To get from Hanoi to Halong Bay for an overnight cruise requires an early departure around 7am.
Mondays traffic was madness as usual with volumes of vehicles at times that equated to flood gates being opened all at once!
The roads are fit for the bravest, those with nerves of steel and those with a death wish!
A stop for ‘toilets’ on route .. brought us to a place that sells merchandise such as silk clothing and needle work images, amongst thousands of other products, where proceeds go to families affected by ‘agent orange’ during the war.
Huan our guide, told us the government says all tourist guides must stop at these ‘toilets’ as it’s a long way to Halong Bay.
Arrival at the docks was an adventure in itself..
Two lovely guides from the boat company both greeted us as our suitcases were labelled and taken away. One pointed to a door on the left, whilst at the same time the other pointed to a door on the right, both requesting we go with them. So I suggested I go with the good looking one and my wife with the other one!
When ready to board in true Vietnamese style you’re escorted along the pier edge for a walk passing many boats.
Eventually you’re guided to a small tender that holds about 20 people and asked to put on life jackets.
Truly worthy of a mention is the ability by the Vietnamese, to turn Halong Bay into a world tourism site offering any number of days to enjoy this Unesco 7th natural wonder of the world.
Trying to work out where you’ll end up and how our bags would follow is part of the fun
Eventually you board from the side of the vessel before walking along the pier.
After a boat safety talk (which included the use of our hammer and torch!) we had lunch.. very nice fish and vegetarian food.
Cruising from the port begins a bit like the madness in the roads of Hanoi with every boat in the port leaving at the same time, jockeying for position.
Ha our onboard guide proudly informs me that Ho Chi Min died in 1969…coincidentally and amazingly the islands here number some 1969 with several fishing villages amongst them.
Most of the vessels head for a fishing village to arrive in the afternoon.
At 3-45pm as advised, you board the tenders to take you over to a floating landing at the fishing village.
To visit the village the cruise guide informs us that they have to pay to visit the village and that bamboo rowing boats, operated by villagers would take us around the village… all very prescriptive.
To be honest it feels a little like a Disney ride pulling you around on a track. All the rowing boats follow in order… that said you’re taken around the edge of the village to see the way of life, fishing vessels and living quarters.
On return to the landing there are huge ‘Red Snapper’ fish in contained areas.
As we gather round for feeding time the fish thrash about in a frenzy to get fresh sardines for dinner… a bit like a scene from Alien!
Back to our vessel, Indochina Sails 4 .. (so definitely more than one!), we are told that a cooking class is organised by the chef for 6-30pm where we are shown how to make spring rolls.
Halong Bay is truly stunning, particularly when the sun light glances off the limestone protrusions from the sea.
I was relieved to have time to shave and shower.
Now for those of us that just can’t see to wet shave without a magnifying mirror, you’ll understand why I asked my wife to check if I had missed any hairs as the lighting was not great either.. I suggested the torch!
Adele took the torch from the door frame to check me out. As she did there was a power cut … thank G-d for the torch!
The heat in Vietnam is very close and humid, so after relaxing on deck with other passengers we went into the air conditioned dining area.
A delightful couple from Colne called Ian and Gill joined us for dinner. We talked about many topics all evening … so easy to chat with interesting people.. she was a school safety officer and he used to manage quality control for shoes made for Marks and Spencer… I have several pairs .. and quite happy with them!