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July 14th 2015
Published: July 15th 2015
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Early rise at 0600 so that we'd be all packed and ready to bring our luggage to the lobby in time for breakfast at 0630. The breakfast buffet was very fancy and the ladies serving were very attentive and wouldn't let us lift a finger. I was adventurous and chose something I'd never eaten before. It was in a tiny square glass jar with mainly a creamy substance filling it with a thin layer of a dark green coloured jelly on top. OMG it was so yummy, so then the rest of the boys decided it must be okay and had one too. I swear my boys are more comfortable with the College food. The coffee here has also been the best I've had yet in Vietnam, but still not as nice as home. At 0715, we got a taxi to take us to the Handspan office where our tour to Halong Bay starts. It wasn't actually far distance wise from where were staying but walkingwith our luggage would've been a nightmare in the oppressive heat, uneven pavements, dodging parked and moving motor bikes, vendors, dogs, taxis, cyclos tables, chairs...you get the picture. So a taxi set us back $3. The office was very flash, a good sign of things to come. Once everyone had arrived we were off on the bus. Even though it was air conditioned, it was still bloody hot next to the window. We passed a huge Canon factory and the carpark was the size of Galleria for all the employees' motorbikes. Our guide spoke very good English and we stopped half way at a huge place selling all kinds of handicrafts that the disabled people made. There were a stack of girls sewing but none of them looked disabled to me, although there was one token disabled person wondering and his age was commensurate with an Agent Orange birth. Basically it took us 3 hours to go 150km. I don't think the concept of a bypass road has caught on here yet or maybe we were on the bypass road!. Once there, I couldn't how many tourists there were and all of the developments and the buildings still in construction. There are thousands of boats moored in the harbour and hundreds of tender boats ferrying tourists to and from their junk. It was a real circus and I had almost began to regret booking the trip especially when I saw a sanitary napkin floating past amost other things. But once we were on our junk and in our berth Brendan made the comment "Jeez, you did well here Adrianne". He doesn't give out the compliments very often, so I am suitably proud of myself and think I have more than made up for slumming it on the overnight sleeper train. Once again we are in awe of our opulent surroundings and the floating rubbish situation did get better and the 6 course meal for lunch is amazing. was plenty of space for everyone on board and the prevailent nationality was Aussie. There are also families from NZ, France and Switzerland. In fact, there are a disproportionate amount of French tourists here, which I can only put down to feeling at home with French speaking Laos next door. Once we settled in, the kids went kayaking whilst we went on the tender boat exploring all of the limestone karsts and watching the local fisherman and families going about their daily lives. The scenery is incredible even with the heavy haze, it adds an other worldly feel to it. Naturally, once we were off the tender boat we were dripping with sweat again, so I couldn't wait to dive in and refresh myself, so I did along with several other passengers, although I do have to mention the rubbish had virtually disappeared by this stage and the water looked very clean. Although when we got out, we were covered in film of what looked like plain old dirt which was really hard to get off. Diesel I'd say, and am hoping it's not raw sewerage from the local fishing communities living on the boats! We had the rest of the afternoon to relax on deck, although it was very hot. We were shown how to make Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls, and then made our own and ate them. Dinner was another astounding affair with plenty of vegetable art and food. It was like dining in a 5 star restaurant and a very romantic atmosphere with the dim lighting and lights twinkling from the other boats offshore. We certainly didn't go hungry. After dinner I was dog tired so I went straight to bed as we have another early morning. The boys stayed up until 2330 watching the Top Gear DVD where they were making their way from south to north just like we're doing.


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