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Published: April 19th 2018
We have booked an overnight Halong Bay trip, so it’s another early start, beginning with an excellent buffet breakfast. I eat until I can no longer move – it’s a good job I’m going to be sitting down all morning!
Next the drive to the harbour. I thought this would be a chance to get a glimpse of rural Vietnam after 4 days in the bustling, polluted cities. In fact we see very little countryside. Just more towns and sprawling industrial areas where huge Chinese, Korean and Japanese factories add to the pollution.
After 2 hours, we are deposited in an enormous warehouse full of goods, all allegedly made by Agent Orange victims, and encouraged to donate to disabled people. I’m not convinced – I have in mind the picture in Hoa Lo Prison where John McCain is being served a banquet including an entire pineapple. If I want to help disabled Vietnamese people, I won’t do it by putting money in a box in a government facility labelled ‘for disabled people’.
After 4 hours we reach Halong Bay, which is a relief as we have done much of the journey on the wrong side of the road.
There have been several near misses, including an incident with two buses and a truck driving three abreast on a single lane highway, which was close enough for me to adopt the ‘brace position’.
We are taken out to our boat which is moored in the bay, check in and set sail while lunch is served. It consists of dishes of crab, fish and squid and is delicious.
Halong Bay is beautiful. It is an underwater mountain range which results in 3000 limestone islets protruding from the sea. There are hundreds of boats full of tourists, all departing at the same time so we leave the harbour in a huge flotilla.
After lunch, free time to lounge on the sun deck relaxing, sunbathing and taking pictures. Then a tour of a pearl farm and the chance to kayak in a bay. We kayak round the edge of an islet, and can see monkeys on the rocks. There’s also a lot of garbage, so I pass on the next activity, which is swimming.
We anchor for the night in a bay surrounded by other boats and eat dinner. Despite the number of boats (200-300 per night) it’s
quite calm and peaceful. We eat dinner, barbecue chicken and fish, then the karaoke starts and I beat a hasty retreat to my cabin.
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