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24th to 26th September - Halong Bay and Hanoi

Wow, it feels like such a long time since i've last said hello to you oh faithful blog. So much has happened. It's been an unbelievable few days. Capsizing boats, typhoons, floods, emergency evacuations.... etc etc...

We left Hanoi for Halong Bay on 24th September. It was 8am and we were feeling tired... The trip took 3 and a half hours to get there and the mini bus was cramped and sweaty.

The sky was turning a decidedly ugly shade of grey and that was to become a theme for most of our visit to this world heritage site. We got to the bay and were immediately herded (another theme of our visit) onto a rather shakey boat.

From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


Setting off into the bay, it was quick to see why the place was a heritage site... What an amazing place... Just so beautiful and i'd recommend anyone to go to see it...

From Halong Bay


There we were greeted with lunch and the news that they'd oversubscribed the boat so we had to stay in the hotel on the first night and the boat the second night of our visit. It turned out to be a good situation for us.

After lunch, we went to view a couple of completely touristy caves.

From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


So touristic that they even had mood lighting in them... A bit of a shame really because they'd actually be quite amazing otherwise. Still, it's all about the dollar....

From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


Our guide told us this story about the Dragon King and how he sent flames into the water to help destroy the Chinese Navy Ships.... A little far fetched for me especially when he started mentioning that different rocks were his head, nose etc just because of the shape but I did ask if the humourously phallic shaped rock that I saw in the distance was the Dragon King's penis but I think something was lost in translation on that one. Still the English guys on the boat thought it was funny...

From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


That evening we got to shore and headed to our hotel. The hotel was excellent and it had a free pool table and cheap beer... much to Rory and my delight. That and the torrential rain and wind was the story of our evening.

From Halong Bay


The next day we were taken to the national park to climb the mountain.... It was raining and I decide against going up... When we got to the park though there was a bit of a weird feeling going around. There were a number of different groups at the park and some had slept on the boats the night before, which we should have done also...

We quickly established that there had been a tragic accident on one of the boats the night before. It turned out that one of the boats had capsized and there had been some casualties.

From Halong Bay


It was a little confusing as the non-believers were telling people that they always say these things and that the boat that had capsized had done so four years ago. After a few more conversations it was starting to feel like something had actually happened. It was confirmed when Tal spoke to a girl who had been on one of the boats that was first at the scene to help people out of the water.

A silence went over the group and further news started coming through. It was a french girl who died, it was an English couple or it was a Vietnamese crew member. So many different versions of the story were diluting it so we weren't sure what was the truth. We found out that actually two English tourists, a french tourist and two Vietnamese crew members died on the boat that night. It blackened the day for us and it gave us a real decision to make as to whether we wanted to sleep on the boat that night.

We were reassured it would be safe but when we got back to the hotel, the heavens opened again and I have to admit to feeling a little bit worried about it all. Finally, we decided to go onto the boat.

We got to the harbour and I bought a couple of beers. The woman sold them to me for 30,000 dong... then another woman came up and offered the two beers to me for 25,000 dong... So I said to the first woman I bought them from that I wanted 5,000 dong back... She laughed and thought I was joking... More fool her.... I never joke about 20 pence.... So, I decided for once, that the tourist needed to win this particular financial duel... So, I stood by her and anyone who came near her to buy something I said "Don't buy from this one, the woman over there's cheaper..."

I did this about 5 times before she jumped on her moped and headed down to the other end of the dock... so I followed her... stood by her and did exactly the same...

"No... you stop Mr..." came her cries as another sale was lost...

"5,000 dong and I'll go away," I replied...

"No Mr...."

So I carried on.... and I won... In the end she sold me the next beer for 5,000 dong cheaper... Result...

We got on the boat and were sharing it with some really great people.

From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


We got ourselves ready for dinner but before that I got some amazing news. It finished off a tragic day with a happy ending for me... I found out that Mark and Keira had made me an Uncle again. Little Alfie had arrived and I couldn't stop smiling... It was amazing news...

We went for a night time ocean swim after dinner and I celebrated my news by jumping off the top deck of the three storey boat into the water.... twice... Now, i've never been that brave when it comes to this sort of thing but it felt great. I was so happy I did it... It must have been about 15 to 20 metres in height... Very scary but exhilirating...

That evening was devouted to a few games of Uno... A card game that proved a great purchase I made from India.

The next morning we went Kayaking.. Rory and I tried to break the water speed record for a non-mechanical boat and felt really energised afterwards.... The day turned out to be beautiful and I met Dennis and Nadia from Germany on the boat. It turned out they were travelling to Hue that evening like Tal and I.

From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


From Halong Bay


Lunch followed and then we headed back to Hanoi.

From Hue and Hoi An


We rushed around trying to get ourselves ready for our sleeper bus to Hue that evening and bumped into Dennis and Nadia queueing for the bus.

I went over to say hello and accidentally (I don't know how) hooked my back onto the back of a very nervous Chinese girls jeans and noticed I was pulling them down as I was walking away... Ooops.....

The bus was ok for a 12 hour journey with only one weird incident.... The chinese girl who i'd impacted with my bag was in a sleeper seat next to a Vietnamese guy... it turned out early on into the journey that the guy started touching the girl on the arm and she ended up complaining to the driver... I felt a little guilty that i'd somehow made her night worse before she'd even got on the bus and then this happened. Very odd.

Next stop Hue...

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