Right ladies and gents please get comfortable as this is a long one! You may want to make yourself a brew!
So we decided that while in Hanoi we would book a little overnight cruise to Ha Long Bay. The trip cost us 35 US Dollars, which included 1 night stay on board the boat and all our meals.
We boarded our little 12 seater van at the tour operators where we had booked the tour first thing that morning. We settled into our seats, before then picking up the last remaining passengers to join us on the trip to Ha Long Bay. The last 3 remaining passengers where the 3 guys we had previously bumped into in both Saigon (Hoh Chi Minh City), Nah Trang and also at the Cu Chi Tunnels. Steve and Pete from Manchester and Raj from LA. This made the trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay seem pretty quick or it might be the fact that it was only 3 hours on the coach, which compared with other coach journeys we have had is very short indeed.
Right just a little bit of background on Ha Long Bay for anyone that does not know anything about it. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the north east corner of Vietnam. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and islands in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km², incuding 1,960 islands, most of which are limestone.
We arrived at the port where we waited about for a bit chatting with our fellow cruise guests to pass the time. Laura had been getting a Mars bar craving for the past few hours en route to Ha Long Bay. Steve went to get some water from the nearby shop and Laura asked that should he find a Mars bar would he buy her one. To Laura's surprise Steve came back with a frozen Mars bar that looked like it had been in the shop since the 1988, however it did seem to be within it's sell by date.
We eventually boarded our ship "The Dream Voyage" along with a good mix of people Steve and Pete from Manchester, Raj from LA, an old couple from Perth John and Linda (Sarah please take note), a young girl from Oxford together with a young lad from LA, a couple from France and a couple from Sydney, oh and 2 young Swedish girls, although not as good as you might think as one of them drove a bloody Tank in Afghanistan! It was nice to be in a group for a change as up to now we have not really been traveling with anyone only really bumping into people.
So finally we set sail on our mini cruise and said good bye to the main land for 24 hours or so. We were all sat down to have lunch on board, we were treated to loads of different food and I thought that we had got a bit of a $35 bargain. Turns out that talking to people over lunch that John and Linda and a few others had actually paid for a Luxury cruise so had a few others so those that had not paid as much bit their tongues! So we had been upgraded which was a bit of a result for us.
So after we had finished lunch and with our bellies bulging well mine anyway, we arrived at Ha Long Bay. We disembarked to venture round the caves which was also included in the price! The caves were up a steep hill, quite a hike but John the old boy (about 70ish I would have said) wasn't to be put off, and he took the climb along with all the young'uns.
Grandparents please take note you are never too old! Once inside the caves they are illuminated by neon lights which make it look amazing. You have all the stalagtites dangling from the ceilings of the caves lit up beautifully by the neon lights. After spending a good hour or so in the caves we made back for the boat.
Back on board we then set sail around the bay to a little spot where we could get a small boat into some more caves if we wanted to. We decided we would after much bartering with the women who owned this wreck of a boat, more a raft I guess. We clambered on board and they took us around the caves or hidden lagoons would probably be a better description as there where no ceilings within these supposed caves. But still pretty cool to see.
We then spent the rest of the day sailing round the many hundreds of islands that make up Halong Bay just catching rays on the top deck (Sun cream was applied this time Mum).
We moored up for the evening around 5ish which enabled us to have a swim in the bay.
Myself and the lads on board were throwing ourselves off the top deck into the bay as the sun was setting, beautiful.
We then had a lovely evening meal and sat around playing Poker. I say sat around playing Poker but the most part was spent learning it as neither myself or Laura knew particularly how to play it properly. Raj spent the best part of an hour teaching us before we actually started playing for money. Think in the end we only played one game and we each decided to put in 5,000 VND each that's like less than 50p. Raj ended up winning and taking us for all we had so he won 25,000 VND! so again about £2.50! We decided to turn in fairly early as we were to be up the next morning at 6.30 for Kayaking!
The next morning I got up at 5am to see the sun rise over the bay, I tried to get Laura to join me up on the top deck but she wasn't having any of it! She said just take a picture and I'll have a look later. There were a few others out on deck to see it rise and it really was beautiful (I feel like I am over using the word Beautiful, but it seems best to describe most things my eyes are seeing at the minute!).
6.30am on the dot, everyone off the boat and Kayaking is the next activity on the agenda. I must say I loved everything being organized for us all we have to do is show up at the right time. Laura and I got a Kayak between us Laura urged for me to go in the front which I didn't mind. Only to find out that once we were on the water she then didn't have to paddle as much as I did as she knew that I couldn't see her!!!! Laura is just sitting there like the queen in the back of the Kayak. :)
It was lovely to paddle around alongside the limestone karst's jutting out of the water.
After about 45 minutes in the water we then headed back on board. We had breakfast which again was lovely and then set sail back to the port. We spent the time just chilling on the top deck again catching some rays!
From the port it was back to Hanoi with a lunch break en route back.
So that's Ha Long Bay
James and Laura x