Time has whizzed by since the last one and not much has changed till yesterday when we got out of the clutches of our intrepid tour guides & finally had a day off & some western style food, yea!! They have actually done a marvellous job, especially for the money we paid!!! Just a little too enthusiastic for us laid back Aussies and no comprehension of winetime (or beertime in the boys' case)!
We left Hoi An and the beaches and flew to Hanoi, a very different feel, the people are more serious and seem impolite some of the time but I think it is more their way than intention. The traffic is just as chaotic and even louder and do they know how to honk those horns!! No one can seriously be taking notice as you never know who is honking who, we just assume it is always us and jump accordingly! It would make a very amusing video to see us walking the streets, you can't walk the footpaths as that is where they eat, park their millions of motorbikes, sell their wares and generally hang out because it is cooler than inside their buildings. So that leaves us foreigners to dodge & swerve our way from place to place & sigh with relief on achieving each journey!
We had a quick day tour of Hanoi then the next day after a 7am pick up they took us on a 4 hour road trip west to Halong Bay...an absolutely beautiful, serene water wonderland supplied by mother nature! Plus to top it off we had been booked on an overnight cruise which we assumed on our payment amount would be a 2 star junk with hammocks & (of course) Vietnamese food but no!!!! We were motored on a 24 person skiff to a much larger, very luxurious 28 cabin junk style, 4 level cruise ship moored out in the bay, a total surprise to the 6 in our group. We were then joined by 3 Brazilian girls and all ushered to our lovely cabins with large floor to ceiling windows and balconies. To our further surprised we then set sail for 24 hours of total spoiling by the 20 staff for us 9 guests!! BUT, there is always a ‘but’, the force feeding really started in earnest, we had four 8 course meals in that 24 hours, ALL Vietnamese!
We asked our guide how come so few guests and he replied "slow season" and that he had driven down with his boss who was "not happy" !!
Kev will attach photos of this bay and even though it did rain on and off it was a wonderful 24 hours, still filled with tours of grottos & caves, fishing villages, swimming off 'secluded' beaches (read - not so secluded as shared with the other 100 odd boats & cruise ships around) & lots of food, but we did snatch a bit of lounge time on the upper deck when we could. Then had a relaxing non-rushed night meal and quite a few cocktails, beers & even Australian wine on the deck watching the sunset and all these lovely vaulted rock islands sail by, before retiring to our luxurious cabins just down a few stairs! I have to add that the other 2 Aussie guys decided to have a bottle of Chivas to finish off the night at about 10.30 and Kev thought that was a bit much for 2 boys to safely drink by themselves, so unselfishly thought he should help them. I called it a night well after midnight and stopped his unselfish act as we had 2 flights of stairs to descend & a Tai Chi lesson at 6am we couldn't possibly miss! Needless to say the bottle got drunk, heavens knows what time the other 2 got to bed (those country Victorians sure can drink!) no one made Tai Chi, no males made breakfast or the cooking class that followed and us girls had a leisurely morning cruising together up on the deck, luckily lunch was served late and we were driven back to Hanoi in the afternoon! A very lovely experience all round and I think the "drinks" bill will have consoled the above mentioned boss and he is now researching whole Aussie tours groups to hasten his early retirement plan!
We are now in Hanoi on our own for 4 days, have been doing lots of walking (read - dodging motorbikes), sourcing Western restaurants, sleeping in late, even reading books & generally back to our own way of holidaying, but no regrets as an introduction holiday to Vietnam this has been a good choice & given Kev & I lots of ideas if we decide to come back.
We still have Cambodia to come, so more delights await us I'm sure....
Bye for now, hope I'm not boring you, if so you can block me (Facebook already has - long story!!).