Hello all, this is a joint effort from both of us (Megan is typing though as Julia can’t spell and Megan is a ‘tad’ fussy about the written word!)
As Ju wanted to go somewhere very cool for her Birthday we booked a 3 day/2 night tour of Halong Bay from our hotel in Hanoi. The whole trip cost $45USD each and we didn’t really know what we would be doing, but we were content to have someone else organise us! So on Thursday we were picked up from our hotel and made our way to Halong Bay with a small group of people from all over the world.
After a 3 hour drive we climbed aboard a junk boat and cruised around the beautiful bay for the day, we went for a climb though the Hang Sung Sot Cave, swam off the boat, ate, drank and got to know the other people on the tour (4 Yanks, 2 Poles, 2 Frenchies, 2 Poms, 2 Aussies, 2 Koreans and 2 of us).
There are 3000+ islands rising into the mist from the green water with hidden beaches and grottos everywhere that are only accessible by boat! It is absolutely breathtaking. Here are some photos:
Swimming in the bay was great, the water was so salty that there was no need to tread water to stay afloat – bliss. We had regular encounters with ‘floating dairies’, little women on row boats stocked with food and drink for sale.
Thursday night we slept on board the boat in a twin cabin. While I caught up on some zzzz’s Ju went had had some beers with the people on the top deck of the boat. On Friday, we woke up on the boat for Ju’s birthday…. Here is a photo of the birthday girl in her PJs outside our cabin! What a stunning place to celebrate a birthday!
After a birthday breakfast, (consisting of very average food and a cabin of people singing happy birthday) we cruised out to Cat Ba Island – rugged, craggy and jungle like! We got off the boat and a mini van dropped 2 Aussies, 2 Poms and 2 Kiwis (us) in the middle of nowhere for a 2 hour trek.
The 45 min climb up the ‘mountain’ just about killed us but once we got to the top it got a lot easier. While the sweat was pouring off us “whities” in the 30+ degree heat, our 71 year old leader never sweated a bead! It turns out he doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol AND he does this trek twice a day!
Ju was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to see any monkeys, but we did spot 1 giant poisonous spider (6 inches in diameter with a yellow back), 2 pretty butterflies (making a family) and a brief but scary encounter with some local buffalo (who looked ready to attack).
After trekking down the hill, we meandered through a long cave that the Vietnamese hid out in during the war. The cave was a lot more peaceful than the one we saw on Thursday (no people except our group) and it was a real ‘bat cave’ (there were a lot of tiny bats fluttering around us).
In the afternoon we set off on a smaller boat to go kayaking for an hour or so. To get from the boat to the kayak was like something out of Survivor (as we had to navigate around a fish farm on thin wooden planks trying very hard not to fall in with the fish!) What is an afternoon kayaking without a bit of a race between the 2 kiwis, 2 Aussies, 2 Poms and 2 Vietnamese! The kiwis came in first (yay) but it was a dirty race, so I don’t think it would hold in a court of sports justice (the Aussie boys started it first though when they reminded us of the underarm bowling incident!!!!). After all this hard work another swim was in order – we jumped off the boat and swam to a little island and back!
So… after the boat dropped us back off at Cat Ba Island, it was time for a feed and some birthday drinks! We lost track of the Poms at this stage however the Aussies (Stu and Pete) and Ann helped us celebrate Ju’s birthday in cocktail style (cocktails are so cheap here). Appropriately, the first stop was a Kiwi Bar…the Vietnamese owner’s hubby was from Dunedin, so there was New Zealand, All Blacks and Highlanders paraphernalia all over the place. We felt right at home!
Ann and I went back to the hotel about midnight but Ju kept drinking with the boys till very late! (Silly Girl)
Saturday was a very loooooong day of hung over travel from 8am – 4pm! I quote from Ju: “I will never travel long distance again after a big night out” (she wasn’t in good form at all).
So – that was Halong Bay! What an amazing place.