13.02.2017 - 16.02.2017
Happy Valentine's Day everyone! We really wish we had a wonderful romantic story to tell you regarding our valentines day however ours ended up being a little hectic, but worth it. We started off our day at 8am by getting picked up at our hotel by Tony (our Halong bay guide), thus beginning our 4.5 hour drive to the coast on one of the craziest roads we've ever been on. I'm not sure why we continue to be surprised by the chaos, however we honestly believed that the road to one of Vietnam's premier destinations would have better access (we eventually learned that they simply didn't want to pay the tolls so they avoided the nice highway). The trip was only 110km and it honestly took 4.5 hours. We were tossed around the bus, horns honking and the breaks screeching.... SUCH A GONG SHOW. We're not really sure how more people aren't seriously injured or dead.
We finally made it to Halong Bay, the sun was shining and hot as we boarded a little transport boat that took us from the port to our "Lemon Tour Boat". We opted only to stay one night on the ship as we heard from others that this was sufficient, and it was. The ship was pretty standard; our room was basic but cute, nice dinning facilities and a wide open sun deck which was great for sightseeing (and we finally had a comfy mattress!) We were fed some lunch and our adventure began. We first visited the islands and a small little beach where some people opted to kayak, but we decided to get in some rays on the sand. These islands, honestly, are so hard to describe. Only pictures could attempt to and those won't even do them justice. They are absolutely beautiful, scattered in each direction, rock faces with a variety of green, lush vegetation growing in between the cracks, hawks gliding in the wind circling their nest on the highest of perches, turquoise water with a little bit of haze melting into a never ending blue sky - stunning to say the least.
We had supper on the boat and went squid fishing in the dark while listening to our fellow ship mates sing karaoke. In the AM, we were taken ashore and allowed to explore some of the caves on one of the islands. While it would have been nice to stay an extra day or two in Halong City, the next tour called, so back on the death road to the train station for our overnight train to Sapa, in the north.
So, the night train... this was my (Lindsay's) first experience with such a thing and all I can say is: I'm glad I was able to experience it one time in my life, but I would only ever do it again out of necessity!
It worked out well for us this time as the Sapa tour began as soon as we got off the train and headed to our hotel. We ate breakfast and rented some rubber boots prior to meeting our group and beginning our trek through the hills. No rest for the wicked . Our first trekking day was quite foggy, so we were unable to see much of the landscape. These trails are so, so muddy and slippery that it was hard to even look up or around without the fear of falling! Our guide, Quang, told us that most people when they remember Sapa, remember only the mud. It's true! There were some lovely local ladies who followed our group for the whole trek and were there to help us out with the slippery parts. Sean and I, being from Canada and the rocky mountains, were slightly cocky about not needing their help...and then quickly bit our tongues as we realized how slippery the trails actually were!
Our second day was one for the books. The sun came out early in the day and we unfortunately ended up with sunburns as we were not expecting this type of weather. Quang told us that this amount of sunshine is very rare at this time of year. He reminded us many times that we were very lucky to have the views that we did. Everything we saw this day was spectacular! What was hidden by the fog the day before, was out in full force and we were in awe. Mountains were soaring farther above us than we had imagined, the colours of the flowers were sparkling in the sun and the layers of rice fields were stretched out as far as the eye could see.
After Sapa, we hopped a bus back to Hanoi where we spent the night. We are headed to Hue next.