Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Halong Bay Update

Halong Bay – After the crazy intensity and chaos of Hanoi it was with great anticipation that we were looking forward to our 3 day - 2 night Halong Bay Cruise.

The minibus picked us up about 830 and somehow negotiated the narrow streets of Hanoi without hitting anything or anyone. A couple more stops and we were on our way to Halong Bay.

We finally made it to Halong Bay and were shuttled off our bus and asked which boat we were on, our luggage was put into different piles based on our response. There were probably a couple of dozen other tourists in the waiting area by the dock with us and we all looked around speculating who might be our shipmates for the next few days.

Finally everyone from our boat must have arrived because we were shuttled onto the tender and headed out to our home for the next 3 days. It was gray and drizzly as we boarded the Prince II and Betsy had fun climbing up the ladder out of the tender. We shuffled into the dining room and were served a welcome drink of fresh watermelon juice. Our guide Hai introduced himself and proceeded to go around the room asking each of us to make a brief introduction. Our shipmates were Graham & Anna, a couple from Ireland who had moved there from Britain 30+ years ago, David a recent university grad now working in finance in London and his university mate Rohan who had recently moved home to Malaysia. We set about getting to know each other as the crew readied the boat to leave.

We were soon underway and shown our rooms which turned out to be quite grand. They weren't large rooms but were very nice and we had large windows all down the side that allowed us to lie in bed and enjoy the view.

We motored out to our port for the night which turned out to be a floating fishing village set amongst the Halong Bay islands. Some of the members of our party then went for a kayak while Betsy and I sat up on deck and enjoyed the view and chatted with the ship's bartender Viet.

The next couple of days were spent kayaking around the islands, eating, drinking and motoring around Halong Bay. We got to enjoy a nice beach BBQ on one day and had great food every night and day on the boat. The food was mostly seafood oriented and I think Betsy's favorite were the sea snail spring rolls.

We got along great with the rest of our shipmates and we usually outlasted the crew as we drank late into the night. This was definitely reflected in our bar bills at the end of the trip. The last night the crew decided to sing some songs for us and did a few Vietnamese ballads. They also taught us one song that honored Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho as he is known by the locals.

All in all it was a great trip and we would both highly recommend it, and while not cheap by Vietnamese standards it is definitely a beautiful part of the world that should not be missed if you are in the area.

The crew was great on our boat and treated us well and our shipmates were a lot of fun and great to spend a couple of days with. The only downside was the weather was quite cool (temp in the 60's, some drizzle). It would have been great to see the scenery in the sunshine but it wasn't to be on this trip.

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