Day four, 1 January 2010, Welcome to the surprising Vietnam


(Note: The original post is written on my old blog on January 16th, 2010

I slept very well that night; the room wasn’t so cold compared to the outside temperature. And i woke up fresh in the morning, could not wait to try the breakfast menu.

The food was delicious, and they offered so many kinds of food. The breakfast was just the red-herring from my detained passion to lead the heart of this journey… Halong Bay (Even now when I say it, I can still feel a sweep of the strong wind, invites me to grasp the every hilly jade of the bay). Anyway, my buddy trip were waking up late, I had to go ahead to the meeting point first, avoiding the tour group leaving us behind. And It wasn’t too long till they caught us up.

It was a small group of 8 using the same agent. 4 of them are 2 couples, 1 couples from Sweden (so Mr. T said, I don’t really know from where they were), 1 couples from France (the friendliest among all, of course we were friendly, but they were the first to say hallo 🙂 ), 1 single traveler from Germany, and us. We were taken to by a small bus to another part of the island, a harbor, where some small cruise ships were moored.


our boat

Our ship was medium sized, I think 8 people, 1 crew and 1 ship captain were a suitable number to fit the cruise. The ship was made from wood (I don’t what kind of wood), with the main room is a place where the passenger seated. It has a stair to the open deck above, where you can enjoy the view. I thanked my jacket, my scarf and my socks, and I believe Mr. S also thanked his shiny blue jacket protecting him from stabbing-cold air. Things weren’t really good for Mr. P; I think he was pretty suffered from the cold.

As I stepped on ship, I knew that it was going to be one of the precious moments in my life (although I have to admit, my double jacket wasn’t that strong enough to sustain from the cold, it was really a jabbing cold, especially when the boat moved, and I pretty suffered of it). My heart screamed a detained excitement when the machine started to draw the ship to the sea of jade. And the journey begun…


Boats and Halong Bay
I was just sitting inside, afraid to go outside, scared of the wind, and the balance. But when Mr. P took initiative to go up stair at the deck, I hurriedly followed him without thinking further. I screamed again ( I didn’t remember, was it loud literally, or it was just in my mind?). Spread ahead the boat was an expanse of the dark seagreen full with beautiful, arrogant, unique, peculiar, scary, stupid, solid jade as if they say “we are all of that, and we’re here as part of this magic”.


at the upper deck of the boat


The Boat & The Twin Towers
Every rocky hill as it emerge from the ocean emit its own aura from its unique shape, made me unable to rest my desire to keep staring and staring. And if you are not too be pull inside by the near hills beside you, and you far oversee the view in quiet a distance, the array of the hills itself is a mesmerizing view


Array of the hills
Mr.P, which is a geologist, revealed a little story of how all the hills were emerged and shaped. That the horizontal line on the rocks shows in what age was it shaped, and the vertical line is the cracks against it (he told us so many more, but the layman can catch was only this ^^, but don’t worry Mr. P, I got what you said).


Stroke on the rock

The ships track was just passing through the bay, between the jade, and somewhere twice to let the passenger kayaking. It took almost 2 hour trip to reach the area with calm water, where we had our first kayak session. Everyone was very excited about it, although I wasn’t quite sure to start, considering the cold wind.

For the first round, I was in a 2-seater boat with Mr. S, we had a quite difficult time at first, balancing our body with the wave motion. Set some strategy to move the kayak ahead, pedaling the oar right and left against the wave. I knew he had a difficult time, since I didn’t produce enough energy pedaling the kayak (so sorry for that, Mr. S). But we made a good kayak team, heading our canoe to places we aimed. One of the most mesmerizing experiences was when we aimed our boat tracing down underground cave of the rock. Other kayakers from another boat also fill the area around to Taste the underground cave. Looking at the rock from the boat is astonishing, but grasping it from the close distance while kayaking is another wonderful experience. You can see the rock towering high against its surroundings.


Kayak penetrating the rocky hills

Like it was not enough, our lunch surprised us (not the lunch actually, but the ship captain :)). He happened to be not only the ship captain, but also a chef (Voila!). Helped by 1 crew, which was turned out to be his nephew, he prepared our lunch. In my previous experience while travelling, lunch was always provided in a meal box (hygienic, clean, and looks good). Knowing the lunch was prepared by a ship captain in the nearly-difficult-to-cook-kitchen didn’t make me quite happy. You should see the bathroom as well. Overall, with such impossible good sanitary situation, I doubted my lunch (T_T, sighed), although pleasing smell kept emerging from the kitchen, yumm…

It seemed I was the only one that nervous about our lunch. Mr. S and Mr. P chose to blend with the other passenger. They were headed to the deck and had a pleasant (so I heard) conversation with the French couple, while the loner tourist seating calm in front of me, and the impossible Sweden couple busy with themselves. I tried to make myself sleep, awaiting the lunch to be served, but the waves made it impossible.

Anyway, when finally the lunch was served, my anxiety was useless. It was a 4-main-course: omelets, fried fish with tomato sauce, seafood spring roll and sauté vegetable, and it was all nicely served. My anxiety was replaced by surprise & hungry. I was surprised that the kind of food can be produced in such situation, and it was the captain that making it. We hurriedly try the meal one by one, tempted by the pleasant smell and the looks of the food.


