Halong Bay to Hanoi
After spending a leisurely early morning on the deck of our cruise boat, we stopped by the Sung Sot caves – one of the 30 odd limestone caves in Halong Bay. I was really eager to see these caves after looking at its pictures in the past. As if the poetic beauty of Halong Bay area wasn’t already enough, my jaws dropped when I entered the caves. They are also called the Surprise Caves, as it had apparently left its French discoverers dumb-struck in the mid-20th century. The caves are huge, with complex formations of stalagmites and stalactites. The play of fluorescent lighting installed in the caves lends it an eerie feel, almost making it seem like a movie set. This creation of nature is truly awe-inspiring.
Post the cave visit, we tried our hand at cooking spring rolls and had seafood lunch on the boat. We were soon on our way back to the harbour thus ending the spectacular visit to Halong Bay.
I spent the 4 hour long bus journey reading. After reaching Hanoi, I took a short break in the hostel to rest and thereafter stepped out to explore the Old Quarter area of Hanoi. This area is the tourist hub of Hanoi, and is buzzing with people. Just like with Ho Chi Minh city, my first impression of Hanoi wasn’t so great as it seemed like any other dirty neighbourhood of Delhi. However, as I walked through the streets of Old Quarter that night, my opinion of Hanoi changed drastically. In the weekends there is a huge night market, where several roads are closed to motorised traffic and stalls are set up by vendors selling all kinds of interesting things and street food. I went to Bia Noi, the beer street where you can get locally brewed fresh beer for 5000 dong – which converts to Rs.15 only! The restaurants are basically holes in the wall, but the atmosphere is really cheerful and chilled out. Everybody sits outside on these tiny plastic chairs and tables on the street, sipping their drinks and taking in the sights and sounds of Hanoi.
Seafood including squids on the boat
Iced Vietnamese coffee
Next up: Hanoi – Day 2