We got to Hanoi around 7pm, greeted with the news we had been given a free upgrade as the hotel was full, which was nice! up the many flights of stairs (a regular occurrence in these high rises) we got to our room, to our excitement it had a bath, only to Andrews disappointment once he ran it was awfully small haha! We headed out to the market which wasn't that inspiring; lots of electronical good and whatnot so we settled for some food and a few drinks at the Lantern Room with a few games of pool. Amazing having free pool in almost all bars! We headed back to the hotel to pack up a smaller bag for our Halong Bay Cruise. It was pretty late, Andrew got hungry and went on a mission for some food but unfortunately failed as everywhere had closed up, so settled for a pot noodle and some kip.
This morning we are on our way to Halong City with a bus full of people from all over the world and our guide My(Mike or Mr Beautiful as his name translates) We're both feeling pretty rubbish, Katie has developed more and more snot and not just in her nose now but feels like her heads full of it and Andrew is now suffering with a sore throat and a chesty cough. Hopefully we can make it magically disappear for our trips the next few days! On route to the port we stopped at a service stop, possibly the most expensive one ever, haha when told a tube of Pringles was $8usd, nonsense! When we arrived at the port there wasn't too much waiting around until we boarded a small boat which then took us to our cruiser. As soon as we were boarded we were given our keys to our room and then had lunch which was a lovely variety! We sailed out through the bay to our first destination which was "Surprising Cave" originally discovered by a French guy in the early 1990's, it had three separate sections, all with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, however after spending most of our time in northern Vietnam discovering caves we are both starting to get a bit "caved out" but our guide made some good jokes throughout, including the Happy Buddah! The view from the climb of 138 steps was stunning out into the bay before then descending back down onto the boat to our next stop which was one of the small islands that had a private beach. It wasn't the most amazing beach and very crowded but was fine for a little hours stop. We were all then quite ready to get back on the boat! After a freshen up we headed to top deck for some nice drinks and got to know the rest of our group a bit more! Dinner again did us well and the evening was spent with some lovely beverages a few rounds of "what's your favourite..." And some very unsuccessful squid fishing as apparently you can't catch squid till October, false advertising haha but we got a swig of rice wine out of it and a laugh with the crew!
The following day it was an early start for breakfast before stopping at a Pearl Farm, only very small but interesting to learn about the process and watch each step happening including inserting the small pieces into the oyster and even opening one after 3 years of harbouring its pearl to see it in all its glory! From here the people who had only booked for one night remained on the ship whereas we boarded another boat which was to take us further for day two! This included sailing to Cat Ba Island. Once we'd arrived we all jumped in some push bikes for and hours cycle to the Biet Hai People's Villages. Here we learnt a little about life here including mud built houses, rice wine that can be made with snakes and birds to enhance the flavour of the wine, weird, and then we tried the jack fruit! Tastes like a really strong watermelon much to Andrews disgust and Katie's delight! We cycled back to the port for lunch. On route Andrew got a flat tyre, Mike was kind enough to swap bikes but then got a lift back with a golf buggy anyway haha. After lunch on the boat the ship anchored and we were able to jump off and have a refreshing swim. Much better now as there are barely any boats and tourists that head out this far as it takes at least one extra day! So it was a lovely moment! We were took to the heart of Cat Ba Island. On the way we sailed through their largest fishing village which was incredible. With a population of 800 all living on floating houses and villages, even more interesting to see dogs and cats living on them! Words don't do it justice, check out the photos! Cat Ba was quite built up which we weren't expecting our hotel had 13 floors, we were on 9th incredible view from the balcony especially as we watched the rain and wind come in! We ended up not exploring Cat Ba and had some down time!
Another early morning breakfast (noodles chicken beef vegetables) we still can't quite stomach this type of food at 6:30am so stuck with toasts, egg and melon! We met our guide at reception and took a taxi to the harbour. With lots of shouting and fast movements, a very feisty lady appeared to yell to her family what we can only assume to be "take these people to their boat". With a rocky climb down the edge of the port to sea level we jumped on a small fishing boat and he took us through the floating villages for 10 minutes and right to our boat in the middle of the ocean! A very interesting start to the day! We collected the rest of our group who had stayed on one of the islands and then headed off. Felt slightly sorry to see the guy opposite us shift in his chair and watch his iPhone drop out of his pocket land on the boat side before slipping into the sea! Like watching his life end, the poor kid was speechless. We arrived at our original cruise boat, boarded again, relaxed on top deck before a spring roll making session (slightly spring rolled out, so left the others to it) and then after lunch we arrived back at the port to jump on the bus and head back to Hanoi!
As we drive through Vietnam country it's a much different way of life and a beautiful one to watch. Every other field is a rice field with Vietnamese in the conical hats and cloves from head to toe, wading through the lush green rice fields, an inspiring way of life! Certainly makes you think a bit more about the rice your given on your table! The villages are filled with family run shops and hotels,with nearly everyone always smiling, laughing and singing no matter the time of day or the weather! The women are the feistiest we've seen! They are fantastic, slapping the men on the backs of heads and settling for nothing but still continuously laughing! (Mummy Bood it's like they've took a lesson out of your book hehe)