The alarm woke us up at 530am and I got up to look out of the window, hoping to catch the morning sun peeking thru the peaks. What I saw was foggy skies, as what the guide has informed the day before. Not giving up, I went to the top deck for a while. It was the still the same even after waiting for a while. The fresh air wasn’t enough to replace the sleep that I missed and so I proceeded back to room to sleep. Autumn skies were expected to be like this.
7am the guide went around to knock on our doors. Breakfast was served and it was a simple one yet delicious. We sat with German guests and talked about Munich and Oktoberfest and also about travels in Asia. After breakfast, went back to the room to get shoes and proceeded onto the transfer boat that brought us to the shore of the Sung Sot cave. It was the biggest cave in Vietnam and there were already a lot of people on the stairs leading to the cave. My mom and aunt could do this activity as there were many people and the queue was moving really slowly. This cave was a little different as it had quite a big opening unlike the rest that we had visited previously. The temperature didn’t feel as cool as the enclosed ones but could be because of the steps climbing and the number of people in the cave. There were 3 chambers in the cave, the third one being the longest of the 3 and having a rock that was shaped like a “special finger” as the guide puts in but we all knew it looked like a penis. The walk around the cave was pretty straightforward with a few stops where the guide tried to explain how some of the formations looked like animals and dragons and Buddha. Upon exiting the cave, there was a nice viewpoint where we took a few shots and down the steps and across the wooden walkway before heading back to the transfer boat. This was the end of the cruise activities and as we packed our bags and vacate the rooms immediately after returning, we checked out at the bar counter and waited the 1hr travel back to the harbour. Just before reaching the harbour, the crew gave a demonstration on how they crafted out the beautiful fruit sculptures that accompanied the delicious meals that was served. Wowed at the incredible skills of a chef!
When the ship came to a stop, we had to wait about 15mins for the transfer boat to arrive that brought us to shore. Then it was a short 5min walk and across the road to the lunch restaurant. Apparently a lot of people come here for lunch, most likely some collaboration with the cruises. Lunch was served shortly after but wasn’t as nice as those that were served on the cruise. Drinks as usual had to be paid. There was a feedback session in the form of a survey paper and then a 1hr wait for the bus (bigger this time) which made us really sleepy after the heavy lunch and then we were on the way back to Hanoi.
The rest stop was similar to the one while going the towards Halong Bay, things were equally expensive and we didn’t get anything as it would definitely be cheaper in the city.
Arrived at the hotel at almost 5pm and we were the first stop fortunately. Re-checked in and was upgraded to from a suite to a deluxe suite. It was not much of a change but an increase in the size of an already big room but we weren’t complaining. After settling down, snapped a shot of the setting sun, checking on Tripadvisor on the recommended dinner places, we left for the Hoan Kiem lake and the Ngoc Son temple.
It was a 5 mins walk though we needed to keep a lookout of the road signs in order not to get lost. We found out that google maps with in built phone GPS worked and that helped in the navigation especially when moving to another location. The temple visit was short, and due to a lack of guide, we didn’t really see much and it was also getting dark. We proceeded to the water puppet theatre (Thang Long water puppet theatre) to purchase the tickets for the 630pm show. The tickets were issued just like old times cinema with the manual marking of seats on a layout plan. Since it was still early, we decided to walk around the various shops that were selling souvenirs and these were at a more affordable prices compared to the cutthroat rest stops that were using charity as an excuse to rip off tourists. Bought a couple of cheap bags and went off to watch the water puppet show.
It was a 1hr long show that had a nice broadway theater Vietnamese style kinda feel. There was a band for the show and a stage that was filled with water, thus the name water puppet. Though there was no commentary in English, it was by no means boring. In fact I found it pretty amusing as simple stories were being told via the actions of these puppets and it was amazing how they made the dragon spit water and the tiger climb the tree. Getting pictures were not that simple since we sat somewhere in the middle and the stage is not very bright and thus puppets moving, the images often become blurry. Still tried my best as I had to pay an additional of Sgd1.20 equivalent for bringing in a camera.
After the show, we went in search of a restaurant known as the Green Tangerine. Found it hard to find as this was not specifically identified on google maps and we had to ask a tour company rep in one of the stores when she helpfully pointed out the location for us. We were pretty impressed with the deco and it looked pretty formal which made us pretty uncomfortable while inside the restaurant. The waiter informed that the place was fully booked and we needed to wait till 8pm before we could get a seat. Furthermore, after looking at the menu, it seemed like it served French cuisine which we didn’t think that we could appreciate and that led us to go to another recommended restaurant, Avalon cafe lounge, just 3mins walk from our location.
We weren’t sure if it’s location but upon looking up, the name was shown quite obviously and we just proceeded in that direction. Soon we saw a stand with the menu and the waiter there and he brought us around to another street where the entrance and the lift was. This restaurant consisted of 3 floors where they were quite a number of seats with stunning views of the Hanoi city and the Hoan Kiem lake. By the time we arrived, the restaurant was quite full and thus we just settled in a 4 seater in the restaurant. Placed order for the food and it was served pretty quickly, and the food was decently good too! Having good food in a chic design restaurant that came with good view at affordable prices definitely was the key to the large number of guests at the restaurant.
We left satisfied and the walk back was also easy, with the GPS. The streets were still very busy with many bikes and pedestrians on a Saturday night and it was pretty safe too. Got back to the room to surf as there wasn’t internet while out at Halong Bay. It was time to return the thanks to all the well wishes!