The taxi driver from the train station to our hotel tried to pull a fast one on us by switching some notes around. Luckily Gail and James were awake enough to spot the clever con! Our well-oiled travel agent (Gail) had organised the Halong Bay trip to start on the same morning as our night train arrived in Hanoi. We had a 3 hour change over where we ate breakfast at the hotel, James had a two minute shower and Chris took about 20 minutes and we were picked up ready for our trip. None of us remember much of the journey as we slept for most of it. There was a problem with the boat we were supposed to go on but after some discussion we were re-organised and upgraded-result!
Our boat was called 'The Calypso' and was very luxurious. Our rooms and private shower looked out across the bay and the food was delicious and just kept on coming. We had a few activities to enjoy whilst on the boat; a food demonstration, fishing for squid (that are bigger in a month) and of course the reason we were all there, to admire the view. Unfortunately the first day wasn't too clear with a lot of mizzle closing in! This didn't spoil the enjoyment as we could still see the cliffs and marvel at the scenery. We docked up for the night and took a small boat to the surprise cave, which was surprising, so big and beautiful. Gail was able to identify all of the Hindu Gods, like Buddha!
The morning of day two there was more confusion as we had to move boats, we didn't want to leave the beautiful boat, although I wasn't sad to see the last of Tom our guide! To make it even worse the mizzle had turned to rain. We could still see but taking pictures and standing out on the deck was a no no. Well, unless you are Chris and you take a nap on the deck surrounded by a group of Yanks! More bad news headed our way when we were told by our new (nice) guide that we couldn't stop at Cat Ba national park as there wasn't time. In the end none of this mattered. We arrived at the stunning Monkey Island the sun came out and we had the whole of the bay to ourselves-splendid!
Lunch was a yummy hot pot and we needed the energy for our climb to the next beach and James needed it for kayaking! The climb to see the monkeys was pretty hard core. And I use the word climb, as opposed to hike because the majority of the path was huge steep rocks that we had to clamber and climb up. The guide had warned Gail and two American ladies that they probably wouldn't make it. Boy, did they prove him wrong, Gail didn't even stop half way like we suggested. We had a drink to celebrate and I sent a birthday message to Mumsie on the beach.
The next morning the blue skies stayed clear much to our delight so we got to experience Halong in all its glory. When we got back to Hanoi you could see how sunny it had been thanks to Chris's bright red head and luminous white sunglasses mark!
Overall the trip was excellent. James and I are so lucky that we have amazing rentals that can ensure we do some of our excursions in the height of luxury.
The amazing organisation continued with the staff of the Elegance hotels arranging all of our big bags to be ready and waiting at the sister hotel and our drop off, we had no knowledge of this little arrangement. James and I had to slum it in the top floor room with the biggest bed ever made. We couldn't resist another meal at 'The Gourmet' and had two portions of onion rings this time. The staff treated us like royalty, even took a picture of us all on the balcony to use on their website. Chris was on his best behaviour when using the lift this time.