When we arrived at the train station in Hanoi, we basically hopped straight on to a bus to take us another couple of hours to Halong Bay, which is another UNESCO World Heritage site. We met our local tour guide who was annoyingly energetic and unfortunately his personality just grated on me.
The weather was getting a little cooler, but we were kind of expecting that, as we were pretty far north by this point. It kind of worked in our favour, because there was a little mist and fog on the surface of the water which gave the ~2000 islets some serious atmosphere.
A fair few people wanted to go kayaking round the islets, to see them a little closer up, but as I said, the temperature had dropped off a little and there was a little too much exercise for my liking! Instead, I stayed on the boat and managed to get a brilliant picture of Mr Minion standing on the Lonely Man. The locals, our tour guide included insist that the islets and islands look like things, and as such have given certain rocks names. Highlights include The Lonely Man, who sits apart from a collection of rocks, facing them, it you will. Of course, he is a man too shy to approach a bunch of ladies(!). The Fighting Roosters don’t look anything like a pair of chickens. A quick Google search brings up a Wikipedia page referring to them as The Kissing Cocks which is just too much innuendo for me to handle!
We went into one of the bigger caves that had three chambers – Thien Cung, which means something related to a dragon. Unfortunately, by this point in the day, I’d definitely lost all interest in the tour guide, which is really quite sad, because I’m sure in and amongst his insistent pleas that this rock looks like a monkey and that one has a lion’s face there were probably some fascinating facts. Inside this cave it was beautiful. Well, once upon a time before tourists descended upon it and stuck multi-coloured lights deep within the stalagmites and stalactites and erected a man-made giant golden turtle (for good luck) water feature in the middle of one of the chambers.
As we walked into the second chamber, our illustrious guide asked all the Brits to look out for quintessential English shapes and imagery. I was looking for something that looked like Big Ben or a London Bus… I saw a weird looking formation of rocks that looked like the shape of the Thames, but he just laughed, told me I was wrong and ushered me along before I could take a picture. Apparently, there was an Eagle’s face in one of the rocks, and I could kind of see it, but I’m not sure about eagles being specifically British. American, yes, but not strictly English. Well, History was never my strongest subject at school, so if anyone could shed some light on this point, I’d be grateful.
Anyway, four million group photos later, and a hearty chorus of “Xin Chao, Vietnam!” on a GoPro video, we headed back on to the boat, back to shore. There were half-heated karaoke plans for the evening, but no one was really feeling it apart from me, so we grabbed some beers from a local shop that looked very much like the doorway to a home, and sat in the Hotel garden until the early hours.