01.07.2010 - 04.07.2010 35 °C
After spending another lazy day in Hanoi shoe shopping! we were picked up at our hotel bright and early to head down to Halong Bay for our 2 night trip. We were the first to be picked up and soon we were joined but quite a few people but in particular a lovely Aussie couple (from Ocean Grove) and a stunning Irish couple. After the cramped, bumpy and thrilling in a ‘I think I am going to die’ kind of way, drive we arrive and we are ushered onto the water taxi.
We are introduced to our tour guide and all look in awe when we arrive onto our junk ‘The Marguerite’. It is a pretty impressive 3 storey boat complete with restaurant and inside lounging area. We have a refreshing drink in the lounge while we are told our schedule for the day. Then rooms are assigned. Matt and I let ourselves into our cabin and almost squeal with delight. Is big and beautiful. Usually when they show you a photo of a room you have to expect less but this was perfect. The bathroom was huge and spacious. We will post pictures!!
After a nap (well a nap for me – Matt has figured he can download Podhammer podcasts and he is pretty much attached to them at the moment) we all meet up again for a visit to ‘Heaven’.
Heaven is a cave. An enormous and beautiful cave that has had a bad lighting job. Ok so the lighting isn’t so bad but they have done it in neon colours. We head down some slippery steps and into the cool black of the cave. It is a gorgeous, cavernous cave. I felt a bit like an ant in it. They have a path set out and after following it around and ohhing and ahhhing we are on our way back to the boat for kayaking. Much to Matts disapproval kayaks in Asia are built for 2 people only so he was stuck with me and I have zero upper body strength. That is taking it a bit far. I am not completely useless. Anyway he was stuck at the back of the kayak as we made our way around some of the limestone islands and watched the sun set. It was beautiful. We played in little cave and ‘raced’ back to the boat (this race was announced by our guide when he was about 20m in front of us).
We get back to the boat and all decide to take a dip. We dive off the boat (Matt is the only one game enough to jump in from the top level) and swim around for a while working up an appetite. I was really impressed with the group that we had. We all got along really well and had fun.
After a dinner that was more an affair that just dinner and a few cocktails Matt was put up for a little bit of Karaoke. The Irish girl Orla selected a song for him and he bravely got up and did his best rendition of ‘Barbie Girl’ (I have the video). He was a sight to say the least. A few more drinks in and we were all up singing. I had the boys do ‘I’m too sexy’ which they did with enthusiasm.
Eventually we all ended upstairs looking at the stars and watching the scenery change as we slowly floated around in circles.
Waking up to our tour guide knocking and telling us it was time for breakfast we finally emerged. Eager to see what the day had in store but still wanting to be in bed we had a cup of tea and perked up a bit. Matt had been up half the night due to some bad seafood he had eaten and neither of us had much sleep. However the day went on. We went on a private boat out to the largest floating village in Halong Bay. We stopped and actually go out of our kayaks to have a tour through the school. It is a pretty impressive setup that they have going on. The teachers there are all volunteers from the mainland. They come out for a year and stay in the village. Their living quarters a tiny!! There are 5 teachers at any one time and they all sleep in one bed!!
Matt and I tried to buy a bottle of water off the woman who was floating around in the shop boat but every time we tried to get near her she would take off in the other direction.
After we made it back to the boat we moved spots and went kayaking through these huge cave things and ended up in the most idyllic bays. Everything was so still. We floated around for a bit and then realized that getting back was going to be a lot harder as we were going against the current. We battled back and made it to the boat exhausted.
Lunch was fabulous (even Matt who wasn’t going to eat had to try some) and we had a lazy ride around the bays and eventually went to an island that supposedly had a fantastic lookout at the top. It was so hot. We made it to the top of the stairs sweaty and out of breath. The view was beautiful. To our surprise out guide said that we weren’t quite there yet and pointed to a small path that led further up the hill. Off we went again. The ground was incredibly uneven and slippery. The bushes had taken over the path and you had to battle through them. Then clumsy me fell over. I twisted my ankle (which really hurt) and I decided to abandon the lookout and hobbled back down. Matt did say that is was gorgeous and he took some beautiful photos.
As we made our way back to the boat Matt was giving the tour guide a lecture about not telling us to bring proper footwear (Two pairs of shoes including Matts broke on the walk leaving them pretty much in bare feet). I felt a bit bad for the poor bloke.
As we arrived back at the junk we sat on the top deck and had a few beers watching the sun set and chatting. Did I mention that the views are spectacular?? The perfect end to a pretty perfect day.
After breakfast we were taken the scenic route back to the harbor. We were taken to a restaurant for lunch and then loaded into the minivan for the trip back to Hanoi. We stopped again at a hugely overpriced café that just happened to have a warehouse filled with tourist items. Soon enough we made it back to Hanoi and moved into yet another hotel (Hanoi’s hotels seemed to be overpriced – well the ones that don’t claim to be full).
We spent another few days wandering the city shopping and eating. The last day was MAD!! We were trying to get everything done - Still managed to fit in one last bowl of Pho. Running around the city like mad men. Matt made it back from the post office as the car was pulling up in front of the hotel to take us to the airport. Much to our disappointment our time in Vietnam was coming to an end. I was however looking forward to the famed Lao attitude and way of life. So off we flew in a little propeller jet plane to the land of 1000 elephants!!! Laos!!