Day 14 started with another domestic flight from Hoi An to Hanoi. Hanoi is a bigger city than Hoi An but is not as big as Saigon, in saying that, we don’t feel as safe walking around the streets in Hanoi as we did in Saigon. As soon as we got off the plane there were signs about pick pockets and fake taxi’s, the hotel staff also said not to walk around with phones in hands etc as people on bikes can grab them while you are walking down the street. That being said, we have done some walking around and although we don’t feel as safe as Hoi An and Saigon, we also don’t feel unsafe to be here.
Day 15 we travelled 3 hours by a limo van to our Ha Long Bay tour. Upon arrival we boarded a small city cat style boat which took us to the bigger vessel that would take us down to the amazing secluded bay. We went through a company called Orchid Cruises and this was the best decision of the entire trip. The cruise boat, staff, food and activities cannot be faulted, it was absolutely incredible.
Upon arriving at the main vessel, the crew were all on the back deck waving and ushering us inside where they then offered us drinks as we boarded. From here we went into the main dining room for a safety and itinerary briefing before heading into our cabins to drop off our belongings. Once we were settled, we headed back to the main dining room for lunch. Whilst we cruised down the river watching the incredible scenery out of the big glass windows, we enjoyed a huge lunch of chicken, fish and soup. The food was prepared onboard by a chef and was presented nicer than most Australian restaurants. The staff were also super helpful with dietary requirements and nothing was too difficult for them.
After lunch we headed back to the cabin for a much needed nap, going to sleep watching the mountains through the floor to ceiling glass windows. As we woke up we had arrived in our first destination to do some swimming and canoeing in the river. We boarded a smaller boat which took us to a floating pontoon where we jumped into some canoes and paddled down the secluded lake, stopping in the middle of this lake to float around was incredibly relaxing and the only noise that you can hear are the birds in the background. After about 45 minutes we went back to the pontoon and went for a swim before heading back to the main boat for happy hour.
Happy hour was on the top deck which was completely open to the sunset and night sky. During happy hour we had a cooking demonstration by the head chef and had the opportunity to try out our new skills. An amazing dinner was served under the night sky of fish, soup, duck, lamb and fruit, by this time the sun had set and the only lights were the stars, moon and the other Orchid Cruise ship in the distance. After dinner we retired to our cabin for a much needed sleep on the very comfortable bed.
At 5.15am we woke to watch the sunrise on the top deck. The morning was quite cloudy but we did catch a glimpse of some sun rising through the cloud. After the sunrise we went back to sleep until 6.50 where breakfast was served in the main dining room. Once breakfast was finished we jumped back into the small boat to take us to a fishing pontoon where we boarded a small bamboo boat to have an up close and personal look at the bay and a cave. We sailed through the cave into a secluded bay which was silent with the exception of crickets and birds. At this point our tour guide started singing in Vietnamese which was incredibly cool. Our 17 year old bamboo boat captain rowed us back to the pontoon where we boarded our small boat and sailed back to the main boat for brunch and check out. We then sailed back to shore and took the 3 hour limo van back to our hotel room.
This cruise was incredible and if you are in Hanoi this is a must see. I would recommend going for 2 nights though as 1 night is just not enough to get the full experience. Orchid Cruises was amazing, the staff were so helpful and I would highly recommend this company for a very luxury experience.
This afternoon we went to the night markets to do some shopping, they are very good for clothes and crafts and we picked up a number of items here. Tomorrow we are heading to the wholesale market and having a bit more of a look around the city.