Sunday, 26 February 2012

Halong Bay

We left our hostel at about 8 in the morning and slept in the bus along the way. When we arrived at Halong Harbor we saw James from our train ride, he was doing a day trip, the Harbor was full of people, boats and was really hectic. When we boarded our boat we were given our cabin key, then went back to have lunch on the middle deck, we were seated with the other vegetarians on the boat, they were from Belgium and we spent a lot of the meal discussing vegetarianism and our trips, they were heading to Australia, America and Hawaii.
The lunch on the boat was delicious and mostly vegan, Lee enjoyed the eggs.
After lunch we went to the “Surprise cave” with our tour guide, and looked for interesting shapes in the rocks, much like cloud shapes.
We got back on the boat and headed to a floating island and decided despite the rain we would go kayaking and donned some warm clothes and paddled out to a cave and a rock with a door like hole in it, only 4 people in our group went out kayaking.
In the evening we chatted with lots of the other people on our tour and had dinner with the Belgium veggies again, our operator tried to teach us a bit of Vietnamese, but we were all pretty useless. Then they switched on the Karaoke (national obsession?) and our tour guide loving poured his heart into a scary rendition of “killing me softly” most of us where in hysterics by this time. Lee joined in and sang a few lines. Then a Swiss guy on the boat sang some John Lennon.
We encouraged the Vietnamese boys working on the boat to sing us a Vietnamese song, and he did a great job singing and we loved the upbeat style of the song an got some people dancing in their seats. Eventually the karaoke broke down, much to our tour guides disappointment. So we had a few drinks and chatted more, then went outside to get a few pictures of the boats lit up at night, the other boats were all anchored in the same area.
The next morning we had breakfast before 4 of us left the boat for day 2 of the tour, we jumped on one boat, then onto a luxury boat with other 2 dayers. We met a nice couple from Quebec the French province of Canada.Firstly we went to Cat Ba island and did a cycle tour around the paddy fields, seeing people living on the island and growing vegetables and the cows too.There were lots of dogs on Cat Ba island, living in peoples houses, but we think these dogs are not pets, but live stock and will one day be food.
We loved the cycling, then we did a trek to a small cave where local Vietnamese used to live. We saw a huge black and yellow spider and some angry goats along the path. Lee had a go at climbing the vines outside the cave. We cycled back to the jetty and got on our transfer boat.

We went to monkey island on the smallest boat with over 13 of us squeezed in, the monkeys were really cute but one of them was a bit of a beer addict, we were told not to get too close especially to the pink faced monkey. The adventure continued when we tried to get off the island, the boat pulled up by a rocky jetty and we all climbed in, the boat was in too shallow and couldn’t use the propeller, so one of the French guys on our tour jumped in to try to push us while the other guys used sticks to try to get us off the sand. Eventually the guide jumped in, fully clothed and got all the other guys on our boat, including Lee to jump in and push. although the boat rocked a lot, the waves washed over either side and we were scrambling to keep bags dry and shoes on board, eventually we got going! The crew of our main boat were laughing at our struggle once we got nearer.
We stopped for lunch about 3.30 on the island where we were spending the night. Only 4 of us were staying on the island in the bungalows, the others were off to a hotel.
The cabins were so beautiful, it was a bit cold and the generator would only be on for a few hours to provided electricity, talk about back to basics. We had an awesome Tet (lunar new year) dinner with the Canadians and I brought a long a Banh Chung cake of rice with fake spicy pork inside wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed, a traditional Vietnamese Tet food.
there were only a few beach huts on the small private island and our beach hut sounded like we were sleeping in a washing machine as the tide came in during the night.
In the morning it looked so beautiful with the tide in so we took some photos before breakfast and waited for our boat, another small boat took us to the bigger boat, where we had some cooking lessons in making Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls and we sailed on to Halong Harbor to end our trip and head back to Hanoi.
The scenery as so beautiful and as long as you don’t mind a bit of chaotic boat hopping its a really great experience!

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