South East Asia December 2012 – January 2013
31.12.2012 - 01.01.2013
Monday, 31st December
4.30am arrival from Lo Cai station back to Hanoi. The lovely staff of our hotel were already awaiting us and looking at the weary eyes of the fellow tourists, stressfully trying to make their way back into the city, we were incredibly grateful that our hotel took such great care of us. There were no more hotel beds available for us to have a rest, so the staff brought us some pillows and blankets so we could have a sleep on the couches in the dining room. They also lent us the keys to the bathroom and cooked us up a scrumptious breakfast, which really made our day
We did not have very long to relax as a bus awaited us at 8am to take us to our next Northern adventure: a junk boat tour across the famous Ha Long Bay. The weather was really dull and grey, with cold northern winds, which probably wasn't the best time to explore the area. It looked nothing like the many pictures we have seen around the internet, but it was impressive nonetheless.
We arrived at our boat around midday and were shown to our individual rooms, which were surprisingly spacious and comfortable.
We were sharing the tour with a group of around 15 people: a handful of Koreans and Singaporians, three lovely men from the Maldives, an American couple with a young son, a young Australian couple and a Taiwanese guy and his Vietnamese friend. Lunch was served almost immediately after, followed by a series of very touristy activities. Our tour guide, Seven, was slightly annoying, but we put up with her in the spirit of the looming new year.
And so, all boats were lured to the “Amazing Cave”, named this way as one beautiful cave leads into another, even more beautiful cave, into yet another more more beautiful cave. It was indeed quite amazing. Along with thousands of other excitable tourists, it was a mad rush to get through the caves and make it back in time within the allocated hour. It was a real shame, but we managed to get plenty of stunning pictures.
After that, we were given another hour to paddle around the bay on kayaks. The water was freezing cold and I seriously felt no desire to get wet, so Ben teamed up with an Australian guy from Canberra named Kyle. They seemed to have a good time, but did end up getting their gear entirely soaked. Happy I made the right call!
Dinner was served around 6.30pm and then we all awkwardly waited around, wondering what else was on the program for us. The Vietnamese don't celebrate New Year at the same time as us Westeners, but the boat crew clearly felt obliged to throw us a party, so they asked us to gather back in the dining room around 10pm for a “party”. This gave us enough time to have a long nap, before spending what would surely classify as being the most surreal evening in our lives. Nothing more to that: just surreal.
Tuesday, 1st of January 2013
- Happy New Year! *
We had to get our breakfast before checking out of our rooms. No delicious pancakes this time around, which was a bit of a disappointment... but, we did get offered a cooking lesson. Our tour guide Seven was teaching us all how to make Vietnamese spring-rolls. Ben had a go at it. Can you guess which one was his?
We got to try them out over lunch and they were luckily quite a bit tastier than they looked. The end of lunch also marked the end of our little cruise.