© 2011 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated Halongbay

Vietnam – Halong Bay – 10th-12th January

Up early and out the door with our baggage we headed to the Ocean Tours office. We were able to leave some bags at the tour office to lighten the load whilst on our trip to Halong bay with our new friends Justin, Jules, her brother John and his wife Lisa. The six of us piled into the tour bus with the other adventurers and began our 4 hour journey to the bay. We arrived at midday after a stop at a service area which sold assorts of tourist paraphernalia including huge tapestries which were made in the shop by a bank of ladies at sewing machines.

Once we arrived we boarded the Junk boat and set sail into the bay which had some nice views if a little cloudy. The boats have accommodation for up to fourteen people so they are nice and cosy. Due to the limited space we were staying on Cat Ba Island for the first night and on the boat on the second.

We were served some very good food on the afternoon which included some fresh seafood which we all loved. After some more sailing and relaxing on the top deck we dropped anchor and a boat arrived with some kayaks for us to venture into the bay under our own power. They were double person kayaks so we both jumped in and paddled around into bays and caves. Even though the weather wasn’t the best we loved the kayaking and the water was a decent temperature, there was even talk about going for a dip in the water at some point!

We boarded another junk boat that had docked with the first boat and the six of us headed off to Cat Ba Island for the evening. The sun poked through the clouds and it made the whole area just that little bit more magical. Our tour guide was chatting to us, supplying us with information on the area and answering any questions, he was very knowledgeable and helpful. Upon docking at the island we headed to our evenings accommodation via push bikes for a few km, maybe taking around 20 minutes to get there (our bags were taken onwards via motorbike). The village is very small and quiet with a new custom built area for the tourists to stay in basic but practical bungalows with en-suite bathroom, hot water and a double bed.

To save some money we purchased a little present from Hanoi in the form of a bottle of Rum priced at 90,000 Dong (£3). Justin and Jules had the same idea, so out came two litres of spirits which got the night off to a good start. Dinner was served and again the food was very good, they even catered well for the vegetarians and also wheat intolerance. We were informed in Hanoi that there would be AC heating in the room, but this was not the case, however more blankets were supplied and this kept us all fairly snug.

Breakfast was served at 8am which included some very good apple pancakes and omelettes. After some relaxation time and packing we all got together and headed off for a hike up the nearby karst peak (around 300m in height). Its quite a climb and you will need some good footwear, boots recommended, to manage the rocks and steep assent, apparently the record is around 35 minutes but we managed it in around 45/50 minutes. At the top there are some great views over the whole bay and down to the village below, however it started to rain so we headed down which was made more difficult by the slippery rocks underfoot.

We also ventured out to a nearby cave before heading back to the village for some lunch and then we jumped on the bikes to ride back to the dock to rendezvous with our evenings watery accommodation. The double rooms on the boat were very well presented, clean and comfortable, with hot water from the showers. The temptation to take a plunge in the water was just too much for some and after stripping down and braving the now chilly air, Justin, Jules, John and Dave all jumped in. It was chilly to say the least, but bearable for a few minutes, in the summer it must be lovely. The boat headed off and dinner was served including seafood and a plate of chips which all went down very well.

You can have a go at Squid fishing from the boats edge, however it was a quiet night in the ocean and nothing was caught, good job we weren’t fishing for our food, otherwise we would have been very hungry. After some card games and an offer for Dave to play some Texas Holdem poker with the Vietnamese boat staff, which we declined when we found out they were playing for money, I’m sure we would have got shafted, we headed to our cabin for a night at sea.

After a good sleep in our cabin, breakfast was served on deck and we were informed that due to bad weather we had to move to a safer bay which took us too far away from the Amazing Caves that we were due to visit. This was unfortunate but out of anyones hands, government orders apparently, so we set sail back to port. Upon arrival at the port we had lunch at 11am, so we were all feeling pretty full after two meals in the space of a few hours. The food wasn’t as good as on the boat but it was ok. Generally speaking the food on the trip was very good indeed, often at times we felt like each meal rolled into the next, you certainly wont go hungry if you book with Ocean Tours!

The journey back to Hanoi was uneventful and we arrived safely back at Ocean Tours at around 4.30pm. We had a sleeper bus booked for that evening so we were glad we had the time to get to the hostel pickup point and grab some food before our departure of Hanoi. Street food was a quickest option and we had some rice dishes. Helen’s vegetarian option was sticky rice and pickled cucumber, which was tasty but basic, Dave’s was a type of salami, a fried boiled egg, rice and sauce which was very tasty, almost like a mini full English breakfast.

At 6pm we were picked up from the Rendezvous hostel via mini bus and taken to the sleeper bus for the journey to Hoi An via Hue, a 13 hour journey to Hue and then 4 hours onwards to Hoi An.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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One Comment

  1. Posted 7 Feb ’11 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Oooh, loved lots of these pics!

    The kayaking looks like so much fun!

    Really liked the black and white shot of the wooden benches – Mies Van De Rohe would have composed a photograph like that, methinks!!! The blue and yellow shots are very cool and I adore the black and white of the blonde lady (Jules?) on the lounger. It looks like there could be a story to tell – something has just happened or may be about to happen!!!!! (Is it just me that thinks it might be saucy????)

    Wish I had legs like the spider! xx

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