We were picked up from our hotel in Hanoi, a tad late as usual, but none the less we jumped in the minivan. Our trip north east to Halong Bay took about 3hours and we passed some beautiful countryside. What never seems to amaze me, and ill give you a couple of examples, is the fact that we saw not just one lady on the side of the highway selling baguettes but over 20 of them in a row, dressed the same, they all had the same improvised containers and they all had the same little wave to lure motorists in. This also occured with 8 banana stalls later on in the trip...it doesn't make sense but thats how it is done round these traps.
As we got closer to the bay you could see beautiful islands, most not much bigger than a footy field, rising over the bays waters. Apparently there are 1969 islands in total and it makes for a beautiful site - another one of the many World Heritage Sights we have visited.
Our itinerary consisted of 3 days and 2 nights aboard the luxury 'Prince #2', the newest boat in the fleet of many. Dave and I were lucky enough to be with three couples - a French couple, a German/French couple and an American couple. The boat had four bedrooms for guests and we were accompanied by 2 guides, a captain, vice-captain, mechanic, barman, waiter and chef. We were looked after so well...we were constantly fed and told to relax that it felt weird and uncomfortable. If only my childhood was that easy...but then again i wouldn't be the person i am now. The three lunches and two dinners consisted of 9 courses brought out one at a time and being abord a luxury boat there was lots of seafood. Dave loved it... and i got by ok. I did try clams, prawns, seafood soup, sea snail spring rolls, mackrel and squid - and im proud of myself for giving it a go. We all had the choice of a al a carte lunch on our last day but i have to report that i was the only one that didn't have seafood though. I can't of liked it that much.
We cruised away from the port and got introduced to everyone. I got drilled by the guide about the fact that i was single, "but why you not married yet". At the end of the cruise in our 'good byes', the same guide wished us all well and went on to say that it was lovely to have us all on board, the three couples and said that Dave and I had a beautiful friendship. It was quite funny really.
During the course of the tour we went kayaking around some of the islands to view some beautiful scenery; cliff faces, lagoons, rocks and caves. We also went swimming a couple of times although four of us got stung by a jellyfish at one stage...oh that was just after we had a 9 course meal on the beach. We also visited a big cave - which rightly or wrongly - the tour company paid the Vietnamese living there to move out so it could be used for tourism. They also had another project in place with the fishing village we visited where they pay the village for the rubbish they collect from the bay and their own disposal so it doesn't pollute the sea. It was quite ironic then when one of the crew was seen throwing a can over board!! Its part of the culture over here and its such a deterrent...so please keep on keeping NZ clean and green 'coz thats a fantastic image to have! So we got rowed around the fishing village, which is the largest at about 300 people, who all live on floating houses and fish to live. They're used to tourists though. We all jumped in little bamboo row boats and were rowed around the bay. Of course we had a go at rowing, in fact its very hard. Dave got challenged in a race by the French and we left them in our wake. At least we could beat the dam French!!
On our last night we had a go at fishing for squid...i must say that our Vietnamese friends are just that much better at it than we foreigners. We also had a bit of a show put on for us where all of the crew played quitar, sang, and danced. We jsut sat there admiring the talent before Dave and I pulled out a performance ourselves - the famous Haka. I must say it was a poor effort - we couldn't remember the words or the actions but none the less got some laughs especially when we described what it is used for.
Our room was the flashest that we had stayed in so far in 8 weeks - we were spoilt.
We made thejourney back to Hanoi and two hours later we boarded a sleeping bus to Hue - 15 hours later, with not the best sleep, we arrived in Hue and found a little hotel down an alley way. We shared the room with Samantha, an English girl we met on the bus. That night we hit the streets down by the river for what was the '1000 year anniversary for Craftmanship' - well something like that. A cultural performance, bands, crafts for sale, lots of beer and lots of people. It was fun to see all the locals out and fireworks too! We had dinner at a reataurant and the waitress got us to write down 'New Zealand', 'Kiwi' and i drew a poor effort of the map of NZ.
We left Hue the next morning headed for Hoi An - the city of tailors where we will be until Thursday when we fly to Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon. No photos yet - USB suck in this country!