What to do instead? Well thanks to the help of our local Vietnamese colleagues we had a plan. Instead we would visit the tremendous landscapes of Ha Long Bay, located on the coast of Vietnam. The weekend trip began with a short 3 hour drive from Hanoi to Ha Long. Once you get outside of Hanoi, green can be seen for miles on end which is nice after being exposed to the Vietnamese traffic for the last week. The farms, dominated by rice and banana plants, were all being attended by local workers even on the weekend. Not a single John Deere tractor in sight. Sprinkled in between the long stretches of farms are small towns, which seem to be replicas of each other, offering petrol and Bai Hoi (Fresh Beer).
You know when you are getting close to the Ha Long because the landscape suddenly opens up with large lakes and steep rock faces. Upon entering the city you can immediately notice the tourist atmosphere as locales are waving in the tourist buses and vans.
Finally our van pulls up to the Tourist Wharf where you wait to get on your boat. Chaos ensues as people from the USA, France, Italy, Spain, and China try to speak to the Vietnamese conductor to figure out when we will be allowed to board the boat. After a short wait we are allowed to board the small boat which transfers us to our cruise ship.
After taking a seat in the boat, its clear Vietnamese travel by boat is very similar to car, everyone goes where they want, when they want. This immediately results in a couple boats running into each other as they jossle for position in the busy harbor.
After weaving our way through the initial traffic you begin to get a view of the cruise ships. These cruise ships look nothing like their American cousins, as many are made of wood which give them a very oriental feel. After a short trip we arrive at our ship, Halong Emotion. Upon entering the beautiful ship we are greated by the wait staff, and receive our room which will be our home for the short 2 day, 1 night trip.
Shortly after entering the ship departs, and we move to the upper deck and begin to see the breathtaking views offered by Ha Long Bay. The bay is composed of over 1000 islands which seemingly jut out of the water forming large, steep cliffs.
The short excursion ends with a stop in the harbor with many other tourist boats. We then travel to the Suprise Cave, which is a nice area which some impressive rock formations. The only complaint was the how many people were travelling through the area at once. This lead to a slow trek through the cave.
Once walking through the cave, we were then shipped to a local beach which included swimming and kayaking. We took a refreshing dip in the water, and after a couple hours ended up back at the ship and got ready for dinner.
The food on the ship was a combination of traditional Vietnamese food and seafood. All the meals included fresh seafood in some form with the favorites being fresh prawn, squid, and fish.
After a brief sleep, we woke up for our final day onboard which included a trip to a local fishing village. This mini-excursion was the highlight of the trip, as we really got a chance to experience “another world”. The floating village, composed of approximately 300 people, lives almost entirely off of the spoils of the fisherman which fish twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. During this mini-excursion a local woman took us on a bamboo boat and we were given a tour of the area. This tour was an amazing look into the lives of these simplistic people.
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