In May 2015, we took a two-day, one-night tour of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam – probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
It took about four hours to get to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi by bus; the journey was much smoother sitting near the front. We stopped at a very big, very over-priced tourist shop on the way where we were followed around by sales assistants. We bought a couple of snacks but even if we had been interested in the products, the constant surveillance would have put us off!
At the bay we boarded our boat. It was smaller, older and much nicer than I was expecting (I thought it wouldn’t have much character). We had a lovely cabin, a deck for sun loungers and a restaurant in the middle.
The food was lovely. We had jackfruit, calamari, pork, chicken, cabbage, lots of rice and fruit to finish.
After lunch, we sailed to a bay for kayaking through caves which was fun. There were huge jelly fish in the water. We nicknamed our kayak ‘carrot’ because it was bright orange with green rope. After kayaking, we snorkelled in the bay (which was OK, but not my favourite activity). The sea was a beautiful jade colour, warm and clean. The scenery was just fantastic.
For some reason, they decided to host a cooking lesson (to make spring rolls) during the sunset but we sneaked off to enjoy the view instead.
After another lovely dinner, my husband decided to go squid fishing and I skipped the karaoke to read my book and look at the view.
An early start the following morning – up at 6am to watch the sunrise and do Tai Chi on the deck. After breakfast we went to a huge cave complex called Hang Sung Sot. Fishermen hid in these caves during the Vietnamese War to escape the bombing. Although they were quite impressive, there were far too many tourists and it had been spoilt by litter bins and graffiti.
It was extremely hot, too hot to sit in the sun, but we enjoyed the journey back and lunch on the boat. Ha Long Bay was definitely the highlight of my first trip to Vietnam and somewhere I would love to go back to.