Halong Bay Day 1July 4, 2017 in Vietnam
Monday 3rd July
Breakfast at the hotel (7th Floor, overlooking Hanoi) before checking out, taking only an overnight bag and getting collected by the minibus from Galaxy Cruises, our selected company for our Halong Bay Cruise. There were 17 on the bus, 6 in our bunch, 1 Aussie couple from Harvey Bay, 1 family of 4 from Adelaide, a family of 3 from Hobart and a couple from NZ / Malaysia. After collecting everyone we headed off on the 4 hour trip to Halong Bay.
Our tour guide was Hieu (Hugh, as in Hugh Grant, handsome man!!) who we later discover is also our entertainer (magic tricks), educator (information), cooking instructor, Tia Chi master, food waiter and chief organiser. Hieu started off by giving us a history lesson about Vietnam, it wars (and therefore its successes), Ho Chi Minh, Halong Bay and general information. He was very particular about historical dates and could recite any major event in Vietnam history. Plus he gave us the usual speech about the wonderful socialist country but he was also open about the corruption.
The trip took us through some countryside where traditional farming takes place, mostly rice but also lots of fruit & vegetables. Saw a few tractors but most work is done with a small walk-behind tractor, like a rotary hoe, and hand labour. Didn't see any but apparently the water buffalo are still commonly used. There is major construction happening along the way, roads, houses & factories being built but looks like the standard of constructon is still average and haphazard at best. As we have seen elsewhere, the roads in the towns are lined with small shops of every description and a brisk trade was being had. The roads are still rough with Therrie & Ross being bounced around in the back seat.
We had a half way stop at a factory / shop where products are made by disabled people and some beautiful artifacts were available for sale.
Finally we made it to Halong Bay and after a brief wait we got on a small tender and motored our way out to our cruise boat. The whole marina area is quite modern and some huge resorts are being / newly built. There were hundreds of cruise boats scattered along the marina. After instructions we checked in, our cabins were comfortable but as we were to discover, hard beds. Assembled for lunch while the boat made its way out into the bay, along with about 100 others. We also met our other cruise members - a young South African couple and a family of 4 also from South Africa. 23 passengers in total plus about 7 or 8 crew who all were involved in multiple tasks from sailing the boat to serving food & drink, cleaning, etc.
The day was still very hazy and overcast so it was very warm and humid and viewing of the islands was spectacular but a bit limited. The bay is made up of thousands of limestone islands that rise above the water and provide a very sheltered bay.
After a while of winding its way around numerous islands we drop anchor and we are ferried over to 1 large island which houses the Sung Sot Cave (Amazing Cave) where we joined thousands of other visitors in walking through a series of immense caves, naturally formed by sea water & erosion. Quite spectacular and Hieu gave us information about the different structures & shapes that are found throughout.
Back on the boat and travelled a short distance to Ti Top Island, a small but very tall island that has its own natural beach. We were offloaded there and had the choice of walking up to the lookout or swimming.
Sue, Louisa & Peter took the hard slog option of the 425 steps to the top, reaching the summit just in time for the rain to start, which was quite warm but refreshing. Made the steps down slippery & and a bit more hazardous but we all got back down safely. None of us chose the swimming - the water was luke warm and with the vast number of boats & people, plenty of rubbish in the water.
Wet, sweaty & thirsty we were ferried back to our boat where it moved back out into the bay and made anchor for the night. I counted 28 boats all within our bay, so there was no clear view but it was very quiet across the water (except for the occassional sounds of Karaoke from another boat). Pretty soon we were assembled for dinner and more instructions and some time for drinks and getting aquainted with our fellow passengers. Most people participated and some good conversations got going and a few laughs were had.
After dinner Hieu entertained us with some nifty magic tricks and then people dispersed to their cabins or up onto the top deck for a relax & chat.
Was calm on the water but very humid until a couple of thunderstorms went across during the night which cooled things off and cleared the air.
Weather was very warm about 32C & very humid.
* Halong Bay tour (Galaxy Premium Tour) and Hieu our guide;
* Halong Bay - remarkable scenery;
* Sung Sot cave;
* Ti Top Island;
* Great time on the boatRead more