Winter Holidays – Vietnam Part 1: Hanoi (Days 4 & 5)

Day 4 – Hanoi

The hotel I was staying at offered a trip to Halong Bay, a famous bay about a four hour drive from Hanoi. When I was communicating with the manager at the hotel, she suggested I instead go on a trip to Bai Tu Long Bay, which is a less touristy part of Halong Bay apparently. Well, I didn’t know much about either so I agreed to go there instead.

It was an 8am departure. I didn’t really know what was going to happen, or how many people would be on the trip. There were about 15 or 16 of us in total, with me being the only one from my hotel. A bus came to pick us up and take us to Halong Bay where we go on the boat.

We stopped mid-journey, for a toilet break, at a place where marble and stone statues are made (and shipped across the world).

On arriving at the Bay itself, we arrived about 12 noon and waiting a little for a small motor boat to take us to the ship, where we would be staying (there were only us onboard the ship). On arrival on the boat, we were given lunch – seafood of various sorts – and then allocated our bedrooms.

The ship then went to a quiet part of the bay, and we had the chance to do some kayaking (I have no pictures of this, as the camera would have got wet). This was hard work, but fun. I was in a kayak by myself, whereas everyone else had a partner, so I had to do double the work!

After this, we went back to the ship, and saw the sunset, before we had our evening meal. The chef made some animals out of fruit, and we all had a go at making some sort of spring rolls (I wasn’t very good at it!) before we had our meal.

After this, there was some down time. The captain was trying to do squid fishing off the end of the boat (he caught about four small ones), but none of us could get any.

It was the day of Tet, and so, at midnight the crew were celebrating the New Year and we had a bit of a party. It finished about 1.30am, when we all turned in.

There were a French couple, a Korean family, a couple of Dutch tourists, a couple from Chile, a German woman, an Australian couple and a Hungarian guy with his Vietnamese girlfriend, as well as me, on the cruise. The Aussies were in their 20s and worked for the Australian government in Canberra. I got chatting to them about various things – environmental history, Brexit (of course!), and teaching in China. The girl – Hannah – was particularly interested in what I do and in teaching English. I also talked a lot to the Hungarian guy, who worked in Budapest but travelled to London often. Again, Brexit was a hot topic, but we chatted about anything and everything as well. His girlfriend had studied at Bournemouth University so her English was very good.

Day 5 – Hanoi

Sunrise. I woke about 6.15 am, and took a pre-sunrise photo, with the sky paling a little.

Then about 6.30, there was some tai chi on the top deck, before a stunning sunrise through the rocks.

We had breakfast at 7am, and then we went to a cave which was once used by fishermen when there were typhoons in the region. This was quite large with many interesting rock formations. Jacob, one of the Australians, asked me if this was what I studied at university, but I pointed out it was a little too early for me. At the bottom of the cave was a sandy beach where we wandered around and took in the spectacular view.

We returned to the boat, packed up our things, and checked out of our rooms. We then sat chatting on the top deck until the boat had returned to the harbour, when we had lunch, before departing.

We got off the boat about 12 noon and were in our bus by about 12.15. It was a lot quicker on the return leg of the journey, back to Hanoi, probably because the roads were quiet due to Tet.

I got back around 3.30pm (including a stop off in a different place – this one had lots of furniture in it). On return to the hotel I checked in (again), showered, rested and then went out in search of food. This was the evening of Tet – many restaurants were closed and the streets very busy. I eventually found a place where there were a few other Westerners as well as locals, and had a very nice meal, before returning to the hotel once more. My flight the following day was due to leave Hanoi at 3.15pm. Therefore, I reckoned I should be at the airport two hours before. I’d been told that the roads may be busy due to Tet and people visiting their families. The hotel manager who I’d had email contact with (she was on holiday when I arrived so I didn’t actually speak with her), told me to ask the reception to book a car. The receptionist suggested 12 noon would be fine. I wasn’t sure but reluctantly agreed. Then I turned in for the night.

On a side note, when I was in Mongolia last winter holidays, I happened, by chance, to catch the film Paddington on the television. This has a broad pro-immigration theme to it. In Hanoi, by chance (again), I happened to catch the film Zootopia. Many students at school have seen this film, some of them even dubbing bits of it for a competition. I was vaguely familiar with the storyline, but had never seen it. This has a pro- treat everyone equally and fairly theme to it. It was quite interesting to watch. I’m don’t know what I’ll do for holidays next year (or what I’ll see on the television), but this is becoming a tradition!

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