After out quiet day in rainy Hanoi, we went out to try and find a good version of the Lonely Planet, China guide book. We did find some cheap copies, which fall apart within 5 minutes but no real versions, so as it was still raining, we headed off to the cinema to watch 'Johnny English-Reborn', which turned out to be pretty good.
After the cinema we went home and packed for our weekend away in Halong Bay. Unfortunately the weather isn’t as good as the last time I went. This time we are between two storms – Tropical Storm Nesat has just passed and is causing the rain over Hanoi at the moment, whilst Nalgae is coming into the area over the next few days. Mother nature tries to mess me about again! Hopefully, we will just get a bit of rain and still be able to enjoy a good trip away.
After a beer and a good sleep we were picked up our minibus on Saturday morning and spent the usual 20 minutes or so driving around Hanoi picking up other passengers before heading out of the city towards Halong Bay. We arrived at lunch time and joined our boat with the rest of the people off our bus and another group who travelled here in a different bus to us.
Once on the boat, after re-fuelling at a little generator powered diesel station, we motored out in to the bay and had lunch. It was a good lunch and we met and chatted to a family from Sydney as we ate, telling them all about Vietnam and they told me what I could expect when I go to Hong Kong and China. In the afternoon, we visited the the amazing/surprising cave and it still looked as good as it did last time I was here, even more so as the rain has caused a few small trickles of water and made it even more atmospheric.
After the cave we had the opportunity to get a kayak and paddle around the bay for a while – it was still raining, but after some umming and aahing, we took the plunge and enjoyed an hour or so kayaking around the rocks through a tunnel under one and generally exploring the bay from our own perspective. We were lucky not to get too wet either as the rain had stopped for a while.
|Buffy makes it to Halong Bay|
|Kayaking the bay|
|Night fishing in the rain|
In the evening we had a lovely dinner and a few beers while it poured down outside. After dinner Buffy grabbed the boats guitar and taught me to play the bass line to 'Smoke on the water' – which proved I am a natural at guitar – honest! Then as a few people got soaked while fishing for squid, we watched a bit of TV and went to bed.
In the morning, the weather was even worse than yesterday – while not particularly windy, the rain was pelting down. We were on our second day out of 3 on the boat and were supposed to be kayaking and relaxing on a beach for the day, but it really wasn’t beach or kayaking weather, so we decided to stay on the boat and relax for the day , whilst cruising through the bay. We passed the place where Top Gear went on their motor/bike/boats and checked it was the right place by watching the programme as we passed. Then we went straight past the floating village that we were supposed to stop at – the crew said it was because it was too busy, but if I had just been on a one day trip, I would have been really disappointed
Once we got back to the harbour we had our lunch and were told that we wouldn’t be able to eat lunch again later when the new passengers got on, but that we would be able to do the amazing cave again. The sun came out for half an hour and we took advantage, getting a little spot of sunbathing in on the top deck. I also accidentally broke one of the boats night-time warning lights...Honest, it just came off in my hand!!
We were a little take aback at the 2nd lunch, when the new passengers got on board and we weren’t even given seats to sit at the lunch table with the new people. It was a bit shite as we would have liked to get to know them. Then after they had had lunch and we reached the cave again, we were told that because we went yesterday, we wouldn’t be allowed to go back again! This was really shite as we watched and waved as all the new people went away without having the chance to even say hello. We were basically held hostage on the boat for an hour or so, before they returned. Luckily, as they got back a couple of people said hello and we got chatting to a nice Israeli couple who recommended a bar called 'Jellyfish bar', for when I get to China.
|Good job we got pictures the 1st time we visited the cave|
We were allowed to kayak later on and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I discovered as I got changed that the 20 minutes or so sunbathing had given me my first bit of sunburn in ages! Its not too bad though and its nice to have a little colour. The sun shone a little but more as we kayaked too and Buffy got a few good pictures before we headed back to the boat and got ready for dinner, which was really nice as we got to chat to the couple from Israel again.
Later on the night was a little spoiled though as we became the 'Party Boat', as 5 or 6 people decided to sing crap Karaoke very loud upstairs. I dread to think what the other boats thought of us, but me and Buffy escaped to our cabin to get some sleep.
The last day on the boat was uneventful, apart from the windy weather which caused a little bit of rocking to and fro. Breakfast and lunch were nice and after docking back in Halong City, we rode the bus for the 3 hour journey back to Hanoi. At our Hotel we were greeted by an ace receptionist, with the biggest happy face I have seen in ages and he was a really nice polite bloke, a nice change from a couple of the staff on the boat. It was nice to be back here and after dinner in the Irish bar around the corner we went home and watched TV.
Our last day in Hanoi and we went to the Army History museum, which tells a lot about Vietnam s past and in particular the American War. Its quite one sided as the Americans are called the aggressors and enemy of the state and horrid enemy – when they describe how the war was won.. It was a good museum and when we finally found the B52 in the lake a short walk afterwards, we knew we had had a good day. It was even better as the school next to the lake had a load of kids shouting hello and smiling at us through the school gates.
The final afternoon was spent packing and getting ready to leave Hanoi tomorrow. Buffy finally heads home to Canada and I fly south to Nha Trang for a few days relaxation, but before that we have a visit tonight to the Water Puppet theatre.
|More of Halong Bay|
The water puppets were great. Unlike a lot of the traditional shows you see in this part of the world, it was actually funny and it was meant to be. There were about 10 different scenes, from horse racing and farm work to coconut picking, where a puppet throws coconuts from a tree into the water! It was a really good hour or so and a great evening – with dinner to follow at the city view restaurant, it was a great night out. When we got back to the hotel, I got a picture taken with 'Chien', the really good bloke on reception, who works hard but always smiles and loves his job – he has asked me to email the photo to him which I will do. For now though, its off to bed. We are up at 5am, then a taxi to the airport and Buffy flies home at 8.30am, leaving me all alone!
|Used to 'Kill someone TO DEATH'....|
|At B52 lake|
|Local Kwikie Mart|
|More water puppets|
|No, I dont know either|
|Me and Chien in Hanoi Style Hotel|
Its now the next morning – I didn’t get much sleep as I have a bit of a sore throat, but we managed to get here to the airport in plenty of time this morning. Buffy checked in for her flight to Canada, then we sat and had a bit of breakfast – which was crap!! We asked for Hamburger and fried potatoes – doesn’t sound too hard, but the kind lady said – 'Potatoes are these' – and pointed at a packed of Pringle’s!! Then she came back and aaid 'No Hamburger, you want else?? Same same??', Then basically told us we can have anything as long as its a bacon baguette, which turned out to be a warmed baguette with cheap ham and tomato on it...we added ketchup, for taste and the taste we got was....Vomit. Not the best start to the day, but I will admit it was edible....like paper or cardboard are also edible. After breakfast Buffy went through to her departure, leaving me all alone on the other side of the world. Its been a great trip with her and hard to believe we have known each other for 8 months now, since meeting on a bus in New Zealand in February, 7 countries ago. I’m sure I will see her again, hopefully for a visit to Canada sometime next year, but for now she has gone and my travels continue. I fly in about 3 hours or so back to the seaside resort of Nha Trang, for a little rest for a few days before finishing off Vietnam in Dalat and then Saigon.
Just one of the water puppets scenes...theres lots more on my youtube page