Halong Bay

5 June 2012

We’ve just arrived back at the hotel after our overnight trip to Halong Bay.  In a couple of hours we’ll be off again, to catch the overnight train to Hoi An.

It’s looking like I’ve lucked out, and because I’m the 11th person in the group, and the only single person, I’m getting rooms to myself despite paying only for a shared room.  The quality of accommodation is also better than I expected.  The boat had individual rooms with real beds, a private loo, and a shower each.  I’m getting used to this.  J

On the downside, I’ve managed to sprain my ankle somehow and am trying my best to rest it as much as possible while limping from A to B.  So far I’ve been lucky as the last couple of days have involved more travel than activities.  I’m hoping it will get better in the next few days.

Halong Bay was beautiful and the weather calm and hot.  The bay was perfect for swimming in, as it was so warm you could stay in forever, and calm enough you could almost fall asleep floating on your back.  There were at least 10 other tourist boats in the little bay we moored in, but that was okay, they created a picturesque set of lights during the evening.

The bay is full of around 2,000 limestone islands.
Lights of nearby boats in the evening.

The drive to Halong Bay was on the bumpiest road I have ever been on!  I know you warned me, Sue, but I still didn't expect it to be that bad!  We were all trapped in a minivan for 4 hours each way, in seats that didn’t have enough leg room, so you kept knocking your knees at every bump.  I feel sorry for the tall guys in the group.  We stopped on the way out at a ceramics place and had a go painting a small piece of pottery.  The lady was very nice, and kept asking where we were from.  The reason became apparent when she brought out a handful of Euros and tried to ask the Scottish couple if they would exchange them for Dong for her.  The communication broke down when they tried to explain that Scotland uses the Pound, but I took them since I’m heading to Finland and can use them there.

We spent a merry evening on the boat last night indulging in cheap cocktails and what is apparently the most popular entertainment for Vietnamese people – karaoke.  I pity the poor people who came to the bay for some peace and quiet…
The dinner we were served on board was fantastic!  Many of the dishes were beautifully decorated - here's a couple of pictures.  The first is the flowers they put on the table (carrot, cucumber, chilli), and the second is a whole fish dish in a carrot 'net'.  

Food flowers.

Fish in a net.

Back in Hanoi we went on a short trip in a sort of bus thing with open sides.  It was another lesson in the new traffic rules, but gave us a good view of the old streets in the city.  Originally this quarter had streets named after the guilds whose shops were locate don them, but this has changed over the years, although the street names remain.


Afterwards, we went to see a performance at the water puppet theatre.  Water puppets are a traditional Vietnamese entertainment, developed in the murky water of the rice paddies.  This troupe have revived the practice in recent times and are performing internationally.

(I'll post a video as soon as the internet connection stops playing up...)


  1. Those islands in the bay are amazing! Cool shapes - very 'elsewhere' looking.


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