Austen's Travel Blog

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Vietnam - Day 4 - Ha Long Bay to Hue

December 28, 2019

We slept on the Junk overnight which was comfortable. The water was so calm it wasn’t easy to tell we were on a boat but the faint sound of generators from other boats in the area meant it wasn’t a completely restful night.

We woke at 6:30am so we were at the Hang Sung Sot cave at opening. Breakfast was planned for the cruise back to Ha Long so we grabbed a cup of tea and an energy bar before we left.

Ha Long Panoramic

The light was much better this morning and the sunrise over the bay was spectacular.

Caves 1

We arrived at the caves just as they opened. It was a good call by our guide to delay until this morning as there was only one other small group there and it felt like we had the caves to ourselves.

Caves 2

There were three chambers in the caves each progressively bigger than the last and the limestone ceiling has shaped so that it looks like an upside down desert. The final cave is the largest and most beautiful and we walk slowly through marvelling at the scenes.

Caves 3

View of the bay from the caves

The boat is waiting for us at the exit and we head inside and sit down for breakfast straight away. We’re not clear what’s on the menu and it starts with toast and Laughing Cow Cheese, bizarrely. The food keeps on arriving just slowly enough so you think that’s it and then another dish appears. By the end we’ve had fried eggs, bacon, toast and fruit, washed down with Vietnamese coffee.

Family Photo at the caves

After breakfast we check out of the rooms so the crew can start cleaning and then watch a demonstration from the chef of how he created the table decorations from dinner the night before. A steady hand and a sharp knife are required and we’re all impressed by what he can create from just a carrot and cucumber.

Cucumber Flower Carving

Carrot Carving

Carrot Belt

Finished Cucumber Flower

Finished Table Decoration

Once back to shore we jump back on the coach for the 4 hour journey back to Hanoi.

Along the way we catch up on some sleep and then stop for lunch at a workshop for people disabled by the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. They make embroidered paintings, sell clothing and other goods and operate a restaurant. All of which means they can support themselves.

We have lunch in the restaurant and the children are pleased to see hamburgers on the menu! I order beef with black pepper sauce which turns out to be a beef burger covered in black pepper sauce served with rice. It was tasty, but not what I had imagined when I’d ordered.

After lunch we buy a couple of small embroidered paintings as souvenirs along with a shirt for Alex and a dress for Bella and head back to the coach.

Our final stop before Hanoi was at a supermarket to buy snacks for our sleeper train journey tonight. We are all amused when we have to check in bags and hats(!) at the supermarket door before being allowed in. We buy French Baguettes and Laughing Cow Cheese - the kids haven’t had it before today and it’s now a hit. On the way out we also have our bags checked against the receipt. I guess shop lifting is a problem here.

Once back at the hotel we order some take away and we’re assigned a ‘day room’ so that we can shower and prepare for the journey tonight.

Sleeper Train Cabin

At 6:30pm we check out, board the coach and head to the train station. We’re swiftly shown to our cabin and we settle in. We’re all really hungry so we tuck into our picnic straight away. The takeaway food is delicious and we’ve finished eating before the train even starts to move.

Alex in his bunk

Bella in her bunk

Once we get underway we break out our sleeping bag liners and get into bed. The announcements on the train are incredibly loud and seem to go on forever. We manage to turn them off inside the cabin but they’re nearly as loud from the corridor. Let’s hope they don’t continue all night!