We had arranged to cruise Ha Long Bay for two nights and 3 days aboard the Legend 1. The Legend 1 is a small junk with 1 stateroom accomodating 2 people. Perfect for us!
It was a 4 hour car trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay. We stopped at what appears to be the manditory stopping place - a large tourist shop with no lack of "souveniers", "art works", "precious jewelry" and other items one can't live without. However, we managed.
On our third morning in Hanoi, we met a very nice couple - Mike and Marian Watt - from Canada. We were fortunate to meet them again for dinner the night before we left for Halong Bay, again at the required stop and once more at the Halong Bay staging area. It seems a lot of the Halong Bay cruises are operated by Bhaya Cruises and they all start from the same spot. Here we are with the Watts having a welcome drink.
Once on board, first activity of the cruise is LUNCH!. We're off to a great start.
On the left and right are pictures of our stateroom. Below you can see our dining area and to the left and right the outside lounge areas. It's been quite cool (actually cold!) so outside lounging is done using a heavy blanket to keep warm.
Starting on our left and working counter-clockwise, we had a delicious pumkin soup, an excellent salad, some prawns in a deep-fried shell, local fresh fish which was wonderful and ending with some pastry and fresh mango.
The placard below gives a good introduction to Ha Long Bay.
Before dinner, Minh (Our guide for the cruise.) conducted a short demonstration/competition making spring rolls. He had half a dozen rice paper sheets and a bowl of filling. The filling was a mixture of veggies shrimp, pork, and egg yolk. The filling was mixed together and then it was time to roll it in the rice paper. I would like to say I won the competition but the picture below says differently.
Below is a picture of the cooked spring roll. Also on the menu for dinner was prawns and a stir fry beef and vegatable dish.
The first activity of the new day was an excursion to one of the caves. There were going to be quite a few steps to climb so Granny decided to pass. Minh and I were transported to one of the many islands where there is a cave. It should not be forgotten that Ha Long Bay is an extremely popular visitor site and the caves are one of the main attractions. As a result, they are usually very crowded. Since many of the boats are on 2 day -1 night sojurns and the area of the bay where we were is about 4 hours from the start/ending point, we waited until mid-morning to go on our excursion. We were the ONLY people in the cave at the time. That was a VERY good thing as I found the climbing quite difficult and VERY slow going. I didn't venture too far into the cave as I didn't think that the farther reaches offered anything much different from what I was aleady seeing. I took a couple of pictures inside the cave but they don't show much other than the lights that are illuminating the area. However, just to prove that I was there, below are pictures of me and Minh on the trail to the cave.
Our activity for the afternoon was a visit to a floating village and also a stop at a pearl farm. Motor boats aren't allowed inside the "village" area so we transferred to a boat that was rowed by a woman of the village.
The natural beauty of the area is awesome! Below are few pictures that attempt to capture some of this.
Living on the water, your primary source of sustenance is fish. One primary catch of this area is squid. The man in the picture below-right is fishing for squid. He rows with his feet, leaving his hands free for catching. (Click ">HERE to see a video of him.)
We also went as far as the cave - picture on the right. Although they call it a cave, it appears to me to be more of a passage way from one "lagoon" area to another.
Our last stop on this excursion was the pearl farm. Our guide first showed us three different sizes/variety of pearl oyster. The Akoya oyster is the smallest variety at this farm. Next is the Tahiti and finally the South Seas oyster. I didn't notice too much difference until shown the South Seas oyster. They are LARGE!!
Pictured below left are a few of the South Seas oysters. From here, we went inside to see how the pearl is extracted from the oyster. First it must be cut open and then the pearl is removed using a scalpel and tweezers. The extracted pearl is shown in Granny's hand. Granny wanted a pair of pearl earrings. In order to get the charge machine to connect, the saleslady had to hold the card reader out the window.
It's Tuesday morning and time to go back to port. Ha Long Bay is a spectacular sight. It's been a wonderful couple of days and it's not over yet. On the way back we see more of the magnificent karst formations, cargo vessels and barges carrying their freight, and LOTS of tourist boats. This is one of the most visited places in Vietnam and probably high up on the World Places to Visit. A few last pictures.
On the left, one of the large cruise ships from another company. On the right, a couple of barges passing by. Below left and center are two pictures of an outcropping that looks like a fish. And finally those responsible for such a great voyage - OUR CREW!