“Search the globe, and you will never find a place that looks remotely like this.”
Our second day in Vietnam is a full day trip to the 2,000 islets of Halong Bay, a very popular destination, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Well I remember on that early morning when I was kind of worried about the weather since it was raining on our first day in Hanoi, but luckily it had slowly turned into a sunny day.
It was expected that it’s going to be a long trip, so my sister and I had to wake up way too early in order to prepare for it, and also because we don’t want to keep our travel agent waiting for us. By 8:30 in the morning, we were picked up by our tour guide at the hotel lobby, and assisted us to the bus that was already waiting outside.
Along with some fellow Asian travelers on board, the shuttle bus was kind of full packed. So it’s a good thing that we were still able to get such comfortable seats since the trip will take for about four hours to travel, and while we were halfway through our journey, we’ve had a short stop over at a souvenir shop in order to take a break for about 15 minutes.
I think it was around lunch time when we had finally arrived at the port, and from there, head off straight as to where our assigned boat was located. Then upon boarding and at the start of our cruising around the bay, all of its travelers were given a sumptuous and delicious seafood with Vietnamese dishes for lunch. Of course, we all ate right away due to the fact that all of us were so hungry from that road trip; and while eating, we were utterly enjoying the wonderful view outside.
After that, we were given the free time to relax at the sun deck, to explore around the boat, to take it all in the amazing views around us, and as usual, to take some photos.
In our tour, we were also given the option to Kayak in the emerald-green waters of the bay, or go for a bamboo boat ride. But all of us in our group had decided to go for the latter option.
By the time it was our turn, my sister and I were paired with a young Indian woman and her mother.
So while our designated local guide was rowing the boat for all of us, we both take turns in taking some pictures to one another, and for that, I will always remember them for being so nice and so kind towards me and Fatimah.
Moving forward, the Bamboo boat ride was such a fun experience especially when we get to see some islets of the bay in a much closer look, including some local families who actually live in a boat. But I was kind of disturbed because I’ve noticed that there are some scattered pieces of a Styrofoam floating around near the small caves. I just hope that the locals would do something about it, because it’s such a pity to see a marvelous place slowly turning into a garbage area.
I almost forgot, by the way, in case that you will have the opportunity to encounter a local seller in Halong Bay that sells some souvenir items for a price of 15,000 dong (P34) or below. I truly suggest that you will buy it right away because it’s such a bargain, and those products back in Hanoi would cost for about 20,000 – 40,000 dong per item.
For our next stop, it was the Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave). I think this part in our tour was definitely the most exhausting thing that we all did. Probably it was due to the fact that we had to climb quite a number of stairs just to get there. Moreover, it was so crowded. Tons of foreign visitors. So it’s either you’ll enjoy it there, or you won’t. Well in our case, we’ve had a wonderful time wandering in that area.
Well anyway, the Cave was enchanting and colorful to look at; but instead of taking photos, I’ve used my time there to just walk around, observing the place, and just letting my sister Fatimah take most of the pictures. After that, we were back once again to our boat in preparation for our trip back to the mainland, and while on cruise, we’ve had the rare opportunity to witness the beautiful sunset around Halong Bay. Which is truly a magnificent sight to see.
The thing is, for years I’ve been wanting to see Halong Bay in person, and never mind that it was such a long road trip because from the moment that our boat had started cruising around the bay, I’ve tried to grasp everything right before my very eyes. Already getting an idea of what my idol Anthony Bourdain had felt back then when he went to visit there for two days. Furthermore, it looks so beautifully majestic that made the journey all worth it. And because we really had a great time conversing with our fellow travelers on board, my sister and I are also grateful to the them for making that day a very memorable one; like our tour guide, two travelers from Thailand, one Singaporean, and a group of Filipino travelers from Manila (who are also our fellow passengers on our flight going to Hanoi), and so many more.
Then at around eight in the evening, we were officially back to Hanoi, and all of us were dropped off back to our respective hotels.
It was still an early evening, so my sister and I had decided to go out again after taking a short break; and since it was also the weekend, we had the chance to experience the night market in Hanoi; an awesome evening with a big crowd and lots of stalls that sells so many affordable products (in which Hanoi is already getting known for). From food, clothes, shoes, souvenir items, bags, toys. There are just so many things to buy!
Even for a budget of 500,000 dong (P 1,000 or $20), there are tons of items that you can purchase in that kind of amount.
Some tips, bargain all the way and go for the reasonable price that you are aiming for. So how can you do it? Be a good negotiator, and don’t just buy right away, because not all stalls sell the same price for a certain product and it actually differs from one corner to another. So be very meticulous in terms of purchasing an item that you wanted to buy.
Plus, we also had the chance to try the Vietnamese edition of KFC. And I’m so sorry that I’m going to say this but, I think our Filipino version is so much better and tastier.
Overall, it was a very unforgettable night and we really had so much fun blending in with such a massive crowd, which also made us look forward to the next night market.
And that’s the story of our second day of exploring.
Thank you so much for reading, and will keep you posted to the next part of our story.