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Published: July 29th 2018
We caught our transfer to our Halong Bay
cruise early the next morning. Bhaya
, our cruise operator, offers a free shuttle to their port. The journey was only about 100 miles; however, because Vietnam does not have a strong highway system, the trip took approximately 4 hours. Along the way, we observed some of the most haphazard traffic patterns we’ve seen anywhere in the world. Incredibly, there seem to be few collisions as motorists are conditioned to expect the unexpected and react accordingly.
We were greeted with mint towels, iced tea, and snacks once we reached the port. Once the Au Co
was sea-ready, we boarded. We had agreed to be upgraded from our scheduled cruise to their more luxury line, but not before negotiating for a welcome bottle of champagne. The ship had five levels including the crew’s level. The rooms were large with queen beds, closets, balconies, and full-sized bathrooms. We settled in and joined the group for a safety brief and lunch. The lunch was delicious, as were all the meals we enjoyed aboard.
After lunch, we set a course for an islet that has a cave
. We were able to tour the cave and learn a little
of its history. Cruising Halong Bay offers limitless 360 views. There are un-ending islets with copious coves between. The cave tour was not very impressive but gave us an up-close perspective on an islet. After the tour, we did some free swimming off the docks of the ship.
5:30 brought happy hour aboard the Au Co. We chatted with several of the guests and sampled the cocktails included on the happy hour menu. The cocktails were pretty standard fare and we decided to switch to beer
for the remainder of the voyage. Dinner that night was a BBQ buffet which included both surf and turf. The grilled grub was great but fell short of the BBQ we are accustomed to back in the Lone Star State.
The next morning’s activities included kayaking and visiting a floating fishing village. We opted to skip that activity as we wanted some time to relax. We leisurely ate breakfast and soaked up some rays on the top deck. In the afternoon, the ship stopped at Dao Cat Ba
, a large inhabited island near Halong Bay. We did a bike tour of the island and visited a small village that has partnered with Bhaya to
grow organic crops for the cruise to serve. Rain started while we were in the village, but the two honeymooners were undeterred from riding through the rain. Back onboard, we cleaned up and went to happy hour. That night we ate dinner with an SF State student on vacation with his parents. We enjoyed chatting with a Westerner and he enjoyed some time apart from his folks.
The following morning was our last aboard the Au Co. We disembarked and hopped into another shuttle back to Hanoi. We spent the night at the Antique Legend Hotel
, which was significantly preferred to the previous lodging in Hanoi. We lightly explored the streets around our hotel and grabbed a late lunch/early dinner. On our way back to the hotel we were caught in the rain which gave us an opportunity to inspect the traffic patterns in a busy intersection. To our bewilderment, motorbikes never fully obeyed traffic signals. On red lights, bikers would often yield, but never wait. We turned in and prepared for our next flight to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon
) and on to our Habitat for Humanity build.
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