We got up early for breakfast this morning and then checked out of the room for the trip. They said we could leave our big bags as we were coming back for one more night to stay after so we didn't have to lug them with us. We just packed our little rucksacks for stuff we would need for the night and all our valuables. The bus arrived pretty much on time at 8am and everything seemed great, not like some of the bad reviews we had read. The bus was nice and the tour guide was friendly and informative and the itinerary sounded great! We didn't set off from Hanoi until after 9am with picking everybody up and it took 3 and a half hours to get to Ha Long City Harbour to get on the boat. The guide on the way told us loads about Vietnam and Ha Long Bay. He told us Ha Long Bay is one of the natural 7 wonders of the world and it has 1969 separate islands. It sounded brill!
When we arrived we got on a little boat- a tender- at the harbour which brought us to the big boat. We checked in to our rooms first which were really nice. Everything was brown wooden to go with the theme of the junk boat and it was lovely. There was a window in the room so you could look out to sea and all the islands as we sailed by. We had lunch on the boat on the way to Hang Sung Sot island which had the amazing cave or surprising cave at it. The lunch was a feast, which we didn't expect! There was soup, rice, chips, shrimp in their shells, fish still boned, squid, veg. It stuffed us! We were sat on a table with a coupe from California who were living and working in Korea, a girl from South America who was travelling and a guy from the Netherlands who was travelling. They were all really nice. There were around 20 of us on the boat which was a good number and everybody seemed nice, from all different parts of the world.
The cave was ginormous! It had three different rooms/sections and it was natural, forming over millions of years. It literally was amazing! There were natural pools of water and different shapes in the caves that looked like animals or objects. It was the biggest cave in Ha Long Bay and the biggest cave I have ever seen!
After the caves we went to a different island where we took out kayaks. We had about 45 minutes of kayaking in the open sea next to and around different islands. The sun was slowly going down and although it was cloudy we could see it for a while setting behind the islands. The kayaking is one of our favourite things! It's so fun to be out in the open sea. It did get a bit windy as well and the sea started to drag us where it wanted!
The last stop for the day was on an island with a beach and a viewpoint over Ha Long Bay. It had started to get pretty misty and was getting late so getting darker so the view wasn't as clear but it was still brilliant. We climbed up many stairs to the top of the hill to look over the Bay. You could still see many islands and could see the shadows and outlines of others in the distance in the fog. On a clear day you would have been able to see island after island for miles. In the distance they looked like they were one big island but as you get closer and sail through the bay the islands slowly part and literally thousands of little islands appear. Nath said it was like Thailand's national park but on steroids!
We got the tender back to the big boat for the night where it had anchored in a section of the bay with many other boats. It was pretty surreal to stand on the deck in the dark with all other boats around all lit up and see a limestone island right next to you! What where we doing?! The things we have seen on this trip have been unbelievable! We are pretty damn lucky and pretty damn s*** hot for saving to travel and see all these amazing sights!
Back at the boat we got showered before dinner. I say showered, but ours was just a tiny trickle of water dripping out! We were all shown how to make fresh spring rolls and then had the chance to make our own. They were pretty easy to make once you know how and they tasted yum! For dinner we had another feast. We did not expect this much food included in the price and it was so good! We had soup, prawn crackers, rice, battered pork, battered fish cakes, battered shrimp balls, fried chicken, mushroom and cauliflower. Then there were vegetarian options for the couple on our table which we tried too! There was just mountains of food. We did our best to get our way through it! There was so much though! After dinner we all had free time to relax and you could try squid fishing if you wanted but we didn't end up doing it as people were there for a long time and didn't catch anything. Everybody on the boat was pretty quite and went to bed pretty early. We sat with the people on our table and a French girl who was living and working in Hanoi and chatted until everybody decided to retire and there was only me and Nath left up on the whole boat. The staff just laid down in the dining room on the floor and went to sleep while we were all still up. It was only about 11 when we went to bed!