We started our morning at the restaurant Pho 24 slurping a hot bowl of soup and a coffee. After breakfast, a mini-van full of people picked us up and we drove to Ha Long Bay. Although the drive was long…just under 4 hours, it was nice to stare out the window watching the countryside as the Vietnamese went about their day in the fields. There were people and bulls plowing the fields and we noted the pointy rice hats most people were wearing to protect them from sun and rain.
Once we arrived at Ha Long Bay, the area was covered with tourists and many old classic wooden boats loading people onboard. There were about 12 of us who hopped on a small boat to bring us to our “cruise boat”. The boat itself was definitely old but our tiny room had a double bed and bathroom…this was not exactly the Norwegian cruise line. The whole boat was made of wood, the top deck was for viewing…there were lounge chairs but the weather was pretty cold. The main floor which included the dining area was where our room was, and the front of the boat was a small viewing deck with some little couches.
Once everyone was settled in, we all sat down in the main room for lunch. The boat was cruising along the bay between small islands and limestone formations of various shapes and sizes. This bay is a Unesco World Heritage site and with the fog sitting over us…it was eerily beautiful.
After lunch…we arrived at Hang Sung Sot which was a huge cave covered with rock formations inside. We climbed through staring at the walls and ceiling, it’s amazing what nature can do. They had some neon lights as they did in the China cave to highlight some areas in the cave. We got back on the boat and watched from the outside deck as the scenery passed us by. It definitely reminded us of the Li river cruise except this was a bay so we were surrounded by the mountains. The little boats were so picturesque sitting with the mountains behind them. We took many pictures…it was so beautiful and calm outside the only issue was the pollution. In fact Unesco has threatened to take them off the list if they don’t clean it up. There are many boats full of tourists which is causing oil pollution but the major problem is the locals who live there…they use the bay like a garbage can. We saw it firsthand, our cruise boat anchored for a bit while everyone went out on canoes. As we paddled through the floating houses, we saw how filthy the water was with things like wrappers, dirty diapers and bottles floating around…it is such a shame.
It was sort of bitter-sweet to see people treat such a beautiful place like that…either not realizing or not caring that they were literally polluting their own homes. It was fun to be in the water on the canoe, we were able to really go close to the floating houses and peek in to see some of the locals. The houses were basically little shacks built on a docks. Much like street vendors drive a cart full of food to sell in the streets, women had small row boats full of snacks and would float around trying to sell their goods to both locals and tourists.
After spending about an hour in the canoe, we got back on the cruise boat and relaxed for a bit. We ate dinner which wasn’t the best dinner we’ve ever had, and then went into our room to watch a movie. We had to get up super early so intended on getting to bed early but karaoke was going on in the main room…which was right outside our door. Imagine really bad drunk karaoke singers in a bar…now picture yourself stuck on a boat with them…there was no escape.