It was an early start on Monday morning as we waited for a part of our travels we had been really looking forward to; the trip to Ha Long Bay. The minibus picked us up from the hostel and we were soon on our way to the boat with 13 others and our guide, Liem.
After a four hour drive and being on the brink of wetting myself, we arrived at the docks and were ushered onto a small boat that took us literally 10m down the dock to our cruise boat. No sooner had we arrived than we were sitting and eating the first of four fantastic meals of the trip. The food was in abundance and really was top quality, with delicious seafood and great alternative options to the pork dishes for Ramsey. We checked into our room, which was small but just what we needed for an overnight stay considering we hardly had any stuff with us. Besides, the continuously fantastic views out of the window made up for anything lacking on the boat!
We cruised around the bay for about an hour, giving us plenty of time to get to know the other people on the trip with us, who were absolutely lovely and made our time together so enjoyable and fun. Around us we were spoilt with magnificent scenery as the limestone rock formations jutted up out of the sea everywhere we looked. Despite leaving the bay with tons of other boats we soon found ourselves on our own heading towards a small cove where we were to take some kayaks out on the water. Paddling along it was so sad to see so much plastic in the sea around us. We watched as some women went passed in boats using nets to fish out whatever rubbish they could and decided that we would pick up whatever we could as we kayaked along too. It was also my first time seeing jellyfish in the sea although at first we weren’t sure if they were just plastic floating at the surface… Thankfully we didn’t try and pick any of them out of the water!!
We stopped at a couple of caves that were truly fascinating to walk around to see how they has been naturally formed over millions of years with their stalactites hanging delicately from the ceiling. Clambering over the rocks in the darkness of the caves definitely confirmed we had got off of the well trodden tourist path, which seemed like such a blessing in one of the most visited places in Vietnam. Hot showers were in order to get off the mud from the cave adventures before a top notch dinner. We stay at the tables drinking and chatting for a while as the boat anchored for the night, before hitting the hay with an early breakfast ahead of us.
In the morning we headed to the biggest cave in the bay which has been made incredibly tourist friendly, but we got there as the doors opened so were the first ones to walk around it just as the other boats were arriving. The boat then took us to a little island which had a lookout at the top, providing fabulous 360 degree views around the bay. After a lot of fun taking photos and having a little lounge on the beach we were back on board for the last time to pack up and head back to the port. This time we sailed through the more travelled route in amongst the rocks which really did provide spectacular scenery, although the photos I took of rock after rock really don’t do it justice! Another great meal for lunch and it was hard to believe we were on the minibus again heading back to Hanoi.