Day 20 - Hanoi to Halong Bay
Trip Start Jan 23, 2013
120Trip End Sep 09, 2013
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The bus arrived on cue and we boarded. There were already a fair few people on the bus but for some reason the seats at the front hadn't been taken, so we took those. The mini van was air conditioned and fairly comfortable.
We met Si, our tour organiser. He handed out bottles of water and advised the journey to Halong would take about 3.5 hrs, but that we would stop on the way for a break and a coffee. He said that if we wanted the bathroom before the scheduled stop, he would find us a 'happy place' to go
About 2 hrs into the journey the driver stopped the mini bus on a sort of dual carriageway, and got out. It transpired that we had a puncture, so everybody had to get out whilst Si and the driver tried to change the wheel. It was pretty scary standing on the side of the dual carriageway with traffic speeding past us, so we all tucked in to the crash barriers. Overlooking the fields, we noticed a very large group of people standing in a huddle. We all strained our necks to see what was going on; some people even used their camera's to zoom in. I think a couple of people jumped over the barrier to have a better look, but then somebody realised that it was a burial.
After about half an hour, once the wheel had cooled down enough for the wheel nuts to be undone and the new tyre fitted, we re-embarked and set off again. About 15 mins later we stopped for the loo and a coffee in a type of outlet store that sold all sorts of touristy type things. I just happened to pick up a silk blouse whilst browsing, and was swiftly frog marched over to a changing room, undressed and dressed in the blouse. It was nice, but the price was much too high. Terry tried to barter, but they would not accept our offer. Walking away, they were running after me waving cheaper alternatives, desperate for a sale, but fairly aggressive all the same
We arrived at Halong City at about 13:00hrs. The driver of the coach had made up time by driving like a complete maniac. A small boat took us over to our boat, the A Class Opera, which was anchored just outside of the harbour . We were helped with the jump from the small boat to the A Class Opera, by the crew, who then handed us a wet flannel and welcomed us aboard.
Our cabin, number 203, was smaller than expected, but we had a nice big bed and window to look out of and an en suite shower room. We also had some complimentary fruit bought into the room; Bananas, mini Oranges and a Mango. I had bought some milk with me so that I could have a normal cup of tea, but when I opened the mini fridge to put it in, some black beetle looking insect ran out of it and under the bed. As if that wasn't enough, I later opened the folder containing cabin information, and some insect started running out of that, but I quickly threw it at Terry and he threw it out of the window ( the insect not the folder).
After unpacking a few bits, we went up to the 2nd floor for lunch. We sat on a table with some French people who spoke excellent English, so we were able to converse with them
After lunch we were taken to a floating village where a lady in a bamboo rowing boat rowed us in and out of caves; around some of the many limestone Karst's and around the village. There are around 1, 500 people living in 5 different floating villages in Halong Bay. At least one of the villages has a school on it, where the children from the village will attend until they are 11. The village we floated around seemed dirty; there was a lot of debris in the water and other 'waste'. I certainly would NOT have taken a dip in this area.
Sadly the weather was not good and it was drizzling with rain, making visibility poor. Even so, the scenery around the Bay is breathtaking. Halong Bay is a UNESCO protected area and one of the 'Seven Wonders of Nature' so we were told.
When we returned to the A Class Opera, we had a little rest then went back to the 2nd floor, where we had a small party and were given a demonstration of how to make Spring Rolls. Some of us then made Spring Rolls, which we were told we would have for supper.
The Supper proved to be as challenging as the lunch with huge amounts of food being bought to the table. This time we sat with Vas and Jo, and had a really lovely evening. We had a few beers as a night cap and went to bed around 10 pm, intending (NOT) to get up at 6:00hrs the next morning for Tai Chi.
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