A expedition with Indochina Sails (1 June, 2008)
We got off the bus and were greeted by a guide with Indochina sails. We were taken inside a building to wait for our boat to be ready. We were given cold towels at the door; you know your entering luxury when you get a towel to freshen up. We waited for about a half hour, while our luggage was taken to the ship. We then were put on a small boat or the “tender” and taken to the ship. As we were drawing close to the ship, one staff member on the boat was playing a drum; it was a bit odd, feeling like yours in a King Kong movie or something.
We were greeted by a female staff member and were brought to the dining room on the 2nd level of the ship. There were 13 people including ourselves. We were given the safety speech and told a bit about our itinerary. Then we were given our key and told to settle in a bit then return to the dining room for lunch at 1pm. We had a room on the 2nd floor, which I think would have been better than the 1st level. We had a fantastic view of the bay and our room was amazing. Definitely one of the best showers we’ve seen. It was like a 4 star hotel room.
We settled in and looked at our in tin a bit closer, then headed to the dining room. We had a set lunch, which included cream of pumpkin soup, papaya salad, prawns, fish, chicken, spring rolls and fruit salad. Overall it was really good quality. The prices for drinks weren’t actually too bad and they had a really good selection. After lunch we were told we would cruise to a fishing village with 400 floating houses. The bay is as stunning as everyone says it is! The legend behind it involves a family of dragons that were sent by the gods to help protect the coast during times of war with China, the dragons spit out jade and emerald which turned into the islands around the bay. After the war the family of dragons decided to stay and the mother settled into Ha Long bay and the children in other nearby bays. The islands do have an amazing dense green to them, like nothing we’ve ever seen. I can see why it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
We cruised for about an hour and a half before we reached the fishing village. We all hopped on the tender and were taken around the Cua Van village by the guide. The village is supported by the government these days and the people are provided with a basic education and health care within the village. There were a lot of children around, some around 6-9 years old, rowing their own boats. There was a squid fishing boat, the primary school and even a local cafe for relaxing. It was really interesting. After our tour we headed back to the boat and doubled back to Ti Tov beach. We opted to go kayaking for $10 each. We had to wait for them to bring the kayaks to the boat, which set us back a bit on our itinerary. I’ve never been kayaking before, so this was going to be interesting.
We got in and were on our way, everyone except one couple went. We ended up going quite a ways to the east of the boat, a good 2km. We came upon Bat cave, which was a opening to a otherwise closed off section, which the guide called a lake (which it wasn’t). It was cool to just drift though the cave. The section past it was so serene and peaceful. We drifted around for about 20 minutes then our guide took off, so we figured we should go too. Kayaking is hard work, especially when there is a fairly strong current. We had to pause a lot on our way back, but it was nice to really soak up the experience. Eventually we made it back and were directly taken by the tender to the beach.
The sun wasn’t out but we figured we might was well go in the water. You could climb to the top of the island, some 400 steps, but kayaking was enough for us. The other two girls who were on our bus told us the water was actually pretty warm, they were both from B.C… So we swam around for about 20 minutes, chatting with them and a couple from Australia. Then we were all herded back on the tender to the ship
We had some time to get ready for dinner at 7:30. You could do a wine tasting before dinner, which was tempting but we passed. We relaxed in our room for a bit and freshened up. The sun, what sun there was, went down quick and it became pitch black out. We went out to the top deck; the weather was actually quite pleasant. Some staff was fishing for squid off the front of the boat, so we watched them catch a few. Then we headed to the dining room for dinner, which was a set menu as well. I had a relish glass of red wine, a rarity in Asia I think. We had vegetable soup, shrimp and grapefruit salad, calamari and beef with potatoes and veggies. The main course was a bit unimpressive, especially when you are used to Alberta beef. We had chocolate cake for dessert.
After dinner we could watch a movie (which was a Vietnamese dubbed classic), fish for squid or a few other activities. We opted to try the squid fishing. We were both unsuccessful, but other people caught a couple. They use a bright light to attract the fish that the squid eat. They were pretty cool, they were little and they’d squirt ink when they were caught. It was funny to watch. They had a 2 for 1 happy hour on all drinks from 9 to 11pm, so we had a couple beers while fishing. Then we went up to the top deck and sat in the lounge chairs. It is so peaceful here. The manager told us that we were anchored at an exclusive spot. All the other tour boats anchor somewhere else, there can be up to 50 of them when its busy. There were 3 other boats around us. I’m happy we’re at the exclusive spot. We took in the beautiful night, and then decided we better head to bed. We have another early start tomorrow and we were pretty exhausted from the day. I am so ready for a comfy bed! Ciao for now!