Once Lizzy had recovered, we set out on a three-day tour of Halong Bay on a junk (a Vietnamese boat – hence the title of this entry). First stop was the “Amazing Cave”, which was pretty amazing 🙂 Views were stunning most of the time from the boat, from the cave entrance and from pretty much anywhere!
Later, we kayaked near one of the 2,000 islands that are dotted around Halong Bay (they’ve only got as far as naming 928 of them apparently!). The best bits were gliding underneath a rock archway into an almost-entirely-enclosed expanse of water – very impressive but no photo would do it justice – and watching the sun begin to set – hopefully this photo gives an idea:
After a quick swim (for me, but not Lizzy), it was time for dinner and the evening entertainment – KARAOKE! Generally, Asians take their karaoke VERY seriously and they don’t care at all how they sound. Our guides belted out lots of “tunes” with absolute sincerity & commitment and required us to follow suit. Lizzy & I ended up being volunteered to sing “Heal the world”, which we only knew the chorus to, but with a couple of drinks inside us, we did our best to pick it up as we went along! Some other westerners put in more committed performances than us with numbers such as “Ice ice baby” and “Back for good” 🙂
After a good night’s sleep on the boat and a simple breakfast, we headed to Cat Ba island and to the national park of the same name. After a strenuous and hot 1-hour ascent we reached the top of one of the highest points on the island with a panoramic view. Not satisfied with this, I climbed up the 20-metre rather rickety observation tower to get a better look. Fortunately it didn’t collapse under my weight and I got a few extra photos and feelings of vertigo for my effort.
Once we’d made our way back down and cooled off with an ice cream (which has some kind of seeds in it – rather weird) it was off to our various hotels for lunch. We’d opted for a nicer-than-standard hotel as part of the ongoing celebrations for the start of my 4th decade and were amazed at what the extra money bought us – a 4* resort with 3 pools, several bars, a private beach and stunning views of the sunrise! Also the resort was all but deserted which was rather eerie, but we certainly didn’t have to worry about crowds of karaoke-singing locals keeping us awake at night. (For this part of north Vietnam December is the low season, the opposite is true in the south).
We were disappointed the water slides weren’t open and that we had to negotiate not to have yet another complete seafood platter for our evening meal (there’s only so much of it we can take), but we had a lovely stay, albeit for only 1 night… and the sunrise in the morning was breath-taking:
The third day we sailed back to Halong City and caught the bus back to Hanoi… fortunately in enough time to get to the airport for our flight to Danang, from where we’d go to Hoi An.