Flying into Hanoi we were greeted with lots of cloud and so we’re feeling a bit chilly here for the first time in a month. To be fair it’s still 21 degrees but after the relentless heat and humidity it feels fresh. The locals must feel it worse as they’re buzzing about in heavy winter coats whilst we are still in shorts and short-sleeves!
Hanoi is magical and the old quarter is a maze of small streets crammed with little shops, bars, restaurants and, of course, motorbikes. Exploring (and getting a bit lost) is really enjoyable and each street is named after what is sold on the street. We’re staying on shoe street (more of that in a sec), we’ve seen paint street, electric appliance street (not sure that’s the exact translation) and Christmas Street. We did take a look at the shoes – especially when Converse were less than £6 but being Vietnam the largest size available is 8 1/2 so unfortunately only one of us ended up happy!
So with the weather on the gloomy side we set off for Halong Bay a 4 hour drive away. We’ve been looking forward to this part for a while as we’ve heard so many great things about it so we were a bit disappointed that it was cold (relatively) and cloudy. On the bus on the way down we could only see the motorbike in front, the fog was that bad! Eventually we got to the bay and boarded our boat, the Dragon Pearl… 2. We shared the boat with 16 other people and set off. The bay is absolutely beautiful (despite the weather) with thousands of limestone islands majestically emerging from the water. The legend is that a dragon landed here and their flailing tail cut out the rocks to create the bay.
That afternoon we landed on one of the rocks to see the caves and try a bit of kayaking which was brilliant fun. Had a shower back on board (which was surprisingly good) and went for a fabulous 5 course dinner. Lots of lovely seafood as you can imagine. The night tipped into the slightly surreal (and a bit cheesy) when we were presented with several food carvings of a dragon, an eagle and a faithful representation of the Dragon Pearl II and encouraged to clap enthusiastically as the crew came and introduced themselves. It is amazing what you can do with a pumpkin…
We shared a table with David and Niamh from Dublin who are doing some travelling before they arrive to live in Sydney for a while. We had a fun evening with them and, after a spot of squid fishing (or fisting as our host pronounced it – oh er!) we literally drunk the bar dry – well of local beer anyway!
Visited a floating village the next day where the local women rowed us around on traditional bamboo boats (bless the poor woman who got us heavyweights – we did tip her well!)
4 hours back to Hanoi, one last dinner and then bye to Vietnam after a brilliant couple of weeks. Next stop Hong Kong…