After a quick flight from DaNang to Hanoi, a driver picked us up for a three hour drive to HaLong Bay. I enjoyed the scenery on the drive, and tried not to pay attention to the crazy Vietnamese driving practices! Upon arrival at the hotel, we were served Vietnamese tea, which was pretty customary.
The town we were in was a little odd. There were just a few nice hotels, in a rather undeveloped area near a marina. There was basically nothing to walk to, and no restaurants other than the hotel restaurant. In other words, we were in the middle of nowhere. Upon check-in, we saw the hotel staff setting up for a party outside, with a live band, right under our window. "Wonderful", I thought, "so much for getting some sleep tonight."
The hotel clerk explained that there may be some noise due to the staff party that evening, then invited us to join them at the staff party. It was a Lunar New Year celebration. I was skeptical at first, I felt like they were just trying to be nice, but Matt insisted that we should attend. And, since there was nothing else in the vicinity, we agreed.
There was a fabulous spread of food.
They had a huge buffet, as well as some guys grilling all kinds of meat; fish, chicken, shrimp, scallops, etc.
They brought several plates piled with meat to our table.
The meal was fabulous!
There was just something so awesome about sitting out under the stars, listening to a band play "Hotel California", in the middle of Vietnam.
Several bottles of Vodka Hanoi were on each table. We were told that this vodka was made from rice, rather than potatoes, which lent a sweeter taste.
The table next to ours, had a bunch of young guys, saying the equivalent of "1,2,3 CHEERS," and drinking shot after shot. They came to visit our table and chatted for a bit. I loved these guys! (We also sat next to a hotel guest, who worked as a resort photographer. He gets paid to travel the world, and photograph amazing resorts. YES, that's an actual job!!!)
After partying with the hotel staff, and actually getting decent sleep that night (they moved everyone into the hotel bar around 10:00pm), we headed to the marina for our cruise of HaLong Bay.
A big welcome from the staff.
We walked the marina a little, before boarding.
This was our boat for the day, Paradise Resorts luxury cruise.
We took the 5 hour cruise, which included a fabulous buffet lunch, and a stop at a cave for exploring.
Ready to set sail!
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking.
We met a nice man from Japan, who took this picture.
HaLong Bay has around 2,000 islets made of limestone, jutting up out of the water. Some of the limestone has undergone an estimated 500 million years of formation!
This picture captures my favorite moment of this entire trip. Sitting on the deck of this boat with my handsome husband, a hot cup of Vietnamese coffee, and taking in God's amazing creation!
We anchored for a bit, and the staff prepared a smaller boat to take us to the cave. As we were parked, several ladies in boats paddled up to sell snack items to the passengers. I admired their ingenuity!
We boarded the smaller boat, and headed to the island.
There was a long staircase leading to the cave entrance.
Inside the cave, was a HUGE cavern that was very well lit and easy to walk around.
We loved exploring this cave!
There was a little nob sticking up with money laying around it, which was probably some type of offering to a God. I see this often in Japan, certain areas are deemed holy for some reason, and offerings are made. The girls have finally learned not to collect the money!
And another cave pic. The cave was really cool, and went on forever.
The view from outside the cave was amazing, too!
It's always a good time for a family selfie!
Back on our boat and headed back to shore. This was the most relaxing day of a jam-packed Vietnam visit. Now, for the 3 hour drive back to Hanoi, which was even scarier in the dark! I finally decided to close my eyes and not watch our near death experience unfold.
I had no idea that HaLong Bay was so close to China. Also, we were no longer in the tropics and the weather was much cooler, definitely jacket weather. We spent the last 2 days in Hanoi, the nation's capital, coming up next....