Vietnam Series: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – a magnificent World Heritage Site

Last night I stayed at the Saigon Ha Long Hotel in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.  It’s now morning and I wake to a most beautiful sunny day.  I send the following text message to Alex to update him about the trip…

“My news: Got motorbikes yesterday and managed to have accident with car. Few bruises and will be able to laugh about it one day. Managed to ride 100km but have given it away as a bad joke and on bus and train now. Going on Junk next two days. Scenery gorgeous.”

We are up pretty early and it takes a good part of our morning with my brother, his girlfriend, Dan and I trying to find ourselves the best overnight Junk deal (as in type of boat, not quality).  Eventually we arrange a night for the four of us on a quality bit of Junk cruising the World Heritage listed Ha Long Bay.  The scenery is picture perfect and we leave in an hour.

We have to take a tender (an open sided style boat) to our chosen Junk.  We are all seated in the tender ready to go and suddenly we are asked to hand over our passports.  “You give back?” we ask nicely.   I am surprised when we are told that the passports will be retained until our return.  Bugger… this always concerns me to leave my passport with anybody but we think (hope) we have gone with a reputable Junk and we don’t seem to have a choice based on the guy’s expression who I don’t intend to mess with.  Bye bye passport.

We miss our passports say my brother, his girfriend and Dan

We miss our passports say my brother, his girfriend and Dan

There are so many other Junk boats (not personal opinion) in the harbour and they all look fabulous and they all look… well… pretty much the same actually.  It’s like a “Where’s Wally” for Junk boats out here. 

I know one of these must be our Junk boat

I know one of these must be our Junk boat

Our tender deposits us to our chosen Junk boat about mid morning.  It is a lovely multi levelled Junk. 

Junk boat which I think aren't junk at all

Junk boat which I think aren’t junk at all

We board and are shown to our rooms which includes an ensuite bathroom.  The Junk also has a roof deck which will be perfect for a lovely Vietnamese night on the calm waters of Ha Long Bay.

Our Junk heads off… we are cruising the magnificent Ha Long Bay threading our way through some of the thousands of limestone karsts (the rocks sticking out of the water) dotted throughout the bay. 

Limestone Karst

Limestone Karst

 

It is quite amazing. 

This is awesome

This is awesome

Our overnight cruise includes an excursion to a limestone cave today where we get off the Junk and are taken on a guided walking tour through the cave.  Afterwards we are transported to a pontoon (which is literally sitting in the middle of nowhere) from where we all pair up to jump in a kyak to paddle the bay at our leisure (well so long as we are back by a given time anyway).

They are all 2 person kyaks and I am in a Kyak with Dan.  While the scenery is beautiful I am unsure about the exercise component but I am in the back seat so Dan can’t see me slacking off anyway.  “What’s that Dan?  Yes Dan… of course I’m paddling”.

From the pontoon we are returned to our Junk to relax before dinner.  Some passengers take the chance to jump off the Junk (doing fancy half turn rotation twist pikes) into the water which does look pretty cool (the water, not the Olympic high diving) but still not tempting enough for me.  Dinner is a multi coursed affair and is excellent fun.

After dinner everybody is free to do their own thing.  For my brother’s girlfriend this means throwing up.  Something has not agreed with her and we don’ think it is the quality of the food as everybody else is fine so I am feeling really bad for her.  Meanwhile, some of the passengers are gathering on the top deck for a drink.

Tomorrow we return to land and to hopefully be reunited with our passports.  I will leave the others tomorrow, as they will continue the trip on their motorbikes, while I am back to public transport… should be interesting.  Today is 19 September.[showmyads]

For previous Vietnam post see Bye Bye Honda Motorbike…hello Ha Long Bay
For next Vietnam post see From Ha Long Bay to Hanoi and overnight to Hue on the Reunification Express