Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back to Hanoi

Total kilometers cycled: 2212.3 kms.
Total punctures: 2.

Today we caught a local bus from Halong city bus station back to Hanoi. Unfortunately upon reaching the Hanoi bus station we had no idea where in Hanoi we were (somewere in the outer suburbs..), fortunately we were able to arrange with a motorcycle driver to lead us to Hoan Kiem lake for about 1/4 the price of a taxi and none of the trouble :). This was definately the way to go, as we had an exhillerating cycle through the crazy traffic with none of the usual urban orienteering dramas.

It is a bit difficult to think that this was probably our last trip by bicycle for the holiday...
We still have quite a few days in Hanoi, but this was the last day of real travelling, and I am finding it a bit difficult to reconcile after so many weeks of bicycling our way around SE Asia. We have certainly seen and done a lot during our travels, not to mention all of the people we have met and all of the good times that we have had over the last 6 weeks... It really has been amazing!

Looking forward to seeing everyone back at home soon, it is not long to go now.
E & V.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lazy days on Cat Ba Island...

We arrived in Cat Ba island, just off the coast from Halong bay, late last night- it looked just like the Jurrasic park island (don't pretend that you didn't see that movie...)!
After cruising through the crazy karst rocky outcrops scattered all through Halong bay for the best part of 3 1/2 hours, the approach to Cat Ba island was pretty surreal - suddenly a big, craggy, jungle-clad, rocky island appeared in front of us with no signs of habitation except for a very long deserted pier stretching out into the bay.

We disembarked from the boat with a fun German couple who were also travelling independantly, and an organised tour group. The tour group loaded onto a bus waiting around the corner from the pier, and although we were hoping that we could negotiate a fare into town on the bus, the driver wouldn't take us into town unless we paid an exhorbidant fee. Needless to say that the bus took off without us... Not to worry though, a guy that had arrived at the pier called a few of his friends from the nearby village, and us and the German couple were soon whizzing the 30 kms accross the island on the back of motorbikes -fun!

Because it is the down season on the island, we managed to score a great room right on the waterfront with a big balcony for only $6!! Brilliant luck for us!
Today we have just gotten back from sea kayaking around part of the island, checking out the karsts up close, and lazing for a few hours on our own private little beach. Ahhh, this is the life for sure.....
Oh, the other great thing about hanging around the coast here is all of the fresh, delicious seafood available everywhere at rediculously low prices! I have never eaten so much seafood in all my life - I even had prawn noodle soup for breakfast this morning!! Mmmmm seafood...

Well, I am sure that everyone is now feeling sufficiently jealous ;). Too bad for me that Vanessa and I are now almost onto the final week of our SE Asia holiday....

I hope that everyone following us is keeping well and making their own holiday plans; Christmas is nearly upon us all!

Take care,
E & V.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Haiphong City and Halong Bay

Total Kilometers cycled: 2197.3km
Total punctures: 2

Ater having a wonderful time at Cuc Phuong National Park, we set off to Haiphong City, which sounded lovely (in the gospel according to Lonely Planet, that is) ...

The cycle to Haiphong was long-ish (124km), and pretty busy. We were going to break this into two lazy days, but decided enroute to combine it into one decent one. In the end we had a mixed ride - along the way we passed a road accident, where someone had been killed on their motorbike, which was sad and quite sobering. Makes us glad to be wearing our helmets...

We also passed and endless stream of restaurants offering dog-meat (and were passed by many motorbikes loaded up with caged dogs,clearly NOT destined for the pet shop!). Also, along the way, two teenage girls joined us for a break and we all shared some food and they practiced their English on us, which was really nice.

Despite Lonely Planet's lyrical waxing about Haiphong, we were not too impressed - the town was full of traffic and had a depressing "economic-decline" feeling about it. It seemed to be crammed with lazy men drinking coffee and leering at us as we walked about the city (although, I have to say that the few women we saw were very friendly and kind to us). Both the hotel and icecream shop recommended by Lonely Planet had been demolished, so I guess they hadn't been there for a while!

We decided to go to the port and see if there was a mid-day sailing to Cat Ba Island so that we could leave Hsaiphong a day early, but found that the only (official) sailing had been at 9am... A couple of women tried to sell us a ticket on their boat (no boat in sight!) from a fold-out table, but we were not as stupid as they would have liked, and decided to just grab a liesurely lunch and high-tail it to Halong Bay the following morning...

So, we arrived in Halong Bay last night, and it is beautiful! Clean sea air and long boulevards for walking. Even the people are really chilled out and don't constantly harass you to "buy something madame; moto-bike Miss; etc etc" Just a really chilled-out sleepy beachy town, right at the start of the high-season. Lovely ; )

Speaking of lovely, Halong Bay is not only known for it's Bay, but also for its seafood. We had a delicious seafood feast last night, including a pile of calamari and a whole grilled fish (Elisha and I both agreed - the best calamari we had ever tasted!). Mmmmm!

Yesterday we also bought tickets for the Government boat to Cat Ba Island, and are looking forward to sailing at 1pm today - we get a 3 1/2 hour cruise through Halong Bays highlights, and should arrive in Cat Ba in time to check-in to a Hotel and seek a(nother) yummy seafood dinner. Can't Wait!

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