Got up this morning to find the breakfast area in the hotel full of kids, it turns out there is a school party staying here and worse than that they are french. We got served our breakfast in the lobbu of the hotel. Got pickrd up at 8.20 for our trip to Halong Bay, after waiting around and picking up others we were on our way by nine, crammed into a thirty seat bus, with one real obnoxious American, luckily it turned out he was only on our bus not our whole trip. The busload of us split into 2 groups when we arrived, those doing our tour and those doing the more expensive one. Luckily the yank had more money than us. Our group alson included a German couple (Who we ended up shaing a table with for meals) two German students, an Australian couple of South East Asian decent and eight people from Tiawan. We had a small boat take us to our boat, which was anchored off shore. Our boat was modelled on the old Junk boats. The bay was full of boats of various sizes and the harbour had been full of people waiting to board these boats.When we arrived at ours we were given a welcome drink fresh lemon juice. We checked in, our room was on the middle deck and was fabulous, small but really well laid out and nicely decorated. We just had time to drop our bags in the room and have a quick wash before it was lunchtime. Lunch was fantastic, as we sat down there was already a plate of cucumber and tomato on the table, then plates and bowls kept appearing one by one. First they brought out the soup. This was followed by fresh prawns, my peeling of these had improvede since Maccao, out came the spring rolls, next was crab brisque, then a fish covered in veg, a plate of morning glory, rice, vegetables, pork in sesame, tofu in a sweet chilli all finished off with melon. Obviously in our case washed down with a nice cold beer. Once that was over and digested we took the little boat over to one of the islands in Halong Bay, to look at a couple of caves. Halong Bay actually has 1969 islands, so there was no time to visit them all. We got off the boat and climbed the steps up the hillside to the first cave. This cave contained many stalagmites and stalagtites, that the guide tried to tell us looked like various animals, he obviously had a much better imagination than me. The first cave was extremely busy with people pushing and jostling all around, however the second cave was virtually deserted and although smaller and with less features did look just as interesting, unfortunately there was not long enough to have a proper look around that cave. We then got back on the small boat and headed back to the large boat, which by the way was called the Poseidon, that instils confidence. Once back on the main boat it was a thirty minute cruise to where we were going to go kayaking. The place we got the kayaks from was in a floating village, most businesses in the floating village were fish farms. The kayaks were of the two men variety, so I got to share mine with Angie. We paddled off through a nearby cave in the cliff face into a small enclosed lake, with large limestone karsts around its perimeter, such a peaceful and beautiful place to be and just steadily paddle and float around, the scenery was similar to that I had encountered while tubing. We then left there and entered another cave which led us to a similar lake, although slightly less impressive still very picturesque. After the caves and lakes it was time to kayak around the floating village. The waters around the village contained many flying fish and it was a magnificant sight to see them leaping out of the water just feet from the kayak. All the floating houses in the village seem to have dogs, who seem to look at us with a great deal of curiousity. When we had completed our sixty minutes of kayaking we were taken to one of the fish farms in the village, where they have holes cut out the deck and nets in the holes full of fish. There is also a price list for the different fish and how much they cost per kilo. One of the Tiawanese guys bought a fish, the farmer netted it, weighed it then put it in a plastic bag still alive, the guy who was a bit of a prat to be honest and was messing about with the bag and fish dropped it on the small boat as we were traveling back and the fish was flapping around on the floor of the boat. The fish was later cooked for the Taiwanese group the ships cook. When we arrived back at the junk, there was melon waiting on the top deck, Angie and I made a good job of ignoring it. Then it was time for swimming, our guide showed the way by jumping into the sea from the top deck of the boat, I like most of the rest of the passengers made our entry off of the small boat, although the German students did dive off of the middle deck. The water was quite cloudy and reasonably warm, with some cooler currents running through it. Angie did an even better job of ignoring the swimming than she did the melon and stayed on the deck taking photos.
After the swimming was dinner, where the chef tried to improve on the lunchtime offering. This time on our arrival there was the usual plate of cucumber and tomato, but this time it also contained carrot. We again started with soup, then in no particular order came chips, rice, battered fish, battered shrimp (That was eaten by Angie much to my surprise) squid, chicken, stir fry beef and veg, a seperate plate of veg all followed by apple. After dinner we sat around the top deck reading and watching the spectacular lightening storm in the distance. We then moved to our cabin to continue reading at 9pm when the Karaoke started, this by the way was only attended by the Taiwanese, whose ability to hold a tune was sadly lacking, I know this as our cabin was next door to where the howling was taking place.