The tour guide met us at our hotel at 8:00a.m.and we boarded the bus for the four hour drive to Ha Long Bay. The awesome staff at the Calypso Grand Hotel wouldn't hear of us leaving without breakfast and packed us a take away meal of ham and cheese sandwiches, yogurt, bananas, watermelon, dragon fruit and bottles of water. Those people really are awesome!
Although the cruise ship can accommodate up to 30 guests, our group consisted of only seven. Besides us, there was a couple from Alberta, Canada, a couple from Argentina and a gentlemen from Switzerland. The small number on board allowed us to get to know each other better than if it had been a large group. One of the group, Alain, took some of the photographs that have been used in this post. Alain sent them to me via email and after I viewed his wonderful pictures asked if I could use them for my blog. Alain kindly said yes.
After four hours of driving, we had our first glimpse of the harbor at Ha Long Bay:
These pangas ferried us to the cruise ship. Safety first, crew and guests alike had to put on life vests before the short trip across the harbor.
The captain and some of the crew of the Flamingo.
|Photograph courtesy of Alain Stamberger|
Our ship, the Flamingo.
|Photograph courtesy of Alain Stamberger|
This was our cabin. With a king sized bed, large modern bathroom and a private balcony it was very comfortable.
We really enjoyed spending time relaxing on the private balcony.
Ha Long Bay, which is in the Gulf of Tonkin, has over 1600 soaring limestone rock formations topped by rain forests and was named a World Heritage Site in 1994. Many of the limestone islands feature arches and caves. Most of the islands are uninhabited by humans but are home to monkeys and other wildlife. It is truly breathtaking.
This was our lunch which was served a couple of hours into the cruise. We started with spring rolls.
Next was a shredded papaya and shrimp salad. There was also soup, but I forgot to take a photograph.
Followed by a tempura battered deep fried sea bass filet on a bed of vegetables with steamed rice.
And, fruit for dessert.
After lunch, we had a couple of hours to relax and then it was time to go kayaking for those who wished to participate. Having never been in a kayak before I was looking forward to this activity. It did not take long to get the hang of it. Our guide took us to a cove with one way in and one way out - it was necessary to paddle through a large arch to reach the cove.
Before dinner, the chef of the Flamingo conducted a cooking class and taught us how to make deep fried spring rolls. The best part was eating them after they finished cooking!
Still stuffed from lunch and the spring roll from cooking class, it was soon time for dinner. I did not think I'd be able to eat it, but somehow I did. Again, soup was part of the meal and again I forgot to take a photo.
Deep fried shrimp balls.
Seafood skewers of shrimp, fish, squid and vegetables on a bed of mashed potatoes.
And, a dessert of opera cake and fresh fruit.
I need off this boat before I gain 50 pounds!
Sunset on Ha Long Bay.
Cruise boats drop anchor as twilight gives way to dark.
There are many Vietnamese people who live and work in floating villages on the bay. Fishing is how most of them make their livelihoods.
While we did not participate in these activities or stay a second day on the ship, Alain has graciously allowed me to use some of his photographs from the second day. Thank you, Alain!
A floating village.
There is a school for the children of the village who attend class here. On the right hand side of the blackboard hangs a picture of Ho Chi Minh.
After the village, it was on to cave exploration.
The following are scenes from the bay taken by Alain.
We originally thought two days/one night would be perfect, but after seeing Alain's photos, I'm not so sure!
As we cruised the bay on the last part of our tour, brunch was served (eggs, toast, bacon, sausage and fruit) and before we knew it our boat had entered the harbor and it was time to say "goodbye" to our Canadian friends who had decided to relax on the cruise ship rather than visit the floating village and the cave. Oddly enough, we had sat next to this couple on New Year's Eve in Saigon and a week later we find ourselves on the same cruise ship in Ha Long Bay. We were so surprised to see each other on the boat. I can't imagine the odds of that; we must have been destined to meet!