Friday, 4 December 2009

The Long Road to Ha Long

This morning we arrived in Ha Long Bay, and have a room with the most amazing view. We had a couple of hours to chill before heading out on a boat into the bay to get up close and personal with some of the limestone rock formations.

We spent yesterday in morning in Hue, and went on a brilliant scooter tour of Hue and its surroundings, led by a legend of guide, Mr.Cook - it tanked it down with rain for the first part of the ride which was an experience, and Mr. Cook lent Sara a Poncho because he was a pro! The tour encompassed the tomb of the Emperor, local handicrafts, a large Buddhist pagoda and monastery, an elephant and tiger Colosseum, and a phenomenal vegetarian lunch at a nunnery followed by some time with the orphans who live there. We saw incense and conical hats made, learnt about Buddha's seven steps to enlightenment, and rounded off in a way that touched all of us. The nunnery hosted many children, from two weeks old all the way up. They were adorable, and obviously happy with their lives there. We learnt that some of them were orphans, while others where there becuase their parents simply couldn't provide a life for them. The motorbike tour brings tourists to the nunnery and supports the local community in a positive way, so was a perfect way to spend the morning, and got us both thinking about volunteer work somewhere.

From Hue, we left on the train to Hanoi at 3pm, due to arrive at 4.15am. The train was comfortable, and there was even complimentary tea and biscuits...the biscuits were actually make them yourself cheesy breaded hotdogs...most odd. We got off the train, bleary eyed and made our way to the bus, waiting half an hour as Kris had unfortunately misplaced his ticket! Our dear leader! It was then a 3 hour bus ride to Halong bay, where we arrived, planned a nap but rather watched the boats go by from our amazing room with a view!

At midday, we set off aboard a junk of sorts to go out to the rock formations and have lunch, which was a bit of a seafood banquet, only ruined by the spotting of mouse droppings around the seating area just as we were finishing...

Some of the group wanted to see the Top Gear bar from the Vietnam special, so a stop was arranged for us to hop on a small boat and whizz past it for an extra 40,000 Dong each. We ended up whizzing in a circle on a suspect boat, going through one of the rock formations and then coming back to the junk, with no sign of Clarkson's footsteps. As a whole, we thought this wasn't on, so held the smaller boat hostage while we got half our money back. In the end it was entertainment, but everyone was a bit stressed out by it!

From there, we chugged round some more rock formations which seemed to get bigger and bigger, and then stopped at one to look round some caves. The stalagmites and stalactites were amazing, and it was all lit up in different colours. A Japanese party off older tourists went round giggling at rude shaped rocks, which was ridiculous! As we we're on our way back to the hotel, the sun finally peeked out over the top of one of the rock stacks and we sunbathed our way back to the mainland!

1 comment:

  1. Am finding your reflections and pics very inspiring (and entertaining). Has energised me into doing some very productive and interesting work over the last few days(so Thank You!).. must be some of that zen consciousness you are surrounded by seeping through the ether!

    You seem to have gelled into a happy band of travellers.Looked like you all had a great time at the girls' birthday party. Very snazzy jacket Louis and gorgeous dress Sara!

    Interesting your thoughts about the nunnery and doing volunteer work - or maybe you could bring them (and yourselves) even more good fortune by marketing their wonderful clothes to the world when you get back ... "the Lou-Sa Clothing Company" has a Vietnamese ring to it?! ... x