Ha Long Bay

 The taxi arrived just after 8am to take us to Ocean Tours’ office. There we were bundled into various minibuses based on our destinations and we headed off on the 4-hour journey eastwards to the port.

We had one stopoff on the way, to see a souvenir shop, grab a drink and use the facilities. The coach was nice and the drive fairly sedate as long as you didn’t pay any attention to the driving and the view out of the windscreen. Just stare at the passing scenery and feel (falsely) safe.

Our boat was quite impressive and the harbour was full of similar vessels. Large, 3-storey and carved wood decor. The top deck had several sun loungers, restaurant beneath and rooms under that. My room was spacious, en suite and had two very large and comfy double beds in it. Lunch was served shortly after we barged our way out of the dock in some kind of bizarre seagoing dodgems game. The food was superb and, in deference to people like me who don’t “do” seafood, there was plenty of choice in the generous servings.

 The first stop of the day was after a couple of hours at a cave, high up from the waterline. This is a huge natural structure, full of stalactites and stalagmites and wonderfully lit. Our guide, Loi, rattled off a few stories and legends from Vietnamese history relating to some of the rocks and pointed out a few with “recogniseable” shapes. A cannon (which looked more phallic than that, frankly), a turtle and a frog on a lion’s back were a few of these.

Walking back to the boat, I got marginally ripped off by a woman in a small fishing boat selling cookies from the quayside. I was hungry, and 20,000 Dong is still only 80p all the same.

 We next visited Dao Ti Top, named by Ho Chi Minh on one of his visits. This is a small island with a nice beach and fantastic view from the summit. The one problem with summits is that they have to be climbed to enjoy the view. By the time you get there, keeping a camera straight while heaving in deep breathes isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Still, it was well worth the effort and I got a few glorious shots of the surrounding scenery and the beach below.

 The sun was beginning to drop by the time we set anchor in the bay, and we had some time to kill before dinner. Obviously, the only sensible thing to do was to jump into the water from the top deck. Roughly 25 feet off a slippy, angled surface into fairly cool water – lovely! Andy couldn’t catch me diving the first time, so I had another go – I think you can see one of my arms in the bottom of the shot. Trying to catch a person falling at 9.8m/s/s on a digital camera in fading light is a bit of a challenge.

Dinner was served, and again it was top notch. I started chatting to a few people and decided to extend my trip to the 3-day one.

The late evening was… interesting. It was rapidly becoming apparent that one of Sarah’s friends was a spoilt, attention-seeking pain in the backside with absolutely no concept of manners, politeness or other people’s feelings. She got worse after a bottle of vodka (no surprise) and Andy and her ended up having a blazing row that she just wouldn’t let go. Finally, we gave up on her and headed for bed. Only for her to wake half the boat at 1:30am by jumping into the water and screaming.

I guess there’s always one. Posted by Picasa

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