We woke up and straight away realised we’d set the alarm too late so in a fantic rush we packed up paid and walked to the travel agents to wait for our bus to Halong. Once we got to the shop we realised that we had left our passports at reception so I had to sprint back to the hotel to get them. I got back to the travel agent with enough time to spare only to realise we’d left the Lonely Planet under a pillow in the room and so this time Gen went running back to get it. Luckily the bus was a bit late though and we set off with all our belongings… we think!
On the bus heading to Halong the tour guide walked up to me on the coach whilst on the phone and said “Mr Edwarrrr, I have someone wanting to speak to you!” I spoke to the person on the other end of the phone for a couple of minutes and then told Gen the news. We’d only gone and landed ourselves another upgrade. We’d paid for a 2 day 1 night cruise of Halong Bay aboard a 30 passenger modern junk ship and we were being upgraded to a luxury 10 passenger traditional junk ship for 2 days of luxury sailing around Halong Bay in the Bay of Tonkin. We seem to be very very lucky…
Arriving at the pier there seemed to be a bit of confusion as to which boat we were getting on but it quickly got sorted out and we caught the tender out to our Junk Ship the Valentine. As we got off the boat we were handed cold towels as one of the crew played us a tune on the drum. We were taken up into the dining room and given a welcome drink as we were told about what we would be seeing in the next two days. We were then shown to our cabins. Our room was fantastic. We had a massive bed and it faced the windows so you could lay in bed and see Halong Bay through the window… wonderful. Out bathroom was something else, we had a huge shower with one of those massive shower heads and a separate whirlpool bath in front of another window which looked out into the Bay. This was going to be a nice trip.
Firstly we set sail out toward the bay as we were treated to a 4 course lunch of all different kinds of seafood and rice dishes, all of which were very nice and then shortly after that we arrived at our first stop which was where we would be getting off to do some kayaking around the Bat Cave and a few other different caves. After a short while we were back on board and relaxing in the whirlpool bath and getting ready for yet another huge dinner all of which was very nice. We spent our evening relaxing on the sun deck of the boat having a great conversation about travelling with a couple of men who were from America whilst having a few beers.
The next day we woke up to a lovely sunrise through the bedroom window. Getting up early and heading to the sun deck, Gen and I did some Thai Chi with an expert who was on our boat to only teach us that morning. After 45 minutes of relaxing Thai Chi we arrived at our next stop, Suprise Cave. This cave was half way up one of the huge limestone karsts and was huge. Inside there were all different types of stalegtite and stalegmite formations which made for an interesting walk around.
Sadly after leaving Suprise Cave it was time to head home. We had breakfast and then spent the rest of the journey on deck watching the beautiful Halong Bay dissappear into the distance. Arriving back at the pier we both said what an amazing trip we had had and we’re now really excited about the rest of the holiday.
Having got the bus back to Hanoi we grabbed some dinner and then headed down to the train station which interestingly had been completely destroyed in the war and so had most of the street, but you wouldn’t have known it. Trying to find out what platform our train left from was a bit hard work but eventually after a broken Vietnamese/English conversation we got the idea and found our train. We were pleased to see that our sleeper cabin was alot nicer than Indian Sleeper Class and that for a start it was clean, spacious and actually fairly comfortable. In our cabin there were 4 beds, the two which weren’t occupied by us were occupied by two young Vietnamese men. One of which was learning English and who’s lifetime ambition it was to visit Holland as he said he loved flowers. He was a really nice guy and spoke very good English for the most part, although we struggled at times to understand eachother.. Gen managed to lay down and read her book as I was left chatting to him for hours. He kept saying to me “please if you want to sleep just say so. I just like talking in English with you” I kind of felt bad telling him I couldn’t be bothered and so carried on talking with him until nearing midnight. We had a really interesting conversation about Communism, Language, Travel, Food and our differences in cultures. Although I was tired and wanted to just relax, its conversations like that that you look back on and remember when you get home so in actual fact I was really glad to have met him.
Around 11:30 he decided he was going to get some sleep as he had to work the following day and so I finally settled down in my bed and got to read a few pages of my magazine before falling to sleep…..