Only 1 more week before reality again :(
Day 49 - 22/11/09 - Hanoi (Vietnam)
This morning after breakfast and finalising our packing, we checked out of our hotel, and caught a taxi to our new hotel (2km away). We checked in, dropped our bags in our new home and went for a stroll to find lunch and see more of the city.
We made our way north, seeing Ho Chi Minh's Moseleum and the Presidential Palace. These places were heavily guarded, though we didn't feel threatened walking past them. We continued, found a tasty bbq chicken place for lunch, then made our way to Tran Quoc Pagoda where a persistant man tried to sell Jess postcards. Once we broke free we walked around Truc Bach Lake, then had a rest beside West Lake.
We walked the zany streets of Hanoi in the afternoon shopping before heading back to the hotel. The hotel recommended a restaurant around the corner called KOTO (Know One, Teach One) so we made our way there and had some yummy Aussie tender loin steak for dinner.
Day 50 - 23/11/09 - Hanoi & Halong Bay (Vietnam)
An early morning start as we were picked up at 8:00am for the drive to our overnight Junk cruise. Before we were picked up though, we needed to have breakfast and check out (leaving our big bags with the hotel for the night). When we got into the van, we found it to be quite empty for a large van. There was the driver, a fellow tour member Michelle and ourselves - the van was big enought to seat 12 passengers in the back. We also picked up our tour leader, Hue (sounded more like Wei), who advised us there would be 5 people on our tour.
After 2hrs of driving, we stopped at a workshop where disabled people were embroidering amazing silk pictures and other crafts. They sold many different items, all hand made, including some beautiful large stone statues and fountains. We had a drink and a Mars bar each before getting back in the van for another 2hr drive to Halong Bay.
Once we arrived, we waited until the 2 other members of our group arrived in another van - and low and behold we were back travelling not only with fellow Aussies, but fellow Melbournians! Alan and his son Ben joined the group and once our boat was ready we made our way to the dock and boarded the Jewel of the Bay (run by Buffalo Tours).
We were given a run down of the itinerary and other particulars, then given our room keys and given a couple of minutes to get settled. The room was very comfortable, though strangly the shower in the bathroom was the bathroom itself, so the toilet, sink and whatever else was in there got wet as you showered! We left our rooms to see us continue to set sail away from land.
We then came together for a very yummy lunch that was amazingly presented. The 5 of us got to know each other a little bit more over the lunch (did we mentioned lunch was really yummy!). After lunch we ventured to the top of the boat for some pictures as we continued in the traffic of junks heading through the islands.
Our first stop was Hang Sung Sot, an island which had a series of 3 large caves. We ventured in and saw some cool (and different) rock formations. Back on the boat, we went about 5 minutes further to a spot where we ancored, dropped some kayaks into the water and the 6 of us (5 + Hue) embarked through a cave into a lagoon, completely surrounded by large islands. As we entered there were a number of other tour groups kayaking and boating, but after a few minutes, we were completely alone and the sound of silence was deafening compared to the noisey tooting traffic in the city of Hanoi. It was nice, vey nice.
We made our way out of the lagoon, back through the cave and back to the boat before changing into some swimming gear and enjoying a pleasant evening swim in the warm Halong Bay waters. After a shower and a change, we rested and took pictures of the breathtaking sunset until dinner. Dinner was again wonderful, full of scrumpious food very well presented. We chatted the evening away until bed.
Take care - Jess & Scotty