Just as we were eating an early breakfast in the hotel we were informed we were being’upgraded’ to the Calypso Cruiser on Halong bay. Result! Karen then had a little panic, the new boat was a 4 star boat, would that mean people would dress for dinner? A quick reassessment of the overnight bag was required.
Dress and sandals packed, we were on our way in the mini van to Halong City to catch to the boat to the infamous bay. Our guide Tong (Tom) insisted on telling us lots of facts about the bay while Karen was desperate to sleep. An interesting fact which did wake her was the Vietnamese government in 2013 introduced a new law that all boats in the bay must be painted white.This was crazy, from her trip in 2007 Karen had fond memories of the lovely wooden boats with paper sails in the bay.
As we were leaving Hanoi a cantilever bridge was pointed out to us. The Long Bien bridge traverses the Red River and connects Hanoi’s districts. Built by the French around 1901 it was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War and today only retains half of its structure.
We arrived at Halong harbour and got on the transit boat. As we were pulling out of the harbour we realised how busy it was.
Now there were four times the number of boats in the bay and they were all covered in chipped white paint. It was obvious the paint jobs had been quick and some of the plants on the boats had been painted round!
Nevertheless the boats should not be judged by the bad paint jobs. The Calypso Cruiser was very nice, certainly a sprinkle of luxury which we certainly were not use to. We enjoyed great food, good Dalat wine and fun company. We meet some lovely travellers from the fun Lincolnshire threesome who had bought motorbikes and biked it from Saigon to Hue, the hip Londoners who were on their way to the Maldives and the Australian couple who gave us great advice about life in Oz.
Pity about the the crazy ex pat Australian family living in Manilao, the tiger mummy had a screaming match at our guide Tong over the lack of birthday cake for her precious son’s birthday. Over looking the amazing sculpted birthday fruit, group wine and singsong organised. It was all entertaining but killed the promised Karaoke- phew!
Our highlights were jumping off the boat into the bay to swim and Kayaking through the small caves. After someone paddling with the paddle back to front and out of time we finally got a rhythm going on our double Kayak so impressive that our new friends were commenting how good we were. If only they had been in that cave 5 mins before when we were arguing over who was doing it right.
We also managed a trip to the cave complex of the Marvellous Cave (Grotte des Merveilles) and though we were on a boat the vendors were never far away.
Our 24 hours on the bay came to an end and it was time to head back to Hanoi and repack our bags for our trekking trip to Sapa.