Monday 25th March
At 6am today I was high up at the very back of the ship in the cold light of dawn. I was taking pictures of our ship’s progress approach to Halong Bay through the scenic ocean karst topography. This area is known to be listed as one of the natural wonders of the world. Its 1,553km2 area is dotted with nearly 2,000 isles of various sizes. A lot of them stand out of the water in the shape of an enormous bath loofer stood on its end, covered, in flora and fauna.
The ships progress was slow and almost silent, making the early morning journey eerie. The surface of the water mirror like at the sides of the ship before its low bow wave rippled out, breaking the reflections on the water. A young lady waiter was taking photos nearby; I offered to take one of her in the foreground. She stood at the handrail a young delicate beauty in front of the ancient backdrop making it a good picture.
When we got off the ship Florie and I came out of the port and walking right along where the tourists don’t normally go. We went around tight corners and up a steep hill until we ended up at the very top, in someone’s back-garden by mistake. We smiled and made our apologies to the owner who then guided us the way to go, smiling all the way. We got a lovely view of the bay that our ship was berthed in. We walked down and along about half a mile founding a coffee shop with two nice coffees for US $5.
Went back to the ship and left our coats there as it was quite warm and humid. We stocked up with US dollars then left the ship again at noon. This time we took a $10 taxi ride to the city’s market about half an hour’s journey. The market was in a large two storey structure with a central stair case up to the next level. There were about 200 stalls selling everything from silly little plastic fridge magnets to very large tools and spanners. The whole place was a treasure trove of goodies. Florie’s only regret as we left was a fantastic pair of red shoes that were alas, not in her size!
I got ten cans of beer, 3 tubs of their look alike Pringles, a pack of dried mango, a pack of 20 sesame seed bars and two kilos of almonds, all for $20 US. On the way out Florie saw a genuine Burberry hand bag so she got it before it fell off the stall. Loaded down with a heavy back pack I felt it was getting to be a long day, so we caught another cab back to the port for the same fare. Its driver dripping in gold, a thick anchor chain gold necklace, two gold bangles, two thick gold rings and enormous watch, he was your in-your-face-personality.
Back in the port area we got two lovely ice creams. I sat quietly on a low wall with the bag and watched a central water fountain routine while Florie checked out the local stalls selling food and jewellery.
Then two beautiful young school girls came up and asked me if they could practice their English on me.
“Ok,” I said, and we sat talking for about 20 minutes, about England and how we pronounced words and letters, then Florie returned, much to the joy of the two girls.
Florie had managed to purchase three gold bangles for $10 US and the thickest of them appears to have a hallmark. We got the shuttle back to the ship at 3.30pm.
Since getting back I have been sat in the cabin writing this. I would like you to know, there has been very little opportunity for me to send my diaries on this cruise, so at the moment I do not know when this will come out to you.