Picture perfect location for some proper holiday relaxation.
After a hotel breakfast a cat picked us up to take us to Halong Bay, a twinkling blue sea spiked with rocky outcrops and greenery. It looks like an undiscovered land but if it seems familiar, then it might be because ‘Kong:Skull Island’ and the James bond film ‘Tommorow never Dies’ used it as a location.
On our way to the harbour we stopped at a cultured oyster farm as suggested by our guide. We didn’t spend long there as it was mostly geared up for buying pearls but we did have a look around and learn how the process works which was something new.
It’s not far from the harbour so there are a lot of tourists there, arriving at the water we checked in and boarded a little powerboat which took us out into the bay and to our home for the night
We travelled with Indochina Sails in a deluxe cabin, neither of us had stayed on a boat like this before so it was a bit of an adventure. The cabins were decked out with whirlpool baths, rain showers and felt more like little hotel rooms with a view!
The boat staff gave us a bit of an intro and a run down of what was happening when and then we were left to our own devices and sat on the sundeck watching the scenery go by. The weather was exceptional and it gave us our first proper opportunity to relax. Lunch was a 3 course set menu of Vietnamese dishes but with leanings towards a western pallate. It was fairly inoffensive, nothing really blew me away but there was equally nothing wrong with it.
Our activity for the afternoon was to visit the caves at Hang Sung Sot, this wasn’t on our original itinerary but I had read about them and they are often called the Suprise Caves so my interest had been peaked.
After climbing what seemed like a lot of stairs behind a stream of other tourists we approached the cave entrance. It was the middle of the day when we were there and apparently the site sees in the region of 70k visitors a day at the height of the season so it was quite busy for such a remote location, it’s not an accessible trip and I did get a bit worried about a few of the people attempting the stairs.
There are several viewing platforms that look put over the bay and make for some excellent photos, this is just what hurriedly took on my phone at the time but there are better ones yet to be processed.
It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not easy to photograph a cave with a phone!
The above picture is of the entrance way to the cave complex, with the exception of the pathway and some floor lighting for safety it remains in it’s natural stare despite the footfall.
At a brisk pace it takes about 30 mins to walk around but we wandered a little and stopped as our guide pointed out interesting features.
It was also a welcome relief to be shaded from the sun with a lower temperature!
Well worth a visit, even with a bit of a crowd we didn’t feel rushed in anyway and it’s not the kind of place you can go to without a guide.
Back on the boat and we had a little free time before going to watch a carving demo. This is the sort of thing that you wouldn’t go to normally but on a boat, there isn’t a huge amount to do!
The demo was reasonably quick but having both worked in kitchens we had seen some of the shapes before. Either way, it was fun thing to do at the time.
Dinner was buffet style and the bar service very good. The food was again Vietnamese in style but lacking the punch of flavours that we had experienced so far, weirdly I found myself wishing they had chopsticks instead of knives and forks.
After dinner we took up the offer of another activity and tried to catch some squid off the some of the boat. Having no idea what we were doing we were given bamboo rods and lures before we copied the motions of the crew who had caught two already. We spent quite a bit of time with a pole in one hand and a glass of wine in the other to no avail, just chatting with other passengers and enjoying being on the water. We saw a few fish and a jellyfish that decided to float on by but only 1 squid which became very interested in the lure only to then spray ink at it and leave promptly. We would have thrown it straight Back in if we had caught anything but it will instead be forever remembered as ‘the one that got away’
Wine finished we called it a night and planned for an early morning.