The stop was a big warehouse facility where you could buy art work, clothing, food and statuary. None of it interested my group at all. The first room you came across had a couple dozen young women doing needlepoint and other sewing arts. It looked like a sweatshop.
|Pretty Kitty...we opted not to procure this lovely piece of "art"|
|A statue that you could take with your or ship home...|
or in our case, leave it behind.
|Another angle of the sweatshop - even with a young man working.|
After the sweatshop, we made our way to the cruise ship terminal. I didn't realize how many ships were going to be at the terminal, but there were a nearly a dozen prepped and ready to head out. There were many options for cruises and the prices varied from under $100 to $500+ per trip. We opted for a mid range cruise.
|Some of the other less than luxurious boats.|
|Dining table during the briefing.|
|The full dining hall on our small / intimate boat.|
The beds were small but quite comfortable. If you had a double room the beds were just pushed together. The room was pretty small and the only furniture in it was a nightstand and the beds...which I'm ok with -- I'd prefer to be outside exploring the boat or enjoying the other public areas. The room had a couple power outlets in easy reach of both the beds. If only every guestroom in hotels or on boats had ample outlets.
|Fleet of Boats Heading Out to the Bay|
|View of the Rocks in the Bay|
|Main Cruise Ships and Smaller Transports.|
|A grouping of small local boats.|
|Locals just hanging out...|
|Buy some of my crap? I have a baby...|
After a couple hours of cruising through the bay we reached our first destination and we all piled into a small tug and headed out to visit some caves. This was far from a secluded area, but the guide was good it was nice to get off the boat and explore a new area.
|Tender with required life jackets.|
We headed up the hill a little bit, getting a great view of the surrounding area, our boat and local fishing boats.
|Bay / Boat View|
|Up, up and up for better views.|
|A woman catching craps and squid.|
|Buy my crabs and crap...|
|Look at all those tourist boats.|
After we got back from both the cave trip and the hike, we had time to freshen up and if we wanted to could take a Vietnamese Cooking Class before dinner. We sat in on the class and we were surprised at how many people didn't want to help make the egg rolls, it just scared them!
|The fellow guests from San Francisco offered lots of advice |
on how to make better egg rolls. Pretty annoying.
|After dinner fellow guests practiced Tai Chi|
|Grandmother and Granddaughter practicing late night Tai Chi.|
|Morning photo shoot - Boat with sails unfurled.|
We started off the second day with Tai Chi on the roof of the boat, then headed down to breakfast. Since we were staying two nights and others were only there for one night, we had to transfer to a smaller boat to take us out on our days excursion.
|The fishermen were up earlier.|
|Small Pagoda on the beach.|
|Small transport / fishing boat|
Our first excursion today was to visit a small island inhabited by locals (not hotels, not public houses, only one little store for tourists to buy water and snacks). We rode bikes across this island to the far village, met some locals then hiked for about 30 minutes or so.
|Our excursion day boat.|
|Island Bike Rental|
|Rice Paddy and River|
|We stumbled across this house on stilts while riding around the island.|
|The main road on the island.|
|Gate into the main village on the island.|
|Older ladies working the rice paddy.|
Once in the village we hopped off our bikes, found this little house which also served as a convenience store, where we could buy water and junk food. There were many dogs and cats sitting around this house, just lounging.
|Pet? Food? Both?|
|Hiking path, up and over a little mountain.|
|Flower along the hike.|
|Our group heading up a steep hill...|
|...and taking a break, before...|
|We headed into a cave.|
|Working the fields with cows looking on.|
|Safety is a priority when you travel with me.|
|A fleet of kayaks.|
|MS heading out on the kayak. That big empty seat in the front was for me.|
|The boys heading into a cave. I thought I'd never see them again.|
Our final day on the boat had us starting the morning with some more Tai Chi then heading out on another excursion. We were told that this excursion had our best chance of seeing monkeys, so I was excited.
|Rush hour for the tourist excursion boats.|
|View inside a sheltered area in the bay.|
It was bittersweet to leave the boat. It was only a 3 day-2 night cruise, but I had a lot of fun. By the time we finished our itinerary I was ready to be done and move on with our trip. Every time we are on a trip and a major component comes to a close, I am saddened because that means the trip is one step closer to being over.
If you are in Vietnam, you must go on a cruise along Halong Bay. We used Paradise Cruises and I would recommend you booking with them as well. Our crew was pretty good - about as polished as I'd expect from a crew working Halong Bay. The cruise was a good value for the money too. The food was better than acceptable but the wine was definitely over priced. There was a happy hour on board, which is really the reason that we came down to watch the cooking class two nights in a row...
Have you been to Halong Bay? Who did you cruise with? What was your favorite part?
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