Thursday, 28 January 2016

Halong Bay Cruise on a Junk Boat

We booked a one night cruise on a Grayline Junk boat. My splurge of the trip as it was very costly (but worth it). It is a 4☆ boat, with 14 cabins. We were picked up at the hotel in Hanoi at 8am. We were the first group picked up. In total 15 people were on the bus. Part way to the bay we stopped at a Unesco center. It is a tourist trap, but with a purpose. Silk and cotton pictures are being hand sewn. Jewelry is being made and incredible marble statues.

The people who are  making the pictures are all handicapped.  Many have deformaties as their mothers were exposed to agent orange when pregnant, Some had other physical and mental handicaps. Many people sewing were unable to speak or hear.

We arrived at Halong Bay at noon. The rooms are amazing, they have a queen size bed a super large hot shower and a view to the ocean. Only 14 passenger are staying on this boat. So I think the crew out numbers us.

The first meal started with seafood soup, then large prawns, then a squid stir fry with rice. Dessert was banana Flambeau with coconut.
Supper was a 7 course meal.
Pumpkin soup
Mixed seafood salad
Deep fried spring rolls
Grilled oysters with onion
Grilled prawns
Grilled gartupa fish in sauce
Mixed potatoes in cream
Sautéed carrot and chayote fruit
Mango ice cream.
The food is definitely 5 star.

During the day we went to a grotto and went through a cave called the Labyrinth. Sharon was more adventurous and crawled through some smaller areas - getting a bump on her head. Kurtis and I walked through the easier areas.
Sharon and I then had a massage on the boat. Kurtis declined.

After the cave we could either kayak or go in a row boat - rowed by a local. I chose to go in the row boat.  Sharon and Kurtis decided to stay on the junk boat - not sure what they did during that time.... (wink, wink). The row boat held six of us and we went around a small area of the bay, we went through two cave like openings and got to see a family of monkeys in the trees, unfortunately they were too far away for me to photograph.

After supper we could watch movies, sit in the bar area or fish for squid. Sharon had one latch on to her hook but lost it. During our time fishing only one squid was caught. The squid was then cooked and shared.

In the morning we started the day with TaiChi. Then a breakfast of made-to-order omelets.

We then travelled to a floating house, where they maintain a fish farm. Three years ago the government moved the villagers into Hanoi. The area was getting very polluted. The villagers were given houses and some American money.  Also the right to fish where they were tradionally located. One house remains, for tourism. As well, the inhabitants of the house, clean their area of the bay twice a day. They also maintain the small fish farm. Presently a young family reside there with two small children. They provided us with a cup of tea and the little ones, ages 2 and 3, passed around peanuts.

Our last lunch was as spectacular as the previous meals were.  A cream lentil soup, spicy vegetable salad, french fries, chicken stir fry, beef stew, jasmine rice, finishing with fresh fruit - dragon fruit and watermelon. 

Grayline Cruises and their staff treated us very well.

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