Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ha Long Bay. 14-15th

We booked a 2 day/1 night cruise on a Vietnamese junk through Ha Long
Bay through a tour group in Ha Noi two days in advance as there was a
back log from poor weather stopping scheduled tours.

Leaving at 8am from their tour office we made a 3 hour bus ride to Ha
Long Bay with one one stop along way for a toilet stop and some
massively inflated prices on souvineers and refreshments. The building
was huge with 2 stories of china, jewellry, tapestry and art.

There was one room that had about 20 or so tables with young kids
creating the 100's of tapestries lineing the walls, suspiciously
called "Humanitarian Centre". (read: child labour)

Arriving at the harbour had a similar atmosphere to theme park
somehow. The were buses everywhere and a good 20-30 junks in the
harbour of varying sizes and colours. It was a relief to see ours was
exactly as described in the brochure and the photos they showed us.

After a short delay waiting for the captain we were on our way and the
buslte of the harbour was behind us, leaving nothing but spectacular
scenery of the bay. The water in Ha Long Bay is absolutely tranquil.
We cruised for about an hour and a half taking photos from the sundeck
on top before stopping for a seafood lunch. Katie took the safer
option of no seafood but in hind sight it wasn't that much safer as we
both have acute cases of the squirts. My lunch started with a whole
crab being presented on a plate. Having never had seafood like this
before I followed the lead of a Finnish girl on our table who showed
me how. Pulling the lid of his head off I was told I could eat
everything but the lungs. Very tasty but very fidly too. There were
was so much food and all of it was pretty good except the fish, which
I don't think was for lack of trying. The fish itself was just muddy
tasting. Katie had pretty standard asian fare of chicken and beef with
the exception being chips like you get back home in a fish and chip
shop. We were sharing a table with 4 Fin's, 2 of which worked at
Nokia. Who woulda thunk hey? They we very friendly and we had really
good conversation about the differences in our languages, culture and
countries among other things, later that night.

After lunch we moved on a bit further to the site for kayaking to be
greeted by some old ladies on a boat from the nearby floating village,
fully stocked with drinks and snacks. Kyaking was awesome. We had
absolutely stunning weather and for the kayaking was no different. We
were taken through some caves by our guide Anh, a very friendly guy
with a huge charming smile and teeth like a broken picket fence in our
double kayaks. No photos I'm sorry. We wisely left it behind afraid it
was going to get wet if we did. We were right fortunately as it would
gave been a shame if we were wrong as it was very beautiful.

After the kayaking we just lazed about on the sun deck till the sunset
and it was time for dinner. The sunset did not disappoint. It was
superb. I have some good photos to come. i.e. Not from my iPhone. =P

More seafood for dinner again, and lots of it. The best course was a
very tasty crab cake made in the crabs head. More standard Asian fare
for Katie which was very good too and plenty of it. We had dragon
fruit for desert which none if I'd on our table had had before. I
really liked it. The flesh was kin of like a a white kiwi fruit and
tasted like a less sour variety of kiwi too. Very refreshing.

The next morning after breakfast we were off to the amazing caves.
With a name like that I couldn't help but be a little skeptical.
Heheh. Fortunately they were pretty spectacular they were absolutely
enormous. One of the Fins who had been to what claims to be the
largest caves in the world in the czech republic thought this one was
larger. There we area in the cave where the highest point in the
ceiling would have been a good 10-15 metres high. It reminded me of
the Sidney Meyer music bowl they way the roof was concaved and the
huge space inside but it was easily much larger in space. One of these
days wears going to upload some pics. =P

From the caves those moving onto the island resort took a different
boat to the whole island while the rest of us went back to the harbour
for lunch and the return trip. An awesome 2 days.

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