misty so the whole boat journey was quite atmospheric. You could imagine this area being used for a film set - quite Lord of the Rings-y. We sailed for at least 2 hours after leaving the caves, making our way between the rocks. Docked at Cat Ba island and changed boats to a bigger one to sleep on. Had dinner with everyone, we sat with two Israelis. There was no music on the boat which was quite strange so we tried to amuse ourselves with playing 'Who Am I' (which didn't really work as we kept thinking of people the other hadn't heard of - but come on, who hasn't heard of Darth Vader?!!). Then a crazy French guy took over and hooked his mp3 player to the stereo - much to the disconcerntment of the staff on the boat. First song was Madness... It got more raucous from there. The Israeli guys went to bed and we moved to site with the french dude and his mate from Paris, along with two other French guys from Lille and an aussie girl and Spanish girl. The crazy French (Will and Laurent) have been travelling for 15 months (maybe that's why they are crazy); Africa, S.America, Fiji, NZ, OZ, SE Asia and they are going on to Nepal, China, Tibet, Russia and Mongolia. We stayed up drinking until 2am.