After a delayed afternoon flight, we make it to our hotel in Hanoi by dinner time. (the airport is really far away from the city!) lovely location, we are right in the centre, near the cathedral. Going out we notice that lots of people are outside of shops, drinking while seating on really tiny stools, they appear and disappear everywhere (the stools) depending on people affluence!
Just looking for the restaurant, we have already decided that we will like this city, there is a home feeling to it! And I didn't really know what to expect of Hanoi as I had read mixed reviews...
On the 30th of December, we have the entire day to discover the city so we visit a couple of temples, we walk around the lake,
we admire the juxtaposition of French colonial architecture, narrow Asian streets with markets
and communist style for all recent political institution, including Ho Chi Minh memorial. (he died in Hanoi)
It's a very interesting mix, full of history!
In addition to architecture, the French have left a love for bread and large avenues with trees on each side; it's actually very similar to the French quarter in Shanghai!
We have the most wonderful lunch in a tiny alley where we point at everything to order.
On the evening, we decide to participate to the use of the tiny stools and go out for a drink, it is quite an experience: the main drinking spot for locals is a street junction (for expats, hotel bars), at midnight, there's no one left and at the first seeing of a police van, the girls selling dried fish disappear running... (I haven't really figured this last point out)
The day has passed really quickly and the time in Hanoi is over, tomorrow we are leaving for HaLong bay.
It's an early start as there are 4h drive and we are starting our cruise by lunch time. We have booked 2 days and 1 night on a junk, these old style Vietnamese boat cruising the bay.
The journey is not really exciting, we stop for a short break half way in a weird place selling all the touristy things a tourist in Vietnam could ever buy, including giant marble statues...(don't ask...) Arriving at the boat terminal, we meet the million other tourists who are here with us to enjoy this 8th world marvel. But as soon as we board our boat we feel more secluded and the feeling of being one sheep following the other goes away. There are only 15 of us on this boat so it's nice and cosy.
During the 1st few hours, we stay outside on the bridge admiring these big rocks poping out of the water everywhere.
We also make a stop at a gigantic cave which was used by the fishermen as an escape during typhoon. First, here are a couple of views from the platform:
The cave is enormous, it could fit a village which is good news as we meet again the million tourists from the terminal...
Just after sunset we go kayaking in between the rocks, even managing to go through one!
We cross path with a big tanker (no idea what it is doing here) and a big cruise ferry; slightly out of place vessels....
The staff has prepared us a beautiful new year eve dinner (with the best spring rolls I have ever had) and it is outside, on the bridge of the "Jewel of the bay" that we celebrate the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.
Happy new year!
Being the victims of the 1st of January iPhone bug, we miss sunrise but we are awake to climb one of the rock and get this lovely view of the bay:
Then we spend a good hour on the beach working on producing a decent photo for our christmas/new year card!
After another good lunch, it is time to disembark and say good bye to half of the group, we are heading back to Hanoi for our flight back to Singapore on the 2nd. It is unfortunately time to go back to work.
But this is not the last time you will read posts about Vietnam, we loved it and I'm looking for an occasion to apply for a multiple entry visa!