Thursday 9 August 2012

Halong Bay

23rd July 2012

This post should have been slightly longer, but like our trip to Halong Bay, it has been curtailed. I blame the weather.

We originally booked a 3-day/2-night trip through Kangaroo Cafe – the original, not one of the imposters. We were on the bus from Hanoi when we learned that due to an incoming monsoon, the authorities had forbidden any boats to stay on the bay overnight. Our 3-day trip had just become a 1-day tour.

Not to worry. As the Backstreet Boys say, “You got to roll with it…”

Things started brightly with an introduction to Vietnam/stand-up set from our tour guide: “In Vietnam we like to eat dog. But we never eat our own dog. No, no. We only eat our neighbours dog.” And so on.

After about a four hour drive (plus a 30-minute stop for refreshments) we arrived at the bay. We stood around the harbour for a bit while our boat fought its way to the front and then, finally, we were off. While the boat sailed towards out into the bay, we were treated to a lovely seafood lunch. Luckily, the weather was holding so we managed to get some nice snaps.

Lots of boats
Karst hills
The view from on deck
This rock looks like a dog (supposedly)
Our first stop was a floating village and the chance to do a bit of kayaking. I’m not sure how authentic the village is but the kayaking was good fun and allowed you to get away from the tour boats and right up close to the hills.

Sea caves up close
Floating village
Girl in Vietnamese national dress
Rio 2016 here I come (hang on, where's Karen?)
Back on the boat and on our way to the next stop, the heavens opened. Luckily the next stop was the “Amazing Cave” – not a bad option in the rain. Despite the slightly boastful title, it was actually pretty good. It’s a huge cave with loads of stalactites and stalagmites (how to remember which is which: tights come down) all lit up in pretty colours. Unfortunately, with our little camera and no tripod, the photos don’t really do it justice.

It looks better in real life, trust me
View of the bay outside 'Amazing Cave'

After that it was time to cruise back to the harbour. The rain started to ease off slightly so we got a few more nice pictures.

Floating village at dusk
Bye bye Halong Bay
All that remained was to take the bus back to Hanoi. It was a pretty long day but we made the most of what little time we had on the bay. Although we were disappointed not to spend the night on the boat and visit one of the larger islands as we’d originally planned, we were glad that we’d been able to visit at all. The next night we had dinner in Hanoi (during a huge thunderstorm) and met a NZ couple (Mark and Merin) who’d had their trip cancelled due to the monsoon. I guess we were the lucky ones!

If we’re ever back in the area we’d probably want to visit it again but we'd definitely try and avoid the rainy season!

On a side note, I can recommend Kangaroo Cafe. The tour was well run and the guides were good. When we returned to Hanoi they happily refunded us the difference between the 3-day and 1-day tour price.

Next up: Hue.

Current Location: Nha Trang until 11th July
Next Stop: Saigon

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