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Published: November 28th 2006
We're now in Hanoi, in the north - the capital of Vietnam. Arrived to find the city obsessed with the Apec summit that just happened and as a result - all the hotels booked!
Hanoi is craaaazyyy, just like Saigon - motorbikes everywhere and streets which you risk life and limb every time you cross. Spent all of our first day researching and booking our 2 main trips up here in the north - to Halong Bay and Sapa.
Just back from an amazing 3 day/2 night trip around Halong Bay, Vietnam's most famous natural spectacle. Halong Bay consists of just under 2000 rocky untouched islands, clustered together in the Pacific Ocean.
We sailed on a traditional 'junk' boat - big 3-floor wooden boat which was surprisingly nice! Spent the first day sailing through the islands, and was just awe-struck by how many there were, completely surrounded at all times by huge majestic rocks rising out of the water - it was so beautiful and peaceful.
Visited a big cave, full of stalagtites and stalagmites, and hiked to the top of one island to see the most amazing panoramic views of Halong Bay. Then we went kayaking
through little cave/grottoes, and ended up in a 'hidden' lagoon in the centre of one of the islands, hidden away from the rest of the world, which was pretty magical....except for the fact it was quite an effort to kayak - don't think Alex was loving sharing a kayak with me, resting every 5 minutes!
Spent our first night on the boat in comfortable wooden cabins, and were cooked some great seafood meals. Had visions of us lazing on the top deck drinking wine, but unfortunately were caught in the biggest electrical storm I have ever seen! The whole sky was lit up every few seconds with lightning, which was quite amazing, as suddenly all the dark islands around us would appear, but the rain was really heavy and relentless and our boat was being thrown around out of it's anchored position, so crashed into another boat! All part of the fun though!
Woke up early the next morning to the most beautiful views of the islands around us and gorgeous clear blue skies. Spent our second day trekking through the rainforest on Cat Ba island - the biggest island in Halong Bay, and a National Park. Trekked
to the centre of the island where we came to a huge green clearing, with green jungle hills around us and it literally looked like a scene from Lost, no joke! Visited an old local couple who live in the middle of the rainforest and survive by growing fruits and vegetables and fishing. They literally just lived one 3 planks of wood covered with a plastic sheet.
Spent a great afternoon swimming in the calm waters, with noone else around, surrounded by nothing except the rocky islands - the most stunning swimming pool I've ever been in!! Got in some good sunbathing time, and then spent the night in a lovely hotel on Cat Ba island - the only island that you can stay on and saw a beautiful sunset over the bay.
Our last day was unfortunately overcast and cold, but was actually really great to see the islands through the mist, as dark silhouettes - very eerie.
Anyways, after all that rambling, Halong Bay was brilliant and the definite highlight of our trip so far - the pics I've taken hardly do it justice!
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