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Vietnam - Day 2 - Hanoi to Halong Bay

By SoloSurfer, 11/01/2014 14:09:54
Before leaving Canada for our Vietnam adventure, we had decided that Halong Bay was on our bucket list of things-to-do. We had read that it is super touristy and there are a million junkboats to choose from but we decided we would take the plunge, spend a bit of extra cash and make it happen. It was fantastic.
Before leaving Canada for our Vietnam adventure, we had decided that Halong Bay was on our bucket list of things-to-do. We had read that it is super touristy and there are a million junkboats to choose from but we decided we would take the plunge, spend a bit of extra cash and make it happen. It was fantastic. A must do. I figure, the 'touristy' places in the world are touristy for a good reason, there is normally something amazing to see and experience and therefore people go to see it. The fact that there are loads of people doing the same thing, well, who cares.



Through our Hanoi Symphony Hotel booking I was able to secure dates for a 'Galaxy Premium' 3 day, 2 night tour of the Halong Bay area. Our boat had 12 state rooms and we managed to secure one of the nicest rooms on the middle deck of the boat towards the back (Our bathroom was just above the 'G' in the picture above, and our room were the two windows to the left of that).



We were picked up from our hotel in Hanoi at 8am and we had a 4.5 hr bus ride into Halong City before taking a smaller tender to our boat. We were welcomed on the boat in typical foreigner fashion with a Vietnamese 'welcome drink' which consisted of a fresh passionfruit juice. We were then told to get settled on the boat before lunch. We were given our state rooms and had a few minutes to check out the top deck of the boat before lunch was served.



Looking back at Vietnam's highest bridge just out of Halong City.





Looking at the edge of Halong City, the limestone karsts are visible immediately even before leaving the main harbour.





Another junk boat loaded with tourists and heading to the main areas of Halong Bay



Our trusty captain. He was steering with his feet, but when I asked him if I could take a photo, he didn't want me to capture his normal navigating position and switched to his hands - I was going for the picture with the feet.









Right after our amazing first lunch on the boat, we were off on a smaller boat to tour Surprise Cave. Our group consisted of 22 folks from around the globe, from Canada to France, Singapore to Germany, it was a great mix of both young and old.





Surprise Cave









It is difficult to show the vast size and scope of this cave system through pictures. Some of the caverns were massive and the loop through this particular cave system was fine tuned for tour groups to enter and exit with time for our tour guides to explain different aspects of the cave system. It was well set up for hordes of tourists with boardwalks to follow, stairs to enter and exit and loads of garbage cans to aid in keeping it tidy.





Our Galaxy Cruise tour-guide named Tan Nguyen - a vibrant and young Vietnamese man who had a great sense of humour and was excellent with everyone. It was a pleasure to have him tour us around for 3 days.



At the end of the cave tour, we were shipped off for some evening relaxing on a beautiful beach right at sunset. Our guide Tan suggested that we could hike up a rough path to the 'top' of the island to get some photos of the area. We headed up the first set of stairs you could see which was the access for the trail to the top, the views were amazing.







We headed back to the beach for a sunset beer and then it was back to the boat for a huge dinner.





Some squid fishing after dinner.



This woman was selling anything and everything from her little boat. She would paddle around and hound all of the tourists on the junks to buy stuff from her. (She had her daughter wrapped up sleeping behind her in this photo). She would pass up a net, you would put your money in the net, and then she would pass up you your item of choice. There were many women selling the same things out of the same boats. All of our food was included in the price of the boat tour, but not any of our drinks. The boats wanted you to buy drinks 'on the boat', but these local sellers were 'stirring the pot' by selling alcohol, beers and everything else at a reduced rate than you could find on the boat. At times, the tour guides and ship hands were telling these women to take off. Everyone tries to make a buck off the tourists.
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