The whole purpose of coming to Hanoi was to see Halong Bay..
The bus picked me up at 0800 hrs, collected a few others and we headed off to Halong Bay before 0900 hrs. It was slow progress as there was lot of traffic moving slowly.after an hour and a half we stopped at an artists' center. There were a lot of statues of great quality and also a hadicrafts emporium and jewellery making workshop. The quality of worknanship was of high caliber. One could see the artists at work. There was also a lot of embroidery work in progress on dresses and poster art. As buying nothing on the tour had to be strictly adhered to I did not buy anything.
It took us another two hours to get to Ha Long. After the formalities we were ferried to our boat. It was one of the better boats. Every one was introduced. There was a British couple Malcolm and Ruth, in there 60s, an Argentinian couple, 3 English girls who had just finished their A levels, a Japanese couple and a student, a Vietnamese couple etc. After freshening up we were served lunch which was
good. Only we paid for the drinks which were not too expensive. By the time the dinner was finished the boat had already got near the first activity, vising one of the beautiful caves in Halong Bay. It was large cave system with beautiful features, carved out by the incoming and outgoing seas of different glacial periods and the features deposited by dripping rain water thhrough the calcarious rocks. The locals had a lot of myths attached to it which our guide Huan explained.
Next was a bit of kayaking, again? Fortunately the kayaks were for 2 people and a lot more stable. I had one of English students as partner and we visited a few coves on different islands in the 45 minutes we had.
The next was a run to the Tito's Island (named after the the Marshall after his visit, only head of state to visit Hanoi during the war years) and its beach. Malcolm, Ruth and myself decided to get to the top of the island where there was a lookout station for some photos. It was steep climb of over 500 steps, but it was worth it as were rewarded with fantastic views
all around he bay, almost like a bird's eye view. We had to get back quickly for a swim at the beach. The water was cool, a welcome relief after the sweating climb in the heat. Soon we were back in the boat, h4tad a welome drink and retired to our rooms to have a shower and change of clothes. By 1900 hrs we had the dinner, quite a sumptuous buffet this time. After the dinner most wandered off to the upper deck, which had more breeze, to have a chat and to relax. Then we had a spectacular thunderstorm and heavy rain. All had to rush back into the lobby. For their part the hosts put on a karaoke evening to liven up things a bit. Everybody took part. Even I had to sing, luckily Malcolm was on hand to give support. The evening ended with some dancing. By 2230 hrs we had retired to our rooms. I slept like a log through the night. The bay was very calm and there was barely a wave swinging one to sleep.
Got up early to see the sunrise in Halong bay. The sky was still partially cloudy, but mostly
cleared up in time. By 0700hrs we had breakfast, ferried to visit the "amazing cave". The people who live on the islands do the conducted tour here to collect money to set-up an school for their childern. It was a collapsed cave which you can enter at low tide through a tunnel Which also form part of the cave. Next on the itinerary was a visit to a pearl farm where they make cultured pearls and use them to make jewellery. Part of the group went on another boat to stay on an island and we returned back to port by 1200hrs.
Halong Bay was everything as I expected, it is so beautiful that it has to be seen to be believed. No photos can do justice to Halong Bay with haze created by the heat hanging in the air. The activities along with the surrounding made for a most memorable two days. Even the oppressive heat and humidity could not spoil that. The tour itself was not the most luxurious but enough to give everyone a feel of the place and comfortable. The only adverse comment is the carelessness of people dumping stuff in the water and there
is a lot of debris in some areas where the wind have pushed them to.
The drive back to Hanoi was a tedious affair. The temperature was already climbing to 40ºC accompanying the opressive humidity. The air conditioned coach was the only haven. We got back to hotels in Hanoi before 1700 hrs saying farewells to co-tourers as batch by batch we were dropped at the respective hotels. All that heat could not continue and there was a thunderstorm before 1800 hrs to cool down everything a bit.
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