Tuesday afternoon – our group’s last train trip from Hue to Halong was a doozy…nice send off Vietnam…thank you very much!!
Firstly the train was nearly an hour late, so we had to sit in the stuffy train station and smell the lovely odours coming from toilets.
Apparently the first class train that was meant to take us to Hanoi was diverted in a different direction so we ended up with a second class piece of crap! The carriages were used, the floors were carpeted and stained, the fabric mattresses were stained (yuck! – the others had a leather exterior, so much cleaner), no clean pillows or blankets (only sheets) and there were mice running around. Overall the train was just old and very worn. My sleeping sheet and neck pillow became my saviours.
Don’t even get me started on the toilets! There was one Western toilet and one squat toilet in each carriage. Believe me when I say that I will hold for an hour, even longer if necessary, until a Western toilet becomes available. Mum – do you remember when we bought those two packets of toilet wipes for $2…well they are priceless. There is never any toilet paper and using a hose just doesn’t quite cut it to clean up. Another thing I have learned when using the bathroom – if I’m wearing long pants, roll them up…things can get messy otherwise.
The train journey to Hanoi took 14 hours. We boarded at 3pm and arrived on Wednesday at around 5am. We purchased some dinner before hand and ate it cold on the train at about 6pm. To pass the time we played cards, which by about 9pm turned into cards with the loser having to take a shot of $4 vodka. I only did two shots…Jay Jay was the biggest loser with 9 shots. At about 10pm I finally feel asleep.
After arriving at the train station in Hanoi we jumped in a bus and drove three and a half hours to Halong Bay. The township of Halong Bay isn’t much to write home about, it really is just a stop over point for the Bay. However the Bay is incredible. It rained most of the bus ride from Hanoi and it was over cast and cloudy in Halong, however the islands still looked beautiful against the grey sky.
We spent about 4 hours travelling by boat around Halong Bay, as you are travelling out it looks like the islands are all joined together, like one giant mountain range, but as you journey closer you can see each individual island sprouting from the water.
There is a floating village in the Bay, where people live in floating houses with their cats and dogs and their children attend a floating school. The locals offer boat rides and kayaks for the tourists. Kirsty, Evan and myself opted for a leisurely row boat ride, definitely a great way to get up close and personal with the islands. Our lovely lady rower took us through a cave like entrance into a opening on the other side. One word – AMAZING! I felt like I had entered a different world, maybe I was in the TV show Getaway, it was unbelievable. For the first time in weeks and weeks it was peaceful and silent. The lady stopped rowing, we all sat in silence and stared in awe as we bobbed around in the middle of an island. There was no tooting horns, no zooming motorbikes, no yelling, just birds in the distance and nothing else.
Back on the boat we sailed to a cave discovered in 1993 by a fisherman. After trudging up a few stairs with every other tourist in sight, we disappeared from the sunlight into a massive opening. The cave has been “blinged” up with fluro lights but still the size is impressive.
Today, Thursday 1 May (where did April go?) we drove back to Hanoi. I’m enjoying a very quiet afternoon in my room catching up on my blog, photos and emails. Interestingly enough the Vietnam government has banned Facebook and it cannot be found via the internet. Each time I put the address in the page came up “Page could not be displayed”. However I did some research and if you change the IP address it re-directs your laptop to another location and you can access. How crazy is that! I’m just hoping I don’t have the Vietnamese Government knock on my hotel door…
Tomorrow I’ll check out some of the sights Hanoi has to offer. Friday night will be our last group dinner as the tour ends on Saturday. I have really grow friendly with this great group of people and we have shared a lot of good times together.
On Saturday I can’t believe that I will be flying to beautiful Laos for my next adventure. Until then take care and stay tuned 🙂
Picture are here.