vietnam chronicles: ha long bay day cruise

ha long bay, a unesco world heritage site and one of the new 7 wonders of nature is found about three hours ride away from hanoi.  mr. duc, the manager from the hotel i was staying on, arranged a day cruise for me which costs $25.00 that included the tour, transport and lunch.  i was ready by 8:00 in the morning and the tour guide personally fetched me in the waiting area of charming hotel and directed me to a van parked nearby.  when i boarded the vehicle, there were already other tourists inside because it was a group tour.  we were asked by the guide to introduce ourselves and which country we were from.  our group consisted of a french couple with their three adolescent children, a middle-aged british guy  and some local vietnamese.  about mid-way to our destination, we had a short stop at a restaurant and souvenir shop where some handicrafts are mostly made by disabled people.  it was not allowed to take pictures but when i was in the lacquerware workshop, they let me snap a few shots.

made from inlaid duck egg shells, these lacquer finished paintings are a work of art.

i would have bought a piece but i did not want to go beyond my travel budget.

this snake and scorpion wine was along the oreos and other chocolate cookies in the snack bar of the restaurant.  it is actually fermented rice liquor (plus a preserved dead snake and scorpion, lol!) and is supposedly health beneficial.

we continued our travel to ha long and we arrived the port.  the tour guide distributed our tickets and we waited for our boat.

our tour boat, manhan.

we boarded the boat and it started to slowly ply the waters of the bay.  i enjoyed the scenic view of these limestone karsts and cliffs in various sizes and shapes.  they were similar to the ones found  in puerto princesa in palawan which i visited almost two years ago, the difference is these are many.

we were served lunch and stopped by in one small fishing village.  i took a picture of one local woman selling some fruits and vegetables from a wooden boat.

some of the villagers also sell fresh seafood that they farm which can be prepared in the boat.

we then visited one of the caves of ha long and before that the tour guide gave us an introduction about ha long bay itself.

the cave we visited is named as thien cung , a recent discovery as told by our guide.  it was illuminated with different colors of lights.

there were shops selling souvenir items outside the cave where i bought some ref magnets.

we then travelled back to the port and started a three-hour ride by bus back to hanoi where i was dropped off near the hotel i was staying in hoan kiem district.

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vietnam chronicles: charming hotel

i had a five-day solo trip in hanoi, vietnam’s capital, early july.  air travel to hanoi from manila takes about two hours and the arrival of my flight through cebu pacific was in the wee hours of the morning.  i made sure that i have informed the hotel i was staying to send a car to pick me up at 12:30 AM at noi bai international airport.

we have experienced a lot of turbulence during the flight but during landing it was flawless.  i passed the immigration without any questions and walked near the entrance of the airport main door where a number of people holding out placards with names on it for pick-up going to their respective hotels.  i stood there and found none of my name nor the hotel i was supposed to stay on.  for an hour i waited until i was the last passenger waiting.  local drivers were trying to tell me in broken english that there is no one for me.  i got irked so i told them i am not in a hurry and can wait for the public bus in the morning (lol!).  one of the drivers then offered me his cellphone to call the hotel, i asked him first if it was for free and made sure for i don’t want to be scammed.  i was able to call the hotel reception and it was confirmed that no one is going to pick me up for it was scheduled for 12:30 PM!  i kept calm and started bargaining for taxi fare to my hotel.  the drivers started with 650,000 dong, i insisted with 400,000 (about $20.00).  i only had some u.s. dollars with me i withdrew 500,000 dong from the atm earlier.

it takes 45 minutes to reach the old quarter, a very famous area in hanoi.  the hotel i was to stay was on one of its narrow streets.  the driver knew where it was and i was dropped off and walked a few steps and found myself in front of charming hotel.

this air-conditioned room is only $21.00 a night (special deal) which includes free basic breakfast, a desktop computer, and working wi-fi.

i stayed for five days at charming hotel and though there was miscommunication on my airport arrival pick up between me and the manager, everything was compensated by their wonderful staff and service.  they gave me a free drop off on my departure to make up for the incident that happened.