Day 47. Monday 20th February.  Boat Trip Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay.

We woke to our first clear skies since being in Vietnam and the beautiful view over the harbour from our floor to ceiling hotel window. After breakfasting at the hotel we were picked up to take us to the ‘tourist harbour’ for our boat trip.  On the way the driver picked up a young British couple who had recently graduated and were teaching English in Haiphong for a couple of months.  Haiphong is one of the main cities just onto the mainland.  It was so sweet as they explained that they had only met 2 weeks ago when they were 2 out of 3 new “teachers” on this scheme, but were now (or so it seemed) taking tentative steps as a couple.

As we know, we are not always good with organised tours (due to adverse reactions to being shepherded about), but mostly today was fine because nothing could detract from the amazing landscape.  The boat held about 30 people and was comfortable with plenty of shade, although with the exception of one other grizzly Canadian (who only seemed to speak about the cost of things and his lack of money) we were 30 years older than anyone else.  We felt a bit as if we were gatecrashing the youngsters party boat, but no one seemed to mind.  Soon we were weaving past the enormous kaste rocks rearing vertically upwards out of the sea.  The boat took us past a ‘floating village’ – wooden structures built on to pontoons made from barrels – housed 500 families.  We were told that a daily boat delivers fresh water and picks up the children for school on the island.

After an hour or so we turned into a bay and we all transferred into kayaks.  Here we saw the youngsters who could paddle and those with no sense of direction.  There were a young German couple who just did not get it – really, really did not get it, and veered one way and then the other as they paddled along.  It was hard work for them but amusing for us as we just ambled along in a more or less straight line.

We paddled for about an hour under natural arches in the rocks, through tunnels and in and out of beautiful bays.  It wasn’t exactly getting away from it all, as there were several other tour boats following exactly the same itinerary, so there were hundreds of yellow kayaks in the bay.  But there was no other way of seeing this unique landscape. 

Back on the boat we compared notes on our kayaking skills.  A young Israeli couple, who were on honeymoon, did not seem enamored with the experience.  The woman, who to be fair did not look like a natural athlete, said it was all too much hard work for a “lady on honeymoon”.  That comment left everything to the imagination (and of course we did not inquire further).

I think this was the setting for part of a James Bond film – if anyone knows which one, please let us know via a comment!

The boat then chugged off to moor in a sandy bay where a delicious lunch was served on board and we chatted to the British couple we had met in the taxi and to the Israeli couple. Then it was swim time – we duly jumped off the boat straight into the water without knowing how cold it was –  David from the top of the boat and me from the lowest possible part!  As we landed in the briney, we discovered that the water was pretty cold so we didn’t swim for long.

We then started to wend our way back and had a bizarre stop at a ‘fish farm’ – a floating shed with pens of different fish who jumped about when fed. Again we coincided with about 4 other tour boats so it was all a bit chaotic and we never gathered the point of it…..but they weren’t trying to sell us anything so presumably they thought it was of genuine tourist interest. 

Late afternoon sun

The last section back was lovely in the late afternoon sun and we were even provided with tea and biscuits.  A great day to see a really unique place.

The sun setting – from our hotel room

We were tired by the time we got back but our thoughts have turned to getting back on the bikes to continue our journey.   David fiddled with his gears, got the hooters working again (our first line defence against dogs) and I did washing, filtered water for our water bottles and some sorting.  Between us we think we are ready for the next stage but will only know when we get on the bikes tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Day 47. Monday 20th February.  Boat Trip Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay.

  1. I believe it was Scaramanga’s lair in “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland and Herve Villechaize as NickNack.

  2. So relieved that you are no longer “under the weather” after having your cooker blow up. Reading about your last few days is particularly enjoyable for me as you are retracing my stay in Vietnam 8 years ago almost to the day; not self-propelled, but as guest of the family of my son’s (then) girlfriend in Hanoi. Ha Long Bay is quite magical, especially if one imagines the hordes of tourists away. Wishing you safe travels on Vietnamese roads!

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