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Published: April 10th 2009
We started our morning with a sumptuous breakfast at KOTO
, before beginning our drive north east to the World Heritage site of Halong Bay
in the Gulf of Tonkin (approx four hours). There was tangibly excitement running through the group as we had all heard such wonderful things about the jade water and its 2000 or so towering limestone peaks. We finally boarded our fabulous private sailing junk at the docks of Halong City (which is a horrible dive of a place) and were welcomed aboard with a seafood lunch while lazily cruising the bay. This place looks and feels exactly as captured in the film Indochine
Legend has it that Halong Bay was created when a dragon was sent by the gods to defend Vietnam from the invading Chinese, and it spat out jade stones which turned to mountains and blocked the path of the oncoming army. This is a much more exciting explanation than that offered by the geologists! Halong Bay is no doubt the most dramatic natural wonder I have seen - the limestone seascape shimmering on the glassy turquoise waters is just exquisite. Unfortunately it wasn’t a sunny day and a light mist had descended on
the water, however this added a slightly eerie and enchanting effect.
We anchored at some stage - I had completely lost track of time - and explored the stalactites and stalagmites in Hang Sung Sot cave. It has three beautiful chambers of stunning rock formations that probably would have been a little nicer to look at had they not been lit up in rainbow neon lighting! We set sail again but soon anchored for the night which also meant that the eagerly anticipated kayaking and swimming could begin. Andrew loved this very very much, however I was quite happy to stay on board on camera duty and watch dusk set in while a few sea eagles dived for their fish. The dinner on the boat definitely didn’t live up to the brochure hype, but I don’t think anyone really cared that much. After dinner was served I think the crew had expected that we would all totter off to bed, but we had spotted a karaoke machine and we convinced the crew to let us stay up and play. 😊
After indulging in a few vodkas of the local very strong variety we’d snuck on board (to avoid
paying the ridiculous on-board drink prices or the equally ridiculous corkage), there wasn’t one person in the room who didn't want to belt out a few numbers. We then retired to the top deck to lay on lounges and chat under a star-studded sky while being careful not to stagger too close to the edge of the deck... much funness and a bonding moment for the group.
Our overnight accommodation on the boat (twin bed cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities) was surprisingly very good, and it was especially beautiful to wake up on a boat in Halong Bay on our anniversary! 😄
The breakfast offering consisted of lukewarm coffee, dehydrated bread and sweaty cheese…but again I don’t think any of us minded that much - we were more absorbed with taking in our last few hours on Halong Bay. We made our way back to Hanoi via a local factory in Dong Trieu where the locals have practiced the traditional art of ceramic making and painting for eons. I would have loved to buy a whole tea set here, however Chinh (our group leader) is of the opinion that Hoi An is the best place to buy
anything your heart desires... cannot wait! Hanoi after Halong Bay
Well we are back in Hanoi
for half a day before we leave for Hue. Andrew and I headed off to check out the Fine Arts Museum before stocking up on water and baguettes for the train trip. Bye Bye Hanoi…we enjoyed our time in this great city of the soaring dragon and we will most certainly be back. Our journey aboard the famous Reunification Express
train begins tonight with an overnight trip to Hue.
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