Saturday, 12 September 2015

Hanoi



The last place we would visit in Vietnam was the energetic capital of Hanoi. We stayed in the Old Quarter which is absolutely alive with all manner of comings and goings. It's actually quite daunting trying to manoeuvre through such a chaotic place and I was quite certain we'd atleast get our toes squashed by one of the many motorbikes carelessly whizzing around! In line with a running theme, all the buildings and museums we wanted to visit were closed on the Monday we were there but we went out to explore and experience the city anyway. Chaotic as it first seemed, upon further inspection there seems to be an orderliness to life in Hanoi that just works. 
The next day we were on the way to Halong Bay, the main reason for our stop in Hanoi. Halong Bay, translating to "where the dragon descends into the sea" is a collection of over 2000 mystical limestone islets that rise immediately out of the glittering emerald water, plunging incredible heights back down sheer faces into the depths of the bay. After setting off we cruised to Dau Go cave which is the biggest grotto in Halong Bay, full with stalactites and stalagmites all with their own story and legend according to the local people and their history. It was packed full of tour groups but even so, the strength in the beauty of the rock formations shone through and it was very impressive. Back on the boat we had lunch and set sail through the archipelago of islands towering majestically around us. 



A few hours later and we were at our resting place for the night. As the golden sun was setting over the wall of limestone cliffs we were gently paddling through the calm water in kayaks and I really had a "I can't believe I'm here" moment; it was a very special way to end a great day. The next morning our tour guide took us to a pearl farm which makes the sustainable Akoya cultured pearl. 

We saw the process from start to finish, even witnessing the insemination of oysters with small artificially made pearls, which the oyster then coats with a natural pearl covering. This was done by hand and one worker can get through 100 oysters per day - I was starting to understand just why pearls are so expensive! We saw the beautiful final product in a shop floating next to the buoys bobbing in the water signifying the cultivated oysters below the water, topping off an very interesting and educational morning. Before lunch, en route back to the port, we made Vietnamese pork spring rolls with vermicelli noodles, contributing to the buffet we later tucked into. I can confirm the spring rolls were delicious! Our Halong Bay cruise was visually stimulating, interesting, relaxing and refreshing; a really good way to end our Vietnamese adventure!