Our Vietnam tour ended with a two-day boat trip around Halong Bay, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site. Well, one day really, by the time we journeyed there and back from Hanoi.
The weather had been pretty good until now – hot in Ho Chi Minh City and pleasantly warm in Hue and Hoi An, but now it turned seriously chilly. With so much cheap North Face gear for sale we both wisely invested in an additional layer of clothing before the trip.
Our ship, Galaxy Premium, with only 22 passengers on board, was comfortable and more than adequate for our needs, and we were well looked after by the crew and our multi-tasking guide. He did everything from wait at tables to teaching Tai Chi, and from karaoke singing to demonstrating the art of making Hanoi spring rolls.
I was amazed to learn there are some 400 tourist boats cruising around Halong Bay these days. They all have permits and are strictly regulated as to which overnight anchorage to use and which passages to take. Apparently, some time ago an order went out for them all to be painted white, no knows exactly why, but there’s plenty of speculation….
The cruise was both totally relaxing (for a start we weren’t sailing ourselves!) and filled with on board activities and outings. Our meals were delicious.
After lunch we were taken out in kayaks to see the Dark and Light Tunnels of Cat Ba National Park. We also spotted monkeys frolicking on the rocks. The breathtaking karst limestone scenery reminded us of our days aboard Merlin V in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand. A couple of intrepid fellow passengers went swimming and later also squid fishing but we chose the warmth inside.
Horror of horrors, a karaoke machine was set up after dinner and we all joined in the merriment. Not too many brilliant voices on board but lots of fun.
I was one of only two people who got up for Tai Chi on top deck before breakfast – what a treat to do this gentle exercise in such spectacular surroundings. After breakfast we visited an extensive cave system (with some interesting formations!) before an early lunch followed by the return bus trip to Hanoi.
And so ended our official tour…Luckily we had booked a few extra nights to explore the city on our own.