Sunday, 25 December 2016

Ha Long Bay (2)

I woke up early, while it was still a little dark outside.

Wondering about how the scenery would be, I quietly took the camera and opened the door to the balcony. It was cold.

In semi darkness, I saw that we were still docking at the same spot last night, surrounded by very faint sound and sight of flowing water in the breeze.

A little while later, between 2 tiny islets not far off, some color started to show.

Though nothing spectacular, the color of twilight in between the dark shadows was soft and soothing to announce that the dawn is breaking.

I enjoyed the quiet and peaceful moment all by myself, standing at the balcony, far away from all bustle and hustle, in the cold weather, it felt so good...

Then I started to get ready for the day ahead.
Breakfast was simple and again we were joined by the young couple.

Breakfast wit great view outside the window.

After breakfast, we were once again being transferred to the small boat and navigated to Titop Island for the 360 degree multi million dollars view of  Ha Long Bay and the bay we docked, Bai Tu Long Bay.

The whole lot of us! From different continent!

This, come with a price to pay - to climb 340 steep stone steps.
I, of course, had to endure "certain" level of difficulties! (The guide asked me later when we came down whether I perform any form of exercise at home, and....ya....the zero.)

Titop Island and the gazebo on the top. It is a climb of 340 steps!
It was a tough climb, not until the one that we were going to have the next day!
When I finally reached the top, before I could even catch my breath, my breath was being taken the view!

This was certainly more impressive compare to the view yesterday at the Surprising Cave.

We were surrounded by the view of the mountains of islets in the background of the great bay and the little cruisers in the bay.

Too back that it was against the sunlight.

Equally stunning is the Bai Tu Long Bay on the other side.
The only setback was that the sun was already up and it was too sunny for photograph.
Then to walk down was no issue at all.

At another viewpoint on the way.

We spent about 15mins for those who wanted to dip into the sea and those who just wanted to sit and relax on the beach.
Panaromic view of the beach with the backdrop of different shapes of islets. 
And so the highlight was over and I felt contented as the view was what I had expected .
Back to the big boat, we were advised to shower and packed fast to avoid missing the view of narrow bays as we cruised the way back.
When we were done and were up on the sundeck, we stood and sat and relaxed and enjoyed the view of the close encounter with some of the enchanting islets on the moving vessel. And this partly was due to the gentle weather. Can't imagine doing this under the hot sun!

The limestone are now much nearer as we sailed in the narrow bay.

Other cruisers ..
It was a really great experience under the gentle weather.

Under the gentle weather and cool breeze, we were greeted by many faces of the different islets, and were waving our farewell for the short encounter. It was just like watching a gigantic moving slides show!

It takes some imagination to recognize the resemble of these islets.
Some are pointy.....
Look there, is that a turtle?
Nature is priceless! 

Hello there!! Such a great day for a cruise.
As we stood by the low railing of the deck, the 360 degree moving vision was so broad without any obstructions, and it felt really wonderful.
Truly enjoying...
I was comparing this with the cruise we did in Milford Sound in my mind. Milford Sound is grand and elegant and unreachable. Ha Long is charming and spellbind and close-up as we cruise in among the beauties of the sea!

Sooo relaxing....
I am really glad we made it a point to visit this natural wonder of the world! It is as if it has been calling for me for a long time!

Love the one on top right, is that a steamer? 
It is much more than what I had expected and certainly would want to do it again in future.
We had our lunch on-board after the guide again entertained us on the sundeck with some tricks.

 The guide has got the guests' attention.

Posing with the pole, for the last time!
The journey ended perfectly.
Till we meet again.....
It was then way back to the wharf and this time the coach was much more comfortable for the way back to Hanoi.

It was late in the afternoon when we were back to the hotel. We had dinner outside again and this time around looked seriously in the items in the shop and managed to buy a few things.
Nice and simple dinner near our hotel.

Night scene at Lake Ho Kiem.
Only in Vietnam.
On the 3rd day of our Hanoi trip, we were quite used to the streets and could walked at ease among the sea of motorcycles.
Having Vietnamese ice cream in the bustling street.
Rested early again for the day trip tomorrow, Trang An!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Halong Bay (1)


I did my home work well before we visited the place. Comparing prices and itineraries and read lots of reviews from Tripadvisor. In the end I opted for Vega Travel because I liked the itinerary more compare to many other bigger players! Also, very importantly, the price is only 110USD/pax for 2 days 1 night fullboard.

