Overnight on a Junk

Just before we arrived in Vietnam a tropical cyclone raged havoc on the central coast, causing widespread flooding. To avoid getting stuck in the mess (as we heard other travelers had), we decided to fly directly from Saigon to Hanoi rather than travel overland as we had earlier intended.

We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital city, at 1am and found a ghost town. Everything was shut and we felt lucky to find a room at all. For a couple of days we walked around the old town and its famous lake. The city felt a little bit more relaxed than Saigon, with lots of specialist shopping districts and huge markets.

After Marty's toe had healed somewhat, we decided to take a two-day excursion to the famous Halong Bay, which is spotted with hundreds of beautiful limestone peaks which are reminiscent of Yangshuo, China. We boarded our pretty wooden double-decker junk and enjoyed local seafood whilst cruising out to an island with a large cave. We then did some kayaking through a cave into a small bay enclosed by steep hills harbouring monkeys. Night fell and the area was lit up with all the boats and the full moon. Our cosy private cabin was the nicest room we'd slept in for months and the view was spectacular. The next day we did some more cruising, took in a spot of swimming and generally relaxed on the deck.

We also took a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda, which is one of the holiest places in Vietnam. Getting there involves a scenic trip in a row boat past fields and fishermen. A cable car then takes tourists up the hill to the temple, which is inside a large rock cavern.

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