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Ha Long Bay

VIETNAM | Thursday, 18 September 2008 | Views [548]

Halong Bay, a majestic and mysterious place situated in Northern Vietnam, over 3000 little islands rising from the clear blue water of the gulf of Tonkin, a must see for us and a truly amazing experience.

Getting a tour sorted was pretty complicated for this place as it seemed that every hotel, restaurant, travel agent, shop and person on the street sold 'fabulous Ha Long Bay tours', after much reading and research we decided to take the tour organised through the hotel as the hotel had been pretty good so far and we didn't think they would associate themselves with anything bad. 

On Thursday morning we were picked up by 'Wangh' and his mini bus for a 3 hour journey to Halong Bay.  En Route Wangh told us a bit about Vietnam and about his family and some other little interesting facts - his big smile never faltering! We arrived at Halong Bay at around 12 and took a little boat onto our 'Junk' as they are called, the Junk was called the Halong Phoenix Cruiser and was a beautiful large wooden boat.  On our first day we sat on the deck for a while (which was pretty spectacular with deck chairs, a sheltered seating area and plants)and had some lovely seafood lunch, then went kayaking and visited the 'Cave of Surprises', the surprise being the large rock of a certain shape illuminated in pink lighting....

We soon became friendly with a lovely couple from Stuttgard whom we spent most our meals with - it was good to speak to other people and hear their experiences and tales and ofcourse advice on places we had yet to go to.  Its amazing how many people we have met and spoken to since we have gotten to Vietnam, everyone wants to tell their story, and ofcourse we want to tell ours!

On our first evening on the boat, Wang announced that there was a birthday onboard and that there would be a small birthday party after dinner...soon the lights were dimmed, the birthday cake came out, and Wang sang happy birthday on the Karaoke machine, very funny! A Karaoke night followed, after one or two songs we swiftly went up to the deck with Toby and Janine to watch the last of the light and all the beautiful surrounding boats with their lights twinkling on the water...

It was amazing to be sitting, in the dark on this boat, anchored inbetween 3000 islands, in the middle of Vietnam. Halong translates into 'where the dragon descends into the sea', and legend has it that the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon that lived in the mountains, one day it charged towards the coast and its great flailing tail gauged out Valleys and Crevasses - when it finally dived into the sea,the area filled with water leaving only the pinnacles visible, on that night that legend could have been very real with the mysterious lights and sounds coming from behind each island...

The following morning we got a smaller boat to 'Cat Cat' Island, we stopped at Monkey Island to see the Monkeys and wade in the clear warm water for a while, it was bliss :) Stevie is determined to see a swimming Monkey somewhere along the line! Cat Cat Island was ok, the village itself was a little outdated touristy but our hotel was nice and our guide organised a tour of the island on a mini bus and a visit to an amazing hospital cave.  The hospital cave was a cave which had been transformed into a hospital during the war for the top Vietnamese Generals.  As we stepped into the tiny door we didn't expect much but the place was huge! Somehow within this cave they had built 3 floors with wards, a singing room, a swimming pool, a cinema, an operating room, excercising areas and pretty much everything else which important army people would need when they were recovering from their injuries! We were guided round by one of the locals who's father had been in the hospital during the war.

After Cat Cat island we returned to the boat the next day and the boat drove us back to Hanoi... quite an experience! 

Tags: cat cat island, ha long bay, ha long phoenix cruiser, monkey island

 

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