Friday, February 08, 2008

Last Day in Halong Bay

We gladly said good-bye to Cat Ba Island and joined up with the other group. We really enjoyed the trip to Halong Bay, but would recommend two nights on the boat and skip sleeping on Cat Ba Island especially if the weather is bad.



Jonny took a ton of pictures of the kids on the boat. They really enjoyed being on the boat and pretending they were pirates and the captain of the boat. Here are some of the great pictures he took.





Relaxing after a day of being pirates!

Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island

We woke up bright and early fir breakfast, but of course were the last ones to the table. We were asked if we wanted to go kayaking for 2 hours or for 45 minutes. I was actually thinking we couldn't go at all with the kids and it was freezing, so to me kayaking wasn’t exactly desirable. We decided we may as well go for it since they had life jackets that would fit the kids’ snuggly.


Here we are getting ready to get on the kayak.

I have to say that our kayaking experience was quite good. Jonny and I each took a kid and we paddled around the bay. It is a bit tricky to get the hang of, but since it was just me rowing by myself it wasn't too difficult.

After our kayaking we met up with another boat and said good-bye to our boat mates. The other group of people we met up with were going to spend the night on Cat Ba Island as were we. We headed to Cat Ba National Park for an 8 km hike. Here are a few pictures of our hike.





An aquaculture farm. This particular farm was growing crops of fish and shrimp.


Gemma our little hiker girl!


Angus on the other hand preferred Jonny's shoulders.


We met a few friends along the way. We were most surprised by the heard of cows coming our way. Our guide had a stick with him and of course we were wondering why. We asked him what he was doing with it and he told us it was in case we met up with any cobras! Luckily for us we didn't!


Angus hitched a ride on the back of this man's bicycle.


While walking through the park we were trying to reach a little village to have a rest before traveling back to our boat. Here were the rice fields in the village. I have always wanted to see rice fields up close and personal.


Gemma and Angus checking out all of the sites including dogs, cats, ducks and chickens running all over the place.

We stopped for a bowl of noodles and a drink, but we were didn't think the kids could walk another 8 km back to the boat. We decided to break a major rule and put the kids on motorbikes.


Angus getting ready to go. Of course I went with him. I know, I know you are all judging my parenting. Honestly, I never thought I would be doing this myself, but when in Asia....


The motorbike ride was probably the kids' highlight of Halong Bay.


We headed to another island for lunch on the beach. The others on the boat with us were a Canadian couple and an American girl. They were all teachers in Seoul, South Korea. The funny thing was they teach with one of our friend's brother and sister-in-law. Talk about a small world! I swear all foreigners are interconnected in Asia!!!

After lunch we headed to the other side of Cat Ba Island where the hotels were located. It was the weirdest place I think I have ever been. I felt like I was in a Scooby Doo cartoon or in a really bad horror movie. The island seemed to be deserted as did our hotel. The hotel was nice, but didn't have working heaters and the weather in Vietnam is unseasonably cold.


Here is a photo of the hotel from the beach. It was nice, but I definitely think a little sun and warm weather would have done wonders for our stay.


The hotel had a little playground for the kids.


The view from the hotel of Halong Bay was gorgeous.


Here was another sea gypsy village on the other side of the hotel.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Halong Bay Day !

On Sunday we headed to Halong Bay to spend two nights. We left around 9 am and we were all feeling pretty good. About an hour into the trip poor Gemma vomited her breakfast in the back of our van which included 6 young Australians. I am fairly sure Gemma was just a little bit carsick and seemed to do fine after that. Jonny on the other hand was covered in puke. We managed to get the driver to pull over so we could clean up the Gemma, Jonny, and the van.


Here is Jonny changing his jeans at the side of the road.

We got back on the road and arrived in Halong Bay promptly at 12:30 pm. We boarded a small boat which then took us to Santa Maria Cruiser that we would be sleeping on for one night.


Here is the harbor packed with boats.


Here we are getting ready to go to the Santa Maria.


Here we are at our table on the Santa Maria.

The kids were so excited to be on a boat especially to be sleeping on a boat. We were excited to see the beautiful limestone rocks and emerald waters of Halong Bay. None of us were disappointed with this day! The kids had the time of their lives and we enjoyed picturesque Halong Bay. Here are some are some photos from the day.




Captain AngusSword!





On the water were many sea gypsy villages. Many of them make their living off tourism. Ever time we got off the boat there were boats coming up to our boat trying to sell us things.

At this stop was a gorgeous cave with stalactites and stalagmites. Here are some pictures from our little tour.





The pictures didn't turn out the best, but the cave was definitely worth seeing. It was also a good chance for the kids to stretch their sea legs!


A site I saw very disturbing while on the boat was the young children from the sea villages rowing around the tourist boats begging for money. I estimate the boys on this boat were between the ages of 4-6 years of age. I can't imagine letting Gemma and Angus rowing a boat around the ocean like this.


After a great day in Halong Bay we ended with dinner. Here are our spring rolls served in a pineapple.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

And I thought China had a lot of people!!!

We all had a great nights sleep and Gemma and I seem to be on the mend. We decided we would have to hit the Ho Chin Minh Mausoleum to start our day off.


Jonny and the kids at the entrance of the mausoleum.



It was kind of a freaky tour. We had to follow a path all the way to the mausoleum (as seen in the background of this picture), we couldn't step off the path or on the sidewalks. Jonny could not carry Angus in anyway. We all had to walk in a line. The mausoleum itself was pretty cool and "Uncle Ho" is what they refer to him in here, was preserved quite well. The mausoleum building was located in a large park area with some other sites to see. Here are a couple other things we saw in the complex.


Ho Chi Minh Museum


One Pillar Pagoda


After the museum we tried to get a taxi, but they tried to rip us off. We started walking and decided to take our first cyclo ride. I had seen this type of transportation first at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant back in Chandler with the same name, but never dreamed I would actually be riding in one.

The thing that has really been different about being in Hanoi is the traffic. I honestly thought that you couldn't top traffic in China, but this is really the craziest thing I have ever seen. It is organized chaos at its best. Here is a little video snip of our cyclo ride and the traffic of Hanoi.


After our ride back to the hotel we decided to grab some lunch. We went to a little place called Cyclo Bar and were pleasantly surprised to see the cyclo seat at our table. We had our first Vietnamese food of the trip and it was more than yummy! I had my first bowl of pho and some delicious spring rolls! We also had dessert and thanks to the French influence it was scrumptious!

The kids were tired at lunch, so we headed back to the hotel for a little nap. Jonny went and scoped out the area for us and planned the rest of our day. We woke the kids up and headed out to do a little walking tour of Hanoi. Here are some pictures of the tour.


Hoan Kiem Lake


Angus sporting the famous conical hat.


A typical alleyway in Hanoi.


The old gate into Hanoi city.


One of the many temples.


We loved the offerings to the gods, especially the Tiger beer!


We made the mistake of walking down this street. It was literally standing room only.

We had a very successful day and even though there was tons of traffic, I definitely thought we saw quite a bit of the Old Quarter of Vietnam. Tomorrow we are heading out to Halong Bay for couple of days. The kids are quite excited about it because we are taking an overnight cruise on a junk boat. It should be another adventure!