Don’t know why I bothered trying to get up early. The fog in Ha Long Bay has quadrupled overnight, and there was no sun. Was dark, then got significantly lighter over half an hour. Pity.
Breakfast was an omelette, a bacon substitute, fruit and a significant pile of toast. Once we were done we had about 15 minutes before we hit our one stop today. Surprising Cape. Named by a French archeologist who found its continuously expanding caverns to be very ‘surprising’.
Similar to Reed Flute Cave, its a cavern that has been eroded by seawater of thousands of years to create beautiful and unique rock structures. The first cavern is quite small, and is considered to be the ‘waiting room’. The second is very large, and similar to a castle, while the third is the largest, and appears similar to a theatre. Apparently at Christmas and New Years this cave gets booked out for a party, but its got an astronomic price tag to go with it. Very beautiful – not as intricate and complicated as the Flute Caves, but still well worth seeing.
Afterwards, the boat started heading back to the harbour, and we had another multiple course lunch (with several squid-filled dishes, clearly the crew had more like with the fishing than we did.before stopping just long enough to get a look at the Chicken Rock – named as it looks like two chickens kissing. Its the symbol of Ha Long Bay so its very popular with tourists – trying to get a photo that wasn’t blocked by a boat was a lesson in patience.
Sadly, come 11:30 our trip was at an end. In hindsight it wasn’t a great trip since we missed out on a lot of things I expected to do, but I had a great time and left on a high note. On the way back we stopped at a shop that sold traditional Vietnamese goods. Embroidered paintings, wooden articles, clothes, bags etc. To one side there were several people actually embroidering the paintings – and I discovered later that these shops are common in Vietnam. The merchandise is actually created by disabled Vietnamese as a way to make a living.
Ha Long Bay is a good four hours away, and including waits and the shop, we didn’t get home until about 16:30, and while I unpacked, decided to book another tour. A City Tour so I could make sure I hit all the big spots in Hanoi and not get lost. Wasn’t a hideously expensive tour, but still more than my allotted budget a day, so knew I’d have to be careful the day after.
In the evening I decided to go to the Water Puppet Theatre, which I’d heard good things about. Unfortunately my map reading skills struck again and despite it being very close to my hotel, managed to completely bypass it and miss the next show. No matter, by the time I retraced my steps and found it, I had an hour before the next one, so hopped into the cafe attached and had peach tea to pass the time.
Since it was the late show the cheap tickets were all gone, but the more expensive ones were only 40,000 more, and got me in the front row. Got to say – that’s really worth it, though there is a chance you’ll get wet!
The Vietnamese Water Puppets are performed in a pool of water, with a stage at the back hidden by a heavy (waterproof) curtain. The puppets come out on supports hidden in the water and perform to the audience with minimal vision. I have no idea how they actually get the puppet to move once its out – didn’t get a close look at the supports, but its very cleverly done. And only a few of the acts have words, so its pretty easy to follow – my favourite act was the Dragon Dance and the Phoenix dance.
When I got back, was happy to recommend the show to everyone who hadn’t seen it at the hotel, but had an early night since I had to be up and aware for my tour tomorrow.