on December 23, 2009
We took the train from Ho Chi Minh city and arrived in Hanoi early in the morning of the 10th. At the train station, we were greeted by our tour guide who would be taking care of us for the next 4 days while we were doing our tour Hanoi - Halong bay and were taken to Hanoi Boutique hotel . We first visited Ho Chi Minh complex, including Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh’s stilt House, the next place to move to is One Pillar Pagoda – a pagoda and a tower built with shape like a lotus in the middle of a square lake. Leave One Pillar Pagoda, we were transfered to West Lake, visit Tran Quoc pagoda then having lunch. Our next stop was called the Temple of Literature and was a bit more dull. It is basically an old Chinese Confucian temple complex with rows and rows of stone tortoises carrying engraved stellae. We continued to visit Museum of Ethnology where I saw many typical things of different ethnic groups in Vietnam. After that, we dropped by Hoan Kiem lake then took a walk around The Ancient Quarter which centered around the Lake. There are restaurants everywhere. Things were quite nice, especially the handicrafts, and I found out I’m not really big on Vietnamese food. The houses located there were so small and beautiful in their old style. The guide told us that those houses cost a fortune. We saw water-puppet show in Thang Long theatre. It was interesting however, rather childish. Then we returned to the hotel and had dinner. After breakfast at hotel in the morning, a private van picked us up at 8.30 and we started our 3-hour drive to Halong City stopping on the way for some refreshments and local souvenirs (which were quite reasonable to buy). Upon arrival at Halong City, we transfered to our junk for a cruise in the stunning Halong Bay and checked in. I couldn't believe how nice it was! The cruiser, which can hold around 40 people, had state of the art rooms with amazing views, TV, a/c, etc. It also had a full buffet spread with lots of things to choose from such as seafood, chicken, beef, pork, vegetable and fresh fruit for every meal, 3 times a day. The views from the junk on the bay were spectacular from the sun deck which had a small lovely bar and chairs for lounging. We went smoothly and slowly along the way to check out the floating village, the limestone and schist islands of the bay. Our tour guide told us all we needed to know about halong. Most people on the junk did the 2 day/1 night cruise – but I was glad that we went for the 3 day trip. I think it was just that much more relaxing and enjoyable than the shorter tour would have been. It was truly a great experience that I will never forget. The only thing that slightly annoyed me was that they charged us for drinking on board so we had to buy some bottles from the hawkers.
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