Dec 26 – Halong Bay

Wow! Oh Wow! There aren’t the words to do it justice. Halong Bay is filled with large granite mountains, coming out of the water like a fallen dragon emerging from the depths. Ha, means descending, Long, meaning Dragon – a very apt description.

We arrived mid-afternoon after an early breakfast in Hanoi at the Blue Dragon Foundation, a shelter for street kids. We met some lovely people who work there and live there. From there, we went by bus to Halong Bay, stopping mid-way at a ceramic factory. It would be so easy to buy so many souvenirs here, but we have to limit ourselves.

We boarded our junk and motored to Halong Bay. At first, it was hazy and we thought we wouldn’t get a good look at the monoliths. But as we approached, we could see so many other boats, the mountains and the cave openings. We had a tour of a very large cave after a gourmet lunch on the boat. We will be sleeping here tonight in our very cozy cabin. After the visit to the caves, some of the other passengers went kayaking to see the caves up close. Leon and I decided to stay dry and just enjoy the late afternoon, the scenery and the other boats on the bay.

Cocktails and dinner followed – the most incredibly decorated plates were served. Good conversation flowed as we are touring with 10 other people, all of them from Australia, 2 of the other women being teachers.

It’s now 9pm, we have a very busy schedule tomorrow and I am snuggled up in my cabin, getting ready to call it a day. I am glad we’ve escaped Boxing Day sales and the post-Christmas let down and bloat.

December 27 – We returned to Hanoi after a great sleep on the boat and a gourmet breakfast. The food never stops coming, Lord! The day went quickly as we stopped for a coffee/tea after freshening up at the hotel. From there we visited the Temple of Knowledge, the earliest university in Vietnam. We bought a few fruit and some bread for the overnight train ride to Hué and had an early dinner of shredded pork and rice before running off to the train station. We shared a cabin with 2 other passengers from our group – Helen and Aiofe. Each cabin has 4 bunks and a table. Helen taught us a game she had learned on other tours and we ended up playing for over 3 hours, drinking a few beers and munching on some nuts and other goodies. The evening went quickly and we were off to sleep after using the WC (bring your own toilet paper) and brushing our teeth at the sinks in the hallway at the end of the train car. It was a noisy, bumpy sleep, so none of us woke up very rested. Fourteen hours and 750 km later, we were in Hué.

The view from up high at Halong Bay

December 28 – Hué was once the Imperial capital, so we visited the Citadelle built in the 1800s and the shell of what was the Purple City (the city of the Emperor). It was mostly destroyed by the war in the 1960s during the Tet Offensive. Unesco is trying to restore it but it will take a lot of time. After that, we went to a local Buddhist Temple and Pagoda via Dragon boat on the Perfume River (it used to smell very nice many years ago, but has since encountered modern industry). Tonight’s plan is to have a dinner where we dress up as the Emperor and his court. Sounds like fun…

our cabin
supply boat coming to our boat in Halong Bay
Helen and me inside the boat
fish under a net made of carrot - dinner on the boat
French sailors used the caves in Halong to hide - equipage du jacques 1901
Halong Bay
Halong Bay
Junk in Halong Bay
at the port Halong Bay