Lunch cooked by The Ship Captain

Mr. S also had some conversation with the Germany (when he dropped the sliced cucumber 4 times by chopstick, amazing! I’m not sure of what made his hand shaking anyway, was it the conversation itself, or he was afraid of being shot by him, peace v^^).

I felt full at last, another power gained for the rest of the trip, kayaking part II. After 1 hours of making way back in opposite direction (I supposed), we stopped by again in an area with the calm water. This time I teamed up with the Germany. He was a quiet guy, and I didn’t have so many coordination conversation compared when teaming up with Mr.S, which made me confuse for a while. Mr. Germany seemed to have a quiet an experience, and strength, made me only pretending pedaling the oar ^^. He said to me to relax, coz he could do it all (hahaha…). Anyway, I tried my best to pedal, coz I’m a good teammates 😛. Basically, he let me aim the boat anywhere I like.

We stopped by the nearby sandbar. The sand was very clear and soft that I couldn’t hold myself back to make a small jump on it. There were 3 local people picking up a small seashell that were attached to the rock. According to our captain, they live in the boat house, and survive by selling the seashell, another story of people in Vietnam. Makes me thinking, that the exciting thing about every journey is not just visiting nice places, but to observe & to learn the people.


Locals from Halong Bay

We went back to Catba Island in the next half an hour. This time, we were accompanied by the Captain. We had a nice & an inspiring conversation, starting with his background, his age, and how did he come up with the boat. He was a 40 years old guy with 1 wife and 5 children (Mr.S & Mr. P, correct me if I’m wrong). He started his carrier as a boat captain since the age of 18 (if I’m not mistaken, I kind of forget the detail). The boat he drove sailed through the ocean heading Hong Kong and so many other places. In Short, I think he was a truly sailor. It’s too bad I didn’t dig much more on his cooking skill. Way back to Catba didn’t feel that bore, thanks to the Captain!

We arrived at Catba Island at 4:30 pm, and back to the Hotel for a shower. It didn’t take us a long to have another walk in the city (not shop till drop, but walk till drop). We explored another side of our hotel, played by the private beach of our hotel, and explored the circling route on the rocky hill that flanked our hotel. The track was ascending in at first, some of them are plain, then ended up descending. The view was very wonderful; I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t take the morning picture in that place. In the boat we could see the jade stood up from the ocean, but the road on the rocky hill served us a view of all those beauty from altitude, another point of view to enjoy its beauty. The route seemed circling us out of our hotel, and took us to another part of the island.


Hai to Catba from distant curvy route

We walked down the route until 7 pm and it was quite dark. It was only us down that road. At first, We didn’t know where the route’s gonna end. But when we saw a group of sparkling light under, we knew we were heading to another resort, number 1 resort in the city, so they say. We took some night shot out there. We’re closing our trip by passing the Sunshine resort, while comparing it to our hotel. It was a fancy hotel, but our Hotel had more space & playgrounds.

Magic & surprise couldn’t wait when it’s ready to be revealed. Our next object was: RESTAURANT. We tracked down the city and went inside the alley, searching the best place to have a dinner. We stopped by the restaurant named: nhà nghĩ – nhà hàng vịễn dưong (I tried the online Vietnam dictionary and typed the name of the restaurant using ‘vietnam keyboard’ option the website has. And yes, I still keep the dinner invoice ^^). It was a regular seafood restaurant from outside. Living sea animal was put outside, so the guest can choose by their own. There was a fish, seashell, shrimp, crab, and many more. We were welcomed by an old Vietnam lady who totally unable to speak English. Let the dinner begun!!

We were given a menu list (There was a Vietnam name of the food and the English version of it, thanks for that) to be looked at, while the lady standing near to us equipped by a pen and a paper. She continually talked to us using Vietnam, while us striving hard to explain the menu we would like to have in English. The funny thing was, every time we point a name of the food on the menu list to get an explanation (not ordered yet), she then said something in Vietnam very vast, wrote that name directly on the paper, and directly asked their chef to cook it (???). We were defenseless with her naughty funny act. We spent 15-20 minutes finding the right menu & had a weary yet fun conversation with the lady. It was reliefing when finally we finished order and the dinner was served.

But it didn’t stop just that. I found that the food named: fried rice with egg was filled by perhaps only a half egg, and it was very salty. The lady that finally understand that I’m a vegetarian (fiuh…) brought some compliments, like soya, etc to make the rice more tasteful.

It wasn’t a 5 minutes, until she came back, circling our table, talking to us in Vietnam while pointing the corn soup my buddies ordered. We were totally blacked out of what she meant back then. Until she grab a spoon in our table and take a spoon of the soup in her mouth. Then she showed grumble-like expression while saying in Vietnam we didn’t understand, and then said something to the chef in the kitchen. (What I could capture was, she tried to make another one soup since that one tasted plane). And it proved to be correct, less than 10 minutes; a bowl of a soup was brought to us with a bigger portion by her. And she said something again in Vietnam with a big smile (perhaps saying: I bet this one is better, now you guys enjoy it, I give it for free). What the best dinner in the trip!

We closed our dinner by taking a picture with the lady, and the entire family work for the restaurant. Amazing Vietnam!


Mr.S, “The Lady”, and Mr. P


The Family Restaurant

Of journeying the benefits are many: the freshness it brings to the heart, the seeing and hearing of marvelous things, the delight of beholding new cities, the meeting of unknown friends, and the learning of high manners” – Muslih Uddin Sadi


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