Vietnam homes one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – Ha Long Bay, which is made up of 1969 islands scattered across the sea. Naturally we wanted to see this so after lots of research we booked ourselves a three-day and two-night trip with Cristina Cruise.
We were picked up from our hotel at 8:30 and made the 4-hour journey to Ha Long City. We jumped off the mini bus and were hit with the freezing temperature. We thought Hanoi had been cold, but that was nothing compared to this! When we arrived we were ushered onto a small boat and told to put life jackets on – how unsafe was this journey?? I think it’s just their way of trying to say they always put safety first!! The small boat took us to our big boat the Cristina Cruise, which would be our home for the next two days. We checked into our room and were very surprised. We really didn’t know what to expect when we booked the trip – would we be sharing a bathroom or a room? Would we have bunk beds? The room was lovely, our own room with a double bed and our own bathroom, complete with a proper shower and a proper sink and toilet – amazing!
As we made our way through Ha Long Bay, we were surrounded by island after island just jutting out of the sea. The water was so calm and despite there being hundreds of other boats around, it was amazingly peaceful. We had a little sundeck on the boat – shame there wasn’t any sun to really enjoy it, but we braved the cold and sat out there for a bit.
After being fed a lovely lunch (I’d read some horror stories about the food whilst researching which tour company to go with, so again we were impressed) our first stop was ‘Hang Sung Sot’ or the ‘Surprise Cave’ to us English. There were three caves hidden in the rocks on this island, each one getting bigger than the last. It was really impressive and amazing what millions of years of water erosion can create.
The next activity was some kayaking around the islands. Barry and I passed on this as it was far to cold to risk getting wet and really you could see everything from the boat anyway, so we stayed on board.
The next stop was another island where this time you could climb to the top and get a panoramic view of Ha Long Bay. Never ones to pass up a good trek (and we thought it might warm us up!) we decided to climb. It started with some steps, so we thought, this is going to be easy, then they quickly disappeared and we were met with a narrow rocky and sandy pathway. It wouldn’t have been too bad but as we were climbing up, other people were climbing down and the path was only wide enough for one person. We had to keep ducking into the hedgerow to let people through. You could tell some people hadn’t come prepared – I even saw one women wearing heels!
Once we got to the top the view was amazing – you could see hundreds of islands scattered around everywhere, going as far back as the eye could see. We hung around for a bit taking a few pictures, but it was such a small space once you got to the top, that there was barely any room to move amongst all the tourists, so we quickly made our way back down again and headed for the beach.
After the days activities and another fantastic meal, where we got to make our own spring rolls, it was time to try squid fishing. The rod was just a bamboo pole with a hook on the end – not very high-tech. I gave it a go, standing there moving the stick up and down for a bit. I thought one girl had a bite as her stick was bobbing up and down and moving around a bit but I soon realized it was only moving due to her shivering so much! With frostbite starting to set in, I gave up and went back into the boat to try and warm up.
After a few drinks, we decided to go to bed. It was absolutely freezing, so much so that I slept in my fleece and was still frozen. I barely got any sleep and was actually quite relieved when it was time to get up as it meant I could get a hot coffee and put all my clothes on. Barry was so determined not to be cold that he put on two t-shirts, a fleece, a jacket, trousers, two pairs of socks and his beanie hat (he’d only bought this for Alaska and never thought he’d get to wear it before then!). I still don’t think he was warm!