Hanoi and Halong Bay

Hanoi – Day 1

After leaving KL on the 3.30am bus to the LCCT terminal we landed in Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam right up north. Hanoi is a heaving city full of horn honking scooters, tall skinny buildings and millions of people. It’s so different from KL..it’s more like Thailand or India. Dusty, grimy, full of life and excitement. An interesting thing about Hanoi is the streets are all named after the products sold on them. So you will walk from a street that sells hardware to a street that sells all silver, to a street that sells cloth to a street that sells meat. All the streets look so similar though, so you find yourself doing circles without even knowing it.

We are staying at the Hanoi Guesthouse in the heart of the old quarter and they arrange a pick for us from the airport. Our room has a big balcony and the furniture looks like it was taken from the set of an old pre-war movie. The staff here are super friendly and helpful. We went to the Hoan Kien Lake where the 18th century Ngoc Son temple that is built on an island in the lake. It has a massive 2.1m embalmed tortoise. We didn’t have a guide so we weren’t entirely sure of what we were looking at, but temple had Chinese characters a soothing feel to it with lots of bonsais and burning incense.
Later on we went for a few beers. The bars here are just little plastic chairs on the side of the road and Bai Hoi beers (super tasty) are 30cents for a schooner! These 2 guys came and sat with us and shared their food and bought us drinks. One was a deaf mute and the other was his boss, who owned a flower exporting business. Our conversation was pretty broken, but they were really nice and friendly and we had a great time. The food we were eating looked like tofu with fish sauce and some herbs and something that tasted like chicken with a chilli sauce…hahaha maybe it’s best not to know!!

Halong Bay – Day 2

Woke up regreting the food we ate last night! At 8am a mini-bus came to take us to Halong Bay which is about a 3hr drive away including a stop at a very overpriced pottery place on the way. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has 1960 limestone islands. We chose to go on the Amber Gold Junk which was pretty mid range and a bit smaller and newer than many other boats. But there are soooo many to choose from, the bay is teeming with them! We were there with 8 other people (all couples) so it was a nice small group. After getting a little boat from the mainland out to the big boat we had lunch as the boat pulled out. Our guide was Xuan but he said we could call him Spring roll, he was really nice and very knowledgable. He said that local legend says the the islands were created by pearls dropped down by a dragon.

The food was really good and there was enough to feed an army, we barely made a dent in it. It was a bit rainy so we watched the islands (including Ga Choi Islet (fighting cock or kissing island)) from inside the dining room. Luckily the rain cleared and our first stop was Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprise) which is a series of caves that get bigger and bigger. They are massive and beautiful with all the stalactites and stalagmites. After this we went kyaking and checked out the float fishing villages. These people live out there for their whole lives…it must be tough. Later that evening we had a ‘sunset party’ which was a quarter glass of red and some pineapple on the back deck! hahahaha. The people were cool, there were a Canadian couple who had travelled everywhere, a couple from Singapore, brother/sister from Malaysia and the only other young people were English. As usual dinner was massive and we had a few quite bevvies on the deck and watched the fun boats with their lights and music go by!

Halong Bay/Hanoi – Day 3/4

The next morning we went to one of the few islands with beach. We hiked to the top for an awesome view then came back down from a quick dip. That was the end of our cruise and we headed back to the main land, for the trip back to Hanoi. Back in Hanoi our old room was not available so we were upgraded to the companies better hotel by the lake. It was very nice and massive. We spent the evening at the night markets and bought a few bits and pieces (including a new bag to carry them in!).

The next morning we had a flight booked to Da Nang so we spent the morning at the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum and complex. The complex is made up of buildings that Ho Chi Minh lived and worked in, a museum and the mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh’s body is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, with a military honor guard. The body lies in a glass case with dim lights and everyone walks by in single file and silence. The looks like he’s sleeping, not dead long ago! We spent our last few hours by the lake which is really nice because loads of newly weds go there for photos and so we went bride stalking.

6:30am – 8:45am AirAsia (AK 870) KL to Hanoi
306.00 MYR = 102.82 AUD
Hanoi Guesthouse, Superior double room, 10-13 of NovemberHalong Bay, Asia Cruise, Viet Tours 365, 11 November Price: 55 USD/ person.