Hanoi Part I and Halong Bay

Halong Bay

Recently our bus journeys have been a big feature of our blogs so I’ll keep this one as brief as I can. A woman who yells at you and tells you what positions you can and can’t sit in, a driver who sporadically turns the lights on all through the night, a screaming child, a man chatting loudly on his mobile and eating our baguettes over mini trays after being told off for making crumbs! As for comfort, there are many things that JK and I have learnt along the way but unfortunately we have not quite mastered the art of contortion as hard as we try.

Arriving in Hanoi in the pouring rain we jumped into a taxi to go to our hotel. The meter clearly read 10,000 dong but no we had to pay 50,000 which later fell to 30,000. Apparently you have to pay extra for bad weather. Suffice to say we weren’t impressed and after a lot of “but meter 10,000” we paid the actual price and jumped out.

Our hotel wasn’t exactly as advertised and we got put in the damp room with no windows, broken fan, broken tv and with half of the plug sockets not working. After many trips up and down to reception we were told we could move the next day to a nicer room.

Halong Bay
Halong Bay

Feeling shattered from the long bus ride we spent the first day pottering around the streets. Well pottering probably isn’t quite the right word to describe Hanoi roads. With 5 million motos and no pavements, walking is more like a dangerous obstacle course, dodging the oncoming traffic on the extremely narrow roads. We’d take Indian roads any day! Escaping the busy hustle and bustle for a while we sought out our favourite Vietnamese coffee chain for a delicious slice of cheesecake!

On our second day we visited the Temple of Literature and had our first experience of Vietnamese street food. You sit down in what can only be described as a small child’s plastic chair and get given a bowl of food. It looked like some kind of meat soup….can’t say it tasted quite as good as that though. Although we have absolutely no idea what we ate it seemed to be some concoction of intestine, heart and any other part of this unknown animal they could throw in . Certainly an experience!

That night, as promised, we changed room for a much brighter, bigger room with windows and functioning electricals! Super! Only this room came with an added extra in the form of giant cockroaches that we later discovered! Quick as they may be, they are no match for us!

Escaping the cockroaches we had an early start to arrive at Halong Bay in time for lunch on our boat. We were given an exciting selection of sea food including prawns (with their heads and tails!), clams, squid and an unknown fish, all of which KC ate!

Our first stop was the beautiful Sung Sot cave where we got to see the magnificent stalactites and stalagmites and amazing rock formations. Outside we kayaked around part of the bay before heading back to the boat. Halong Bay is absolutely incredible and ever so atmospheric. Sailing through it with the sun setting was an experience never to be forgotten.

After docking up we had the chance to jump off the boat and swim before dinner. You suddenly seem a lot higher up when you’re falling and still waiting to hit the water! We also had our first taste of Hanoi vodka. Unfortunately this didn’t induce anybody to take part in the karaoke and it was left to us to provide the music in the form of our Nepali Bollywood CD accompanied with KC’s singing!

The next day we were dropped off on Cat Ba Island and taken to the National Park for a spot of trekking – news to us! Wearing sandals we were already reluctant to go trekking in the jungle and even more so after the guide (who wasn’t going to bother coming with us!) mentioned the ‘S’ word. “Oh they won’t be out at this time , they’ll be hiding in the caves” he said. Half a kilometre down the path and JK stopped suddenly. Looking down I say why – there laid a lovely blacky/brown snake (I would hazard at a viper in my expert capacity!). Backing away slowly a local woman started waving us to keep following the path. When we pointed at the snake she suddenly jumped back in fright the grabbed a stick and started whacking it. Not before it went for her that is!

If they thought we were going any deeper into the jungle after that then they were seriously mistaken. We chose to sit on the bus whilst the rain poured down instead!

After a slight confusion with our hotel we wandered around the pretty little fishing village before dinner. Being on a tour we had a rather structured “you eat here, you eat this, you eat at this time” programme. One of our worst nightmares really but it is fair to say that we have now experienced a plethora of local seafood!

Stay tuned for Back to Hanoi Part II!!

ps. the photos seem to be spread over 2 pages just so you know 🙂