We woke up at 6am, got ready and had breakfast in the hotel. The guide appeared promptly at the lobby at about 7.30am.

Simple breakfast at the hotel.
We were directed to the mini bus with another couple from the same hotel. Then we drove to their office to settle for the balance payment and at the same time to pick up other guests.

Early morning scene of old quarter.

From the hotel to the mini bus to the office. The weather was a little cold in the morning.
Taken from the window while waiting. Love the sight of these bamboos.
14 of us, in the mini bus.
When everything was settled, it was already about 8.30am when we finally started the long drive to Ha Long Bay.

At about 12++, we arrived at the wharf. It was quite a sight to see many cruisers and junks and the place was flooded with westerners.

Very busy wharf.

Impressive junks lining on the wharf. According to the guide, it's the government's order to paint all the junks in white.

Flooded with tourist.
After waited for about 20 mins, we were being transferred from a small boat to the not very big Vega Cruise. It started to move shortly.
Transferring to our junk.
Our Vega Junks. The balcony on the left is our room.

A small brief was given and we were then directed to our cabins. When we entered the small room, we saw that the toilet is missing its door! The father immediately enquired with the captain.
It is very small but it's clean and comfortable enough.

The triple room is actually a double room plus a roller bed. The shower stall is directly opposite the doorless toilet. At the rear is the balcony.

The balcony looks quite romantic.
And the junk started to sail!
We changed into light clothes as the weather was getting hot and explored around while waiting for the lunch to be served.
At the bow. The water was extremely calm that we could hardly feel any movement at all..

Outside the living and dinning room.

Lunching with the moving view outside the window was really blissful.
After lunch, we rested in the room and enjoyed the view in our tiny balcony as we cruise further to the center of the bay.

Forever changing seascape.
At the sundeck. It was a sunny day.
At the pole, took one after another, different backdrop.
At 3pm, we changed into our swim suit to prepare for the first activity which was kayaking.

I received  the first class service from the guide by being paddled by him while my girl and the father paddled away.

The father and daughter team.
The guide directed the group to a hidden circular lagoon through a very narrow passage in the cave. It was wonderfully peaceful and serene and we saw monkeys on the cliff.

At about 4pm  we were directed back to the small boat and being brought to the largest cave called Surprising Cave about 15 mins away.

First, we had to climb some steep stone steps to reach the cave.

Certain stretch is quite steep.
The limestone cave is really huge and the stalactites and stalagmites are similar to those we had seen before but in a much larger scale.

Huge cave.
The passage in the cave. Overheard a tourist asked the guide is it 100% natural! And the answer was yes!
And the view of the bay from the top is stunningly beautiful!

Fantastic pinkish glow at the horizon.
Getting dark in seconds!

At about 6.30pm, we were back in the small boat again transferring back to the big boat.

The color of the sun setting and the afterglow was just so amazing!
Our camera and smartphone couldn't do justice to the actual color we witness. It was magical!

Fascinating and mesmerising! I truly enjoyed the ride back to the big boat.

We took turns to have our showers in the tiny shower stall.

At about 8pm, we were being called for a cooking demonstration which was Vietnamese spring rolls.

The living and dinning room.
Very normal ingredients in rice paper. The trick is to dip it into the incredible source!
This of course is not new to us and we had no problem to make our own at all.

We had also ate this in Vietnamese restaurant in our homeland before but somehow it was really tasty when it was rolled by our own hands !

After that, seafood dinner was served and it was really good!

Nice presentation of prawn cocktail and fried squid after oysters and many others.
After dinner, we were being entertainment by the tour guide of some tricks that we could try on our own.
 A short glass of normal white uncooked rice was lifted by a single chopstick The young Columbia girl is smart enough to understand the trick and one of the tour mates from Portugal managed to get it right.
We had wonderful moments chatting and exchanging infos with the young couple from Columbia.

After which we walked to the bow and saw the fishing rods for squid fishing and tried for a short while. The temperature was quite low and we felt cold.

The water under the illumination of the light from the boat appeared to be eerily green!

We retreated to our room since there wasn't much to do and it was just darkness outside.