Tue 26 Oct 2010 - Mon 1 Nov 2010 25 °C
The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi, is a perfect mix of French architecture and Vietnamese energy! Walking the streets at any time other than early morning is a feast for the senses. Motorbikes zip by in large groups, street stalls sell bun, com and nem, and narrow buildings of various sizes and colours house shops or cafes for every desire. Chinese-inspired temples stand with colonial-era mansions, Catholic cathedrals and Communist-style government buildings. Brides in every colour of gown pose by the Hoan Kiem Lake for their nuptial photos while locals and tourists walk by. Full of character and friendly people, we really enjoyed Hanoi, but we were looking for a place where we could relax and unwind.
Only a few hours away from the noise and congestion of Hanoi, Halong Bay was a perfect escape for a few days. While we were certainly not on our own at the jam-packed pier, once we were on our boat of 12 tourists, the real fun began.
The bay itself is striking – peaks emerge from the water in varying sizes, creating an out-of-this-world environment. We sailed through the bay to the largest cave in the area, which we explored on foot. After, kayaks were waiting for us and provided the best way to explore the area at our own pace. We watched the local fishermen return from a day of fishing to their floating homes. Once back on our boat, we sailed for a bit to anchor for the night. This was the perfect time to do some swimming! The guys in our group jumped from the highest deck while the girls frolicked in the water below. Once the sun went down a group of us gathered on the deck to play cards, drink alcohol bought from the floating minimart (a lady on a smaller boat) and even sing a bit.
The next day we sailed to Cat Ba Island, which is a national park. We took bicycles along the long path to Hospital Cave, the location of a US Military Hospital during the war in – you guessed it – a cave. Next stop was Monkey Island, where we were able to spend time on the beach sunbathing, playing beach volleyball and swimming. We trekked for a bit to the other side of the Island where our experienced guide fed the monkeys as we watched from a distance. We listened to music on the patio until the sun went down, and then retired to our private bungalows.
The last day was mainly a travel day by boat, then bus, back to Hanoi. We were snapped back into reality when we drove by a fatal motorbike/truck accident and watched the insane traffic that followed. We were told that the gorgeous weather we had at Halong Bay was unusual for this season, so we are so thankful that the sun shone for us on our perfect getaway.