Day 20 – Wednesday 13th January – Hanoi to Halong Bay

We left the hotel this morning at 8am for the 130km journey to Halong Bay. On the outskirts of Hanoi we came across a brand new shopping centre, one of the first that we have seen!  We soon left the rush hour traffic behind and were travelling through a mixture of industrial and farming landscape.

After a couple of hours we stopped at a ceramics factory. They were making all of the usual things, but everything was decorated by hand. The women doing the painting worked amazingly quickly and without templates!

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They served is some mint tea before we had a look around the showroom.

We travelled on towards Halong Bay and stopped briefly for Phuong to buy some fresh pineapple.  It was peeled and ready to eat in the shape of a lollipop.

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We arrived at Halong Bay at 1pm.  There were loads of people waiting to board their boats, but when we arrived we were taken straight to our boat and headed off.

The boat is well equipped and our cabins are clean and tidy!  We cruised across the bay and were treated to some amazing sights, which the camera does not do justice?

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Lunch was served in the dining room/bar and consisted, as seems to be the norm in Vietnam, of a number of smaller courses, including fresh shrimp, soup, rice and a pork dish. The views through the windows while we were cruising along made the whole experience even better.

After lunch we stopped at one of the islands, where we went into a cave full of stalactites…

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The view from the exit to the cave were amazing.

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We returned to the boat and cruised on a bit further before reaching our overnight stop where the boat anchored. Seven of us, not including Ed, took advantage of the opportunity to go kayaking. We were taken to a pontoon by a tender before getting into our kayaks.

The first sights were through an arch into a lagoon where we saw monkeys living on the shore.

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We kayaked around the lagoon and then returned to the open water. I thought we were going back to the pontoon, but our guide has other ideas and we paddled away and towards the open sea. It gave a brilliant view of the karsts (the areas of land jutting out from the sea).

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However, the water got more choppy and the wind picked up making it a hard slog. It seems that the plan was to kayak all the way back to the boat, and we eventually managed this, although not before getting very wet from the water splashing into the boat. My boat companion was a complete novice, and my experience of kayaking isn’t really of open water, so I was pleased to get back to the boat and definitely felt that we’d earned our beers!

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After changing into dry clothes, we relaxed until dinner was ready. It was another meal with a number of courses, and the presentation was amazing, especially the fish in the net made out of carrot!

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Being on holiday certainly takes it out of you and by 9 pm we were all tired so headed off to our cabins for another early night!

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