Oct. 31 (Wed.) Hanoi & Halong Bay (Junk Boat)
We were up early for breakfast and then off for a quick "from the bus" tour of Hanoi. We actually missed the entire Hanoi part of our journey, but at least we got to China Beach and we were on our way to Halong Bay and the overnight Luxury Junk Boat journey in this legendary waterway (The 007 movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" was filmed here).
It was a very long ride from Hanoi and there is no working railroad transportation (that would have made the trip more exciting and faster).
Upon arrival at the harbor, we had a bit of time in the boat company's lounge and then we walked down the dock to our Junk. It was painted white and did not resemble the preconceived idea we had of a Junk. Our room was air-conditioned and while a bit small (we did not bring our big suitcases), it was quite adequate.
As we headed away from the dock and out into the bay, we saw hundreds of other boats doing the same thing. There were a few other passengers on board, but most of the manifest was out group from Classic Journeys. Lunch was a buffet and we enjoyed it as we headed through the rock outcroppings that made up the topology of the bay.
Our first stop was at a mammoth cave complex. It was very crowded at the entrance due to the narrow passages into the caves. However as the caves opened up there was an enormous amount of space to wander around. Luckily, we stuck together and did not get lost. The picture opportunities were endless.
After returning to the boat, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset, then dinner and to top it all off, a moonrise of the full moon that had been following us. It even became a bit cooler (maybe 74 F!) as the night air descended and we had a wonderful night's sleep in the gentle rocking of the boat.
Morning saw a trip to a grotto that is only accessible through a low roofed tunnel via a rowboat. We had breakfast and then began the ride back to the port and then another long bus ride back to Hanoi for our next plane ride to Laos.