Day 2 and 3 Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th January 2015
So, what is to be the norm for our tip is early morning starts. The bus is due to leave at 7.30. Reality is, set alarm for 90 mins before, pack the night before and be ready to go. As we are returning to this hotel our cases stay behind and we just need an overnight bag. Our total luggage consists of our case and 2 backpacks. Bobs is 30lt, mine is a Pacsafe, http://www.pacsafe.com/venturesafe-15l-gii-day-pack-4.html but is bright orange. It is anti slash and has RFID, also each zipper has a locking mechanism. Packed carefully it takes loads. Our case has compartments and is divided in half. I’ve all our toilitries, meds etc in one half and clothes in the other. We’ve a 30kg allowance each and our case is only 25kg We’ve packed lightly! I also bought packing cubes, http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&id=102 which prove invaluable. Our clothes are sorted and have a cube each. Packing for overnight is now easy. We grab a cube each and we’re ready to go. Khanh has also given each of us an Intrepid shoulder bag which is a huge help.
Our drive to Halong Bay takes approx 4 hours in a mini bus. There are stops along the way, usually every 2 hours, either at a local craft industry or a small cafe. This is to allow us use the ‘Happy House’ – you’re happy when you see it and twice as happy when you use it. When we arrive we are shown to our junk boat, it looks incredible inside, and lunch is ready for us. We have two vegetarians in the group. When the meal is over we are shown to our Cabins. Ours is fabulous . The weather is overcast but this gives the Bay a very ethereal quality. We slowly sail out through this incredible landscape.
We visit Hang Sung Sot cave, otherwise known as Surprise Cave. It is incredible with 3 deep chambers and magnifient views from the top. When we return the group decide to go kayaking. Wonderful experience, in and out of lagoons. The sight of Vin and Tracy trying to do it is hilarious and has us all laughing. We kayak for approx 90 mins and are all hungry when we return to freshen up and have dinner. Another wonderful meal.
As we continue sailing along there is nothing nicer that to go onto the top deck and watch the stars as we continue through this incredible landscape. It is truly unbelievable.
Meanwhile, back at the bar, we have discovered the cocktail menu and we all appear to have a liking for mojitos. This was to set the tone for the remainder of the trip. Daniela has a set of Uno cards, we are taught the game and many hours of pure laughter continue. This was to be a bonding night One of the crew gets drunk and proceeds to show us his cutting skills using vegetables. He was also insisting that we all take photos! The following morning we head back to Hanoi where we’ve a few hours before we head to the train station. Shared rooms are arranged for us to freshen up and repack our overnight bags as we will not see our cases again until we arrive in Hue. A few of us choose to do the Tour of Street Food in Hanoi with Urban Adventures, http://www.urbanadventures.com/ It was fantastic and took approximately 90 mins where we walked all around the famous streets for food and ate our way around. It also included a visit to a fresh beer bar. I tried but I just cannot drink beer, however, the beer lovers said it was good. The tour ended in an Hanoi BBQ. It was fantastic although the men who tried the Happy House told us ladies not to bother.
We arrived back in time to purchase some food from the local bakery for our breakfast as Intrepid don’t recommend the food on the train. So into the bus again and off to the station where we are met again by more bedlam
Overnight Train to Hue
We had been told that we might have to share with others from outside our group, that nothing was guaranteed. Everyone was anxious about this trip. The carriages were small and we got to share with the Diamonds. It was tight! Khanh had bought the makings of mojitos so we all had a laugh and a few drinks squashed in one compartment. Originally it was supposed to be ours but with all our luggage, Diamonds have 2 cases, there was no room. When we turned in both Bob and Philip went out cold straight away whereas Beth and I struggled. I just found it very difficult to get comfortable. My sciatic nerve started and eventually I gave up and took painkillers. I got a few hours in the end.
We all woke early and watched the country pass us by. An interesting sight were the number of tombstones in peoples gardens. Vietnamese do not have to bury their dead in cemetries, they may be buried in rice fields or outside their kitchen door! This is really having your loved ones close to you!!!
The train made a couple of stops on the way and I was able to hop off.
It was hot after Hanoi. Hanoi was in early 20’s but now I know it’s just going to get hotter and hotter the further south we go. Before long the train had stopped and we got through he bedlam unscathered and had arrived in Hue.