20.05.2011 25 °C
we were very pleasantly suprized when we arrived in halong bay and the boat in the picture from the tour guide we booked through matched the boat in front of us! we climbed aboard, 16 passengers in total and began our voyage through the knobby islands. we docked at an island where we did a 40 min stroll through a massive chamber cave. the cave was beautiful but unfortunatly lit up with technicolored lights and so we dubbed in 'disco cave'. we climbed back on the boat and went to a floating fishing village of 2000 people where we were loaded into small boats and taken through a small entrance into a giant open cave where we were able to go for a swim! we got back into our main boat and cruised into the sunset before dropping anchor and settling in for the night. our room was amazing and for a night i got to pretend i was a rich person on a cruise!
the next day we woke up early to watch the sunrise over the craggy cliffside. after a quick breakfast we were swapped onto another boat and were taken to cat ba island. we were shuttled to the national park and did a 120m incline hike up to the viewing tower. it was well worth the trek as the view from here was amazing. from here we checked into the sunflower hotel and most of the group went on an excursion to monkey island (which is exactly what it sounds like). kelly and i (an english gal i met in hanoi) opted out and instead hired motos to take us to hospital cave. it was a stunning 40 min drive through rice feilds, mountain sides, and ocean scenery, for the most part our drivers drove side by side using one hand to steer and one hand to talk on their cell phones.
we finally arrived at the caves and were told it couldnt be opened until more tourists came because they dont want to turn on the electricity for 2 people. to kellly and i climbed up to the top to wait for more people to show up. no one did, and after half a hour he felt bad for us and did the tour anyways. we were led through sophisticated cement chambers that were used by patients, soldiers, and medical personel. over 200 people lived in this massive complex and throughout the war the americans never found it. on the first floor were rooms for living quarters, the second floor had a cement foundation and natural high cave ceiling, it was breathtaking to think people lived here for months at a time. there was a swimming pool on this floor for exercise and a movie room for entertainment as well as a training station to keep the soldiers on their toes. we looked up to the 3rd floor to where secret meetings used to be held but were not allowed to tour here. however we were shown a small pool on the first floor that was used as an emergency escape. people on the 3rd could jump into the water below to escape in a hurry if they ever needed to. after this kelly and i got a ride back to the hotel and wandered around cat ba town. we met a load of canadians for supper and then caught a beer with our new friends.
on our last day we took a bus through the rain to our boat and began the journey back to the mainland. we stopped at the fishing village and rented kayaks for about an hour (which also happened to be the only hour the rain stopped) and kayaked through the arch ways and caves, very surreal. we got back to the boat and landed on the port and went and had a drink with our guide while waiting for the bus to come take us back to hanoi. it was a great 3 days!