Being picked up by the bus at 6.30am after 5 hours of broken sleep was not appreciated, but it was much better than trying to sleep on the sleeper train. We met our very tired looking group at the station and travelled the 4 hour journey from the capital Hanoi to Ha Long Bay for our Junk Boat Trip.
By the time we had dropped our luggage at the hotel and made our way to the docks it was coming up to lunchtime, so we were immediately fed. We got a small feast of crab, prawns, a whole fish, noodles, vegetables, rice and fries, all fairly tasty and satisfying.
Cruising through Ha Long Bay, which essentially means ‘where dragon descends into the sea’, you can see the individual islands, around 2000 of them, rise out of the sea like mini rock mountains. We weren’t blessed with nice weather that day and it was quite misty, which gave the bay an eerie feeling.
After a short time we stopped at a make-shift platform so that people could go kayaking if they so wished. Many of the group set off to get kitted out and headed out to sea to a cave, which I was later told was not that impressive! Meanwhile me and a few others stayed on the boat to admire the view.
Once everyone had returned in one piece we continued our journey to another cave, this time one on dry land. It was very artificial in that they had put different coloured lights throughout and sprinkler systems provided pools of water that would otherwise not occur naturally. The tour guide continued to show us rock formations in the shape of objects, none of which we could really see, but we humoured him until we got bored!
Returning once again to the boat, we made our way back to shore and to the hotel. We were off to a local restaurant for dinner, which originally I was very excited about until we arrived, where me and a few others promptly left and made our way back to the Italian next to the hotel. The restaurant did not look clean, and one look at the kitchen told me that I may regret eating there.
I will be the first to admit that I hate it when people go abroad and order western food, but on this occasion I made allowances and stuck to a risotto! People did report back to say it was ok and nobody got sick the following day either.
There wasn’t much choice in the way of nighttime entertainment, but something tells me this is going to change in the next few years, with massive building works going on around the area and a somewhat disturbing erection of a roller coaster right outside our hotel, means this UNESCO World Heritage site may soon loose it’s natural allure and beauty to a Blackpool style theme park.