General, Travel

Ha Long Bay

There are a few places in life that you want to go and see, you look forward to visiting, and when you’re there, no picture has ever done it justice. Ha Long Bay is one of these.

When we rolled off the sleeper train at 5am this morning, very few people were vaguely awake. As soon as we transferred onto the bus for the 4hr journey to Ha Long Bay, everyone crashed back asleep. We’ve travelled some interesting routes (Hoi An to Hue as seen on Top Gear, Siem Reap to Phnon Penh) but this was not one, even with the impressive destination. When we arrived at the hotel, Jade and I shot into breakfast. The view was terrific, you could see out into the bay, the limestone isles and karsts just appearing out of nowhere.

When we collected our room, we quickly became aware that some fo the rooms overlooked the bay with a balcony, and some overlooked the rear car park and road. When we got our key, we quickly realised, as has been the theme of our room views, that we were on the road facing side. We decided to go and ask if we could switch rooms, as this is probably the best view you could get for the entire trip. Our luck was finally in, we actually have a view over the bay. Sunrise tomorrow from our hotel room should be stunning. Hopefully.

We got ready and marvelled at our view, before realising that in the space of a few hours we had lost, or broke, the two pairs of sunglasses that we had with us. Very annoying considering the impending boat trip – luckily people had some we could lend. We set off towards the harbour in our bus, and discovered we would have a private junk boat to ourselves: bonus, and that lunch was included: double bonus.

When we arrived at the boat, I think we were all surprised how posh it seemed to be. The tables were all beautifully set, and the food that followed was not the barbecued seafood that we were all expecting to get. There were many courses of varying seafood and accompaniments. I have no idea what I actually are, but it tasted lovely. By the time we had finished, we had comfortably left the mainland and were quickly approaching the isles.

I took over 130 photos on my camera today in the short time we were on the boat. My geography senses we tingling, the place was just stunning. I couldn’t get my head around the formation of the place (I like the local legend – dragons protected the area from a Chinese invasion by breathing fire and shooting out pearls and gems that landed in the water and caused boats to crash, so until I know better, I am just going to go with this as a method.) The photos look great, but they really don’t do the place justice. I can now see why travel writers tip it as a must see. Another thing off my bucket list.

We stopped for a while at an isle where it was explained that many of the isles and karsts contain caves and grottos, and that Thien Cung grotto was one fo the most impressive and was open to the public, The rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites inside were incredible, and the local tourist board, or UNESCO, or whoever had set it up had lit the place beautifully with an array of coloured lights. Standing inside there reignited my love for Geography and reminded me why I chose it as my University subject.

When we got back on board, we were told we were heading back to the mainland, I wish we had more than 4 hrs to look round and really appreciate what we saw. No one is that bothered about Hanoi and would rather stay here, I wish that was possible. It has definitely been right up there with places I have been lucky enough to have visited.

This evening, after the room key debacle that left Jade locked out for a while and then meant she showered in the dark – sorry again – we got ready for dinner and headed out to a local place. For the first time, I thought the local food was rubbish. There is a lot of coriander and lemon-grass in Vietnam which I don’t like, but this was tasteless and unpleasant. I would rather had a taste that I disliked that no taste at all. Oh well, we got some dried mango on the way home which was a triumph.

Now as strictly has been watched, we can crash early in preparation for the sunrise over the bay tomorrow. Let’s hope it isn’t disappointing.

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