Tuesday, June 21, 2016

MENU goes East - From Hanoi to Ha Long Bay

When you go to Vietnam, people tell you of all sorts of places you must see. We will come back one day to see the rest of the country. The one place we think you should never miss is Ha Long Bay. We were given the advice not to go with the small and cheaper operators but to go with the big, fairly expensive companies. It was the best possible advice. This trip was a dream come true. We absolutely loved every moment of it and thoroughly recommend that you add it to your bucket list
It is a three and a half hour trip to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi. It is not that far, the roads are very busy and congested and one drives slowly through many towns, rather like our N2 highway through Somerset West. So it was an early start as our luxury bus came to collect us at 8am. We took overnight bags and left our suitcases at the hotel, to which we would return after three days away
The outskirts of Hanoi
This is the typical Vietnamese house, it may have many storeys, but all the houses seem to be the same width
Only the older houses are bigger. And people have built small businesses in their gardens
Halfway there, we stopped at a tourist centre which employs disabled craftsmen who make local art and crafts. Many of the disabled people are victims of the Vietnam war
Alabaster statues and carvings
made on the site, using ordinary power tools
some showing immense skill and artistry
A laughing Buddha for your garden temple
Clothing and jewellery
Our luxury bus was very comfortable
We stopped again later for a drink of fresh coconut juice. It was amazing how much liquid is in each coconut. They are very refreshing
We arrived at the harbour and met our urbane and well spoken tour guide Smiley Huang
Several different tours were leaving and there were tenders to take everyone and their luggage to the boats
Some were on one night stays, our voyage was two nights, three days
We passed some of the other boats
And there is ours, the magnificent Dragon Legend 1 which is run by Indo Junk Tours
Boarding the tender and putting on life jackets
Passing a smaller boat. We even saw a boat which they called the honeymoon boat - just one couple
Labels, in case we boarded the wrong boat! Immediately after boarding, we had a meeting with the crew and were given safety instructions
Wow, we were not expecting this. Our luxury cabin
Finest percale linen
and a large bathroom on suite

And we begin our slow cruise through the wonderful pinnacle islands of tropical plant clad limestone
You can see how the water level has dropped over the centuries
Up on deck for lunch. We knew then we were in for an incredible three days. First course: Spicy and sour fresh shrimp & tomato soup
Garden Salad with lime dressing
Prawns, so sweet in a Lemongrass and ginger sauce
Deep fried Ha Long crab meat 'kebabs' skewered on sugar cane sticks
Stewed chicken with black beans and (no) mushrooms
Steamed green seasonal vegetables - mostly morning glory we were told. This was served with steamed sea bass in soya sauce and steamed rice. Dessert was a platter of fresh fruit
Getting to know each other over lunch. There were 27 passengers, the boat has 24 double cabins, some with an extra bed for children
Mountains in the mist with a fishing boat
Caves and what we assume is a navigation marker
It is so relaxing slowly sailing past these lovely islands
Time for an outing after a tour of the ship. Kayaking for the energetic
Naps for those, like us, who enjoyed the large lunch.
But first, we opted for a gentle cruise round the immediate environs round the anchored ship

to watch the intrepid kayakers departing
to take in a few views of the ship, 
and the beautiful bay
to watch some of the fishermen
at work in small boats
some were a bit bigger
Then back to the ship
for a view of the bay
from the upper deck
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016

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