Thursday, July 03, 2014

Overnight in Halong Bay

For our trip to Halong Bay, we took the Royal Heritage Cruises arranged by the Hanoi hotel we stayed.
Red in the van on the way to Halong Bay

It was a two day one night trip, with 4 hours travelling one way from Hanoi in a van. Our tour guide told us interesting Vietnamese stories and facts along the way such as why are the houses in Vietnam tall but thin? Something to do with the space that is allowed per family so they build at least 4 stories high for that narrow space given, ground floor for business, second to fourth floors for three generations staying together.

We left at about 9 a.m. and made a pit stop at this place built for tourists, a centre showcasing beautiful pictures made from sewing colourful threads onto the canvas, lacquered wooden items, food stuff, huge sculptures and heavy wooden furniture.

That's a picture sewed with thread. Very stunning.
When we reached Halong Bay’s ferry terminal, there were hundreds of people milling about waiting for their boats to arrive. We were escorted to a tender who then brought us to our boat for lunch after checking in. There were 13 (+2 who joined us the next day) of us for that night from far flung corners of the world, Brazil, Canada, Melbourne, France, Russia and another family from Malaysia (who were sitting beside us in the plane when we flew from KL, how about that?).

At the ferry terminal with all the boats lined up.
Activities included in our trip was a visit to the Surprise Cave, going to a beach, swimming, making Vietnamese rolls, karaoke, squid fishing, taichi in the morning, kayaking and passing by the floating villages.
Lookout point before entering the Surprise Cave
Villager selling her wares
Floating village
Inside the Surprise Cave
Still inside the Surprise Cave
Is Halong Bay a must see? I found it crowded, everywhere you looked was another boat, the cave was packed with people, there was rubbish in the waters and the mist was almost always present so I couldn’t really take clear shots of the limestones.

Boats everywhere
The mist adds a mysterious calm to the place 
More boats!
To me, I grew up with Langkawi at my backyard somewhat, so this experience was rather similar. The food was also close to home. For many, it would be a new experience so it would be worth it.

Of course the limestones were beautiful, I loved how they all had this parallel diagonal lines running around it, the calmness of the water where we stopped for the night, the peaceful hours just gazing at the stars from the top deck.

Can you see the diagonal lines on the top right? Most of the stones had it.
Our room
The dining room
Selfie at Halong Bay!
We also got the biggest and most expensive room which was lovely (I think we were fleeced because the amount we paid was exorbitant – but anyway...). And I also got to know the Russian guest, Orga, since I didn't join in the kayaking. She’s lovely and a little scary as she asked me very direct questions such as, “Why don’t you know Russian language? Is it because Malaysians don’t like Russians?” lol

Meet Orga!
The first thing she asked me was whether I heard some of them singing the night before at the dining room while I was star gazing, "Did we sing good?". Thankfully I didn't have to wait hours for the right answer to pop up, "You all sounded like you were having loads of fun!" and she laughed out loud. She also tried to teach me some Russian words (she's a Russian language teacher) but I did warn her I couldn't even speak my own mother tongue.

We disembarked right after an early lunch so effectively, we were on the boat for 24 hours.

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