Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Hanoi Day Four: Back from Hạ Long Bay (Vịnh Hạ Long)

Morning saw us assembled on the upper deck of the V Spirit to take in some fresh air and do some morning exercises. Now that it was daybreak, we could see that all around us were the various other cruise boats that had also dropped their anchors during the night.

For this second day at Vịnh Hạ Long (Hạ Long Bay), time was rather short and we were supposed to check out of our rooms by 9.30a.m. However, we'd still be on board and cruising around the bay area. My perspective of the cruise was that we never ventured too far from our point of departure, which was the Tuần Châu Club, perhaps never more than 10 kilometres. I was sure that from some high vantage point behind the clumps of limestone islands, I could almost see the Vietnamese mainland, maybe without recognising it. Anyway, I wasn't complaining because these touristy islands of Ha Long Bay were what we wanted to see in the first place.

This is the upper deck of the cruise boat. When we were up here the night before, I had hoped to be able to see some stars since there were no nearby lights to distract them from our view. However, it was rather cloudy and no star could be seen. Pity.

It should be remembered that these are floating villages inhabited by the fisherfolk around Hạ Long Bay. Although they live among unspoilt beauty, life remains tough for them.

One of the fisherfolks getting ready to venture out with her goods-laden sampan to greet the cruise boats

Our main destination in the morning: the Đảo Soi Sim (Soi Sim island) from where we could either club up the small hill for another breath-taking view around or go swimming in the sea. Yes, there is a small beach on the island.

See the beach? It's only a tiny patch of sand on the island but since there is a pier for boats, there are also bound to be tourists wanting to swim. Like everywhere else around us yesterday and today, the water was very calm. Clear enough but not pristinely clear, though.

Another view of the beach at Soi Sim island.

Here we go up to the top of the hill.

More of the same scenery, actually....

After coming down from the hill, we decided to stroll on the beach. Very few people ventured into the water.

Back on the boat, we were shown how to make the Vietnamese spring rolls.

And soon afterwards, we were already on our way back to the Tuần Châu Club, passing by these two little rocks in the sea. The Ga Choi islets are reputedly the symbol of Hạ Long Bay. 

By 12.30p.m., we were already back on terra firma. I wasn't looking forward to another four-hour journey on the crammed bus but really, there was no avoiding it. It was almost five o'clock when we finally reached the Gondola Hotel. 

Unknown to us, my wife had left behind some reading material on the bus and we did not realise it until some hours later when we were about to go out for dinner. As we passed by the front desk, the staff there passed the reading material to my wife. We were surprised; we never expected to see them again but the tour guide had made an extra effort to return them to us. We were really impressed by the service.

These two were making the best use of the time on board the bus.

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