Sunday, January 15, 2017

Motykas in Asia 2016 - Part 2 Ha Long Bay

On our second day in Vietnam, we checked out early from Golden Moon Hotel and hopped in a rented car to Chuan Tin Pier. We arranged a rental car through Peter from our hotel at US $ 135 round trip. Considering that the cruise charges US $45 per person to go on their shuttle bus, this is a good price!

Chuan Tin Pier was located about 4 hours drive away from Hanoi. It was a looooong drive DH and Miss Kiki made a joke about why the Bay was called Ha Long Bay. It was because everyone who goes there would ask Ha Long (How Long)? :D

About midway to the pier, we made a stop at a rest area where they had restaurants and souvenir shop. In this shop they had many people demonstrating Vietnamese arts such as embroidery paintings. Look at this one for sale at about US $100. It was approximately Letter size.

In the same shop they also sold these freaky snake and scorpion liquor.

Finally, we arrived at the Pier. We were dropped off at Bhaya Cruise office and were immediately greeted and given information by their staff. From Jakarta, I had booked a cabin at Bhaya Cruise Classic through my friend at TX Travel Ambassador. Through the travel agent, I was able to book a cabin instead of paying per person. It came out slightly cheaper this way.

We arrived earlier than the shuttles so we had extra time before boarding and were able to claim good tables outside the office facing the water. The weather was nice and cool and the sun was warm. The sky was obviously clearer than in Hanoi. I kept thinking about the Motykas who were supposed to be with us and was sad for them.

While waiting, I taught her to multiply. Hehe

 They announced boarding at 12:30 pm and we were led to our boat. As we approached our boat, I could see the cruise staff greeting the passengers from the deck. "Xin chào!" they shouted.

We were given the key to our cabin where our suitcases were already waiting by the door. We briefly settled and headed upstairs on the 3rd floor for safety briefing. First, the cruise manager introduced himself and his staff. Then he explained the safety features of the boat and what to do during emergencies. He also explained our itineraries for the two days before lunch started in the same room.

After lunch we went to the deck on the 4th level. The sky was blue and the air was cool. It was lovely.

Later in the afternoon, they offered a tour to the Surprise Cave. We had to take a smaller boat to the land, and was warned that there would be more than 700 steps to take and there would be no turning back. They repeated numerous times that it was a one way tour as the entrance and the exits are separate. The 700 steps were actually not that bad, it was about 100 steps up and leisurely walk for the rest.

The Surprise Cave had 3 sections, each being larger than the previous ones. In the cave we could see stalactites and stalagmites. Do you remember which one is which? Stalactites go from the ceiling down and stalagmites go from the ground up. They were formed from years and years of water dripping on a spot and creating mineral deposits. The water flow also left interesting textures on the ground, wall, and ceiling.

There was a rock formation in the second section that they called the Finger Rock pointing at a hole. Like Yin and Yang, they go together. Um.... yeah, call it what you want but it looked like something else to me. Lol. See picture below and decide for yourselves.

The sections were well lit with colourful spot lights making it more interesting. I didn't post too many here because well, they're just rocks.

Here's one mention worthy, a turtle shaped rock where people left money on. They said it would bring them good luck.

Rock on the floor was polished by people's steps.

At the exit from the cave we had the opportunity to take these pictures...

When we got back to our cabin, the sun was starting to get lower. This was the view from our cabin window. It was on the 1st level.

The next activity was a trip to Titov Island, or they also called it Titop Island. The name Ti Top was given by the most respectful hero of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh, after the Russian astronaut German Titop (Titov) on the occasion of his first visit to Halong Bay in 1962. Originally, DH and Miss Kiki wanted to swim at the beach but changed their minds after they found out how cold the water was. Miss Kiki was a bit sad because she was really looking forward to a swim but settled with building sandcastles instead. DH decided to go for a hike and was able to take some nice pictures even with my little Pentax.

They called us back to the boat at sunset and we were entertained with Happy Hours at the bar and a cooking demonstration. We were showed how to make Vietnamese Spring Roll and also how to make flowers from carrots and from tomatoes. Did you know how spring rolls got their name? According to the cruise crew, it was because the filling was colourful like spring.

Soon after, it was dinner time. A 5-course dinner got us stuffed really good. All of the food tasted great!

In the evening, they had squid fishing activities. DH and Miss Kiki joined in but didn't catch any. They both almost did, but not quite yet. Not long after, we all snored (maybe) in our little cabin.

The following day, the activity they prepared was to get to a lagoon through a dark and light cave. We had the option of rowing our own kayak or getting in a row boat with the locals. Well I was not getting in a kayak with these flimsy arms of mine. The cave was pretty cool, it was so low above the water one would not be able to stand up straight on a boat and pass under.

On the way back we stopped by a local floating village where the locals live on small boats. No doctors were available so if the villagers got sick they would use traditional herbs to cure themselves.

When we got back to the big boat we had a big brunch and then finally it was time to head back to the pier. That was the end of our cruise. On the way out the chef asked if he could take a picture with Miss Kiki and she happily obliged :D

The same driver picked us up from the pier and we had to go through that long drive again. We stopped at a similar rest area located across from the previous one. This time we had lunch there. DH originally wanted to join the drivers and ate at the driver canteen but they didn't let us.

From the pier, the driver dropped us off at the airport so we could catch our flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). At the airport we finally met up with the Motykas. They made it! Why we didn't have any pictures together, I don't know!