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December 17, 2015

Our driver and guide picked us up at the hotel at 7:45 for the 4 hour drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay. It was a long drive but also interesting to see a different part of the country. The traffic wasn't as heavy but the drivers were just as crazy. As our guide said, in the US we drive on the right, in the UK on the left, and in Vietnam, in the middle. And they use their horn a lot. We passed fields of rice and other crops with people working in them. We also passed people carrying interesting cargo on their motor bikes and bicycles, including this man with his cow.



We stopped half way for restrooms and tea. It turned out it was also a workshop with all types of crafts. Our favorite was the young girls doing embroidery. Such detailed, back-breaking work. We ended up buying two small pieces with scenes of rice fields and Halong Bay.


When we got to Halong Bay, we were met by the Paradise cruise line staff. They had coffee, tea, juice and small snacks waiting for us. We were then called to board our ship. The ship was refurbished 3 months ago and is very lovely inside. It has 20 cabins. Our cabin and bath is bigger than anything we have had on a cruise ship. We were given lunch with a buffet selection of salads and desserts and a choice of entree.

The scenery in Halong Bay is spectacular. Giant limestone rock formations rise up from the bay. Local fishing boats and fishing villages mingle with the cruise boats. Halong Bay is spread across 580 square miles, with more than 2000 islands made of limestone. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After lunch we boarded wooden paddle boats for a ride on the bay to two caves. Our rower was a young lady. When we passed through one cave, we were greeted by a family of golden monkeys swinging from the trees. We were lucky that the weather cleared, the sun came out and warmed up a bit.






We then cruised to another location where there is a large cave called Surprise Cave. We climbed 100 steps to the first part of the cave which was quite pretty. But further up was a huge cave - like Carlsbad Caverns. Indeed a surprise and well worth the climb.

Back on the boat it was time for happy hour (2 for 1 drinks), then a cooking demo on making spring rolls. Originally these were only served to royalty as the common people could not afford all the ingredients.

Dinner was buffet style with a nice variety of food, including some barbecue choices on the deck. We could have stayed to watch a movie but decided it was better to enjoy a good night's sleep.

December 18, 2015

After an early morning session of Tai Chi on the deck, we were served some pastries and juice. Then we cruised to an island with an observation deck on top. 402 steps later, we overlooked Halong Bay. It was worth the climb.

Back on the boat, a breakfast buffet awaited us. We got back to port where our driver and guide met us for the drive back to Hanoi. We were so glad we decided to do this trip. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend our last days in SE Asia.


To view more photos from our trip to Halong Bay, please go to Halong Bay Photo Gallery. To read about other places we visited on our trip to SE Asia, go to SE Asia Newsletter list.

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