Published: January 6th 2006December 27th 2005
I know I'm putting this up a bit late but it's been a busy 2 weeks! Thinking back to the last time I wrote I was in Nha Trang causing damage to my liver and wallet. Anyway I flew up to Hanoi on the 22nd December with the easyjet of Asia, Air Asia, and was pleasantly suprised to find it was dry there and that hotmail worked again. The first night I took it easy as I was taking a trip out to Halong Bay early the next morning. I just wondered around the Old Quarter where I found an amazing bar with a lovely balconey overlooking the main street. To get to it you had to walk up some rickety old stairs, it looked like it was going to be a hole - what a find! I was the only one up there and the staff were so welcoming to me. I sat in there reading my book for hours and listening to a local band rehearsing. Perfect way to wind down after Nha Trang.
The next morning I woke early and got a tour out to Halong Bay, I met an English guy called Lee on the bus and
when he suggested we order a bottle of wine with lunch I knew we were on the same wavelength.
The trip took us to Halong City where we boarded a boat out to the stunning rocks and islands of Halong Bay.
In 1994 Halong Bay was designated Veitnams second World Heritage site. There are more than 3000 incredible islands rising from the emerald waters. It is beautiful. My absolute highlight of Vietnam and South East Asia so far. Along the way we stopped of at a couple of the islands and visited various caves, beaches and mountains. We spent the first night out on the boat, it was gorgeous watching the sunset in such a silent, beautiful place.
They sold food and drinks on the boat but far cheaper and more fun was to call over one of the many shop boats floating around. The women would balance perfectly as they passed beer and crisps up to you and waited while you put the money back in the bag and passed it back down to them. I loved it!
The next morning we woke up early to watch the sun rise, then we sailed around the islands a little more
before stopping to Kayak in some shark infested waters. The sharks were in pens constructed of blue plastic barrels and wooden planks which you had to balance on before negotiating a way into the kayak. The pens were full of sharks so who knows how many were swimming free below us as we paddled about. I was assured they weren't dangerous but I still wasn't that keen to capsise all the same...
The next night we spent on Cat Ba island the lagest island in Halong Bay. the food on the trip was beginning to be a little same same: Rice, fish and veg. so Lee and I dared to venture off the tour and found a really nice floating seafood restraunt where they caught your food from a pen in out back and cooked it up for you. They had turtle and shark but I played it safe and stuck with grilled prawns. We had a great time away from the tour and began to feel like we hadn't seen enough og Cat Ba island, so the following day (Christmas eve) when we were supposed to return to Hanoi we decided to stay on and explore a bit more.
We hired a motorbike and drove all around the island, stopping at a few local villages and deserted beaches before inventing a highly complex and addictive beach game called Sock You, which we played for hours, getting very burnt. As it was Christmas Eve we decided to treat ourselves to a better meal and went to Green Mango where I had a Christmas meal of Goats Cheese salad, Crab and Black Pepper soup, Lobster Risotto and the best chocolate desert I have ever had in my LIFE. including all the wine we could drink (which turned out to be quite a bit...) for $20, which is steep for my budget but it was definetly worth it!
The next morning was Christmas day so we got up early and headed back to Hanoi before going out for a meal, cocktails and some partying. We ended up at Funky Monkey and the polite bar wher we met up with some other travellers and celebrating by drinking heavily and singing badly. All clubs and bars shut at 1am in Hanoi but luckily we found a moto driver who knew of another party still going on and he lead our taxi there at breakneck
The next morning Lee was heading south to Hoi An so I spent the day exploring Hanoi city. The art in the city is fantastic and I had to stop myself posting home numerous original pictures as well as sonme of the best copies I have ever seen.
So again, apologies this blog has taken so long, I am now in Thailand with Claire and Marianne. Tune in next time to hear some of our crazy shenanigans. (there have been a fair few....) Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and all the best for 2006! Miss you loads Lxxx
There are more photos below