Wednesday, 28 July 2010

HALONG BAY - VIETNAM - part 1

I am back and I missed everyone :)  My trip to Hanoi and Halong Bay, Vietnam was very interesting and with tons of pictures taken, I'd like to share on Halong Bay first.  On our second day in Hanoi, we took a bumpy 5.5 hours ride to Halong Bay. Driving anywhere in Vietnam is a nightmare.  There are no highways here, only two-way lanes, so you will find buses blowing their horns from far to warn everyone to stay away when they overtake. On the streets, you hear nothing but the sounds of horns every 10 seconds.  I was thinking there were no laws in Hanoi as everyone can drive as they like.  At every intersection, you find people, cars, taxis, buses, bicycles, tricycles and vans criss-crossing and honking at everyone else all at the same time.  There were hardly any traffic lights and basically, anything goes as long you don't kill anyone.  Definitely, one of the scariest road traffic in the world. 

With all the bad driving, all of us were just glad that we made it to Halong alive! When we arrived Halong, we all looked forward to board the boat and then more drama unfold. We were informed that the whole trip was canceled.  Their Port Authority gave instructions to cancel all cruises as they were expecting a typhoon on that day. The boat operator offered lunch for a fee on the boat and everyone took the offer. It was that or head home to Hanoi...another gruelling 5.5 hours back.  Here was the scenery from Hanoi to Halong, we saw hundreds of miles of paddy field.


 

At Halong, an ominous storm seen here and no one wanted to sail out. At that time though we were so dissapointed, we consoled ourselves that better be a canceled trip than lying on the seabed haha :)



So we took a speedboat to have lunch here, the Bhaya. At Halong, you can get an overnight stay at any one of the cruises. Prices ranged from USD50 per person. The Bhaya was considered on the top of it's range, charging USD175 per person for a one night stay with all meals included. Not exactly cheap, but with a smaller group, you really get first class treatment all the way.



Halfway through lunch with many unhappy guests and sour faces, the captain had an announcement. I knew it was good because he was grinning all the way --- which meant, the boat was sailing and somehow, the typhoon was not happening but we still have an overhead storm coming.  I couldn't care much of the storm as long as I didn't have to travel back to Hanoi was fine.  Here was our room, pretty compact but very comfortable and as good as a 5 star hotel.  All rooms came with a private 'mini' balcony and you could sit outside.




Cruising out to Halong and trust me, the real Halong looked so much better than my photos. When you have an dark cloud overhead and rain, never the best time to take any pictures as it looked  like gloomy dark blobs of mountain everywhere.



The storm passed, the sky did lighten up a bit but still we had showers all the time.  I never like the sun in Malaysia, only because we had too much sun all year long even on monsoon season.Here was when I wished we had sun at Halong.  Towards evening, Bhaya berthed at one of the most beautiful spots in Halong for an overnight stay. Seen in collage, many other boats were there too. We were surrounded by lots of small mountains and I joked with my friends that hopefully we had some sort of shield if ever there was a typhoon..

We had a good meal at dinner...and for entertainment, it was the movie Indochine starring Catherine Deneuve in French with English subtitles, or squid fishing.  We decided on none and retired early. Here was our mango starter..a favourite in all Vietnamese cuisine.


We had a Tai Chi and Yoga session at 6.00 and I was up by 5.00am as it was bright outside. Took a snap of this sunrise outside my room.


We went to the upper deck to enjoy the view and here's the Vietnamese flag flying and you see them everywhere...a reminder that I am in a Socialist country.



Guest enjoying and learning Tai Chi from the master -- he was so serious :) 






Halfway through Tai Chi, I went over to the other edge of the boat to enjoy the scenery. It was too beautiful for words. You have to go and experience it yourself. Here seen a Vietnamese guest doing a head stand.


Here's Viv and me. Viv, on the left, has been a good friend and also my VIP customer for the longest time ever.


We had some crazy weather throughout our trip. One moment, dark and gloomy, and then the sky brighten up but still no sign of any sun.


 Due to the rain, the boat operator had to cancel a trip to a local fishing village. Another highlight of the trip was to to the 'secret cave', seen below. I am no big fan of cave or any climbing and wanted to wait for everyone else. However, I was told there there is only one entrance and a different exit, so I had to do all the climbing into the cave but I was glad I did as it was very beautiful too. Will blog about it later when I finish the second part of Halong.

Some interesting facts about Halong.  The total area is 1,553 km with 1,960 limestone islets which took 500 million years to form.  It has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. I think the only reason why there are so many tourists to Hanoi is because of Halong Bay, otherwise....I would skip Hanoi.  That being said, Hanoi is a vibrant city which truly never sleeps. Horns are heard all the time and it is also the Government administration city of Vietnam.  There are too many pictures to share and will do separate posts later.  While back to KL, it's another busy week for me both at work and home, especially with Danial down with the dreaded chicken-pox! Thankfully, he had been vaccinated so his pox was very mild and pretty easy.  I will try to visit everyone and am off to Jakarta this Friday for another short trip. 


Cheers :)