Thailand & Vietnam Voyage
Friday December 6 to Saturday December 7, 2013

The place where the mother dragon descended

Azamara Journey being in Halong Bay on December 6 was the first reason why we had looked at this particular cruise vacation. This day is our wedding anniversary, and we liked the idea of enjoying our 33rd anniversary in Halong Bay, Vietnam, named in legend for 'the place where the mother dragon descended'. From that first thought we then looked at the rest of the itinerary as well as considered all of the other possibilities before coming back to and then booking the trip initially inspired by Halong Bay. This trip would be the first extended trip we have taken around our anniversary. Most of our anniversary trips would be a week or even a weekend…but this one would be just over three weeks total. That was a consideration for the weeks leading up to Christmas, but in the end the allure of the trip won out.

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  • Friday December 6, 2013

    Our 33rd Anniversary in Halong Bay

    Our initial glimpse of Halong Bay scenery occurred after breakfast as Azamara Journey made its way through the bay to the port for our scheduled arrival time of 1:00pm. We were presented with fabulous and quite close views of some of the limestone karsts and islands that make Halong Bay so famous and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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      From those first views of the karsts our entry to the port at Halong Bay was accompanied by magnificent views in every direction. The only drawback was that this day was a bit grey and hazy. On a clear sunny day with blue skies the views of Halong Bay must be truly breathtaking.

      Once Azamara Journey had docked in Halong Bay we picked up our tour that would take us by bus to the location where we’d be able to board a junk (Chinese sailing boat) for a more intimate tour through a section of Halong Bay. All of the promotional photos we had seen prior to the trip showed the junks in Halong Bay with their sails up and the look was good. The reality was a bit disappointing - not a single junk on the water at Halong Bay had their sails up. We boarded a junk and an enjoyable tour around the bay. One stop we made was on Dau Go Island to take a look inside Dong Thien Cung - a beautiful grotto on the island that is translated in english as Heavenly Cave. One could debate whether the coloured lights inside the cave enhance or detract from the natural beauty of the numerous stalagmites and stalactites - but there is no doubt it is impressive inside the cave and very much worth the visit. On the tour we also got to see some normal life in Halong Bay - passing floating fishing villages and witnessing grocery deliveries made by merchants on small boats to the people who appear to live on the junks they operate for the tourists.

      We retuned to Azamara Journey for the evening and had planned an anniversary dinner in Prime C - one of two speciality restaurants on the ship.

  • Saturday December 7, 2013

    Day trip to Hanoi

    For day two in Halong Bay we made the rather long trip to Hanoi. In planning the trip we had waffled back and forth on whether to head to Hanoi or not - recognizing that we’d be spending quite a bit of time on the road to travel the 150 km or so distance from the port to Vietnam’s capital city.

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      While we travelled to Hanoi we could see that there was some extensive road construction along our route, so at some point in the future travel between these two cities will be much easier on better roads than we experienced.

      Hanoi itself is striking - with lots of modern construction as well as considerable evidence of French colonial styling - more than we had noticed in other cities we had seen in Vietnam. Our first stop in Hanoi was Ba Dinh Square where Ho Chi Minh’s remains lie in state in an imposing mausoleum. It is adjacent to the Presidential Palace which was the former French Governor's residence. Apparently Ho Chi Minh decided against living there when Vietnam achieved its independence although he did receive guests of the state at the palace. Not far from the palace we also toured the traditional Vietnamese stilt house that Ho Chi Minh had built as his home. Inside the house that looked more like a cottage there were many of Ho Chi Minh’s belongings on display. The grounds has a very nice carp pond and a small servant house where Ho Chi Minh legend says he lived while his silt house was being built. Also on the grounds we saw what is regarded as one of Vietnam’s two most iconic temples - the One Pillar Pagoda. This small Buddhist temple was originally built in 1049 and destroyed by the French in 1954 and then rebuilt to what we see today.

      Our tour of Hanoi continued with a stop at the Hoa Lo Museum, better known to most of us as the war prison ”Hanoi Hilton”. It is a harsh reminder of the horrors of all of the conflict in Vietnam’s history not just the Vietnam War. Following that we took an electric car tour of some of the more historic streets in Hanoi and had some time to stroll the city as well before connecting back with our group to make the long trek back to Halong Bay where Azamara Journey was waiting.

      Hanoi marked the end of our touring in Vietnam. We had travelled a great distance from the south to the north of the country - measured both in kilometres and ideology. The south showed plenty of individual entrepreneurial spirit and no real evidence of communist rule. Even the locals in Ho Chi Minh City maintaining the name Saigon is interesting to us. We perceived the ideology slowly change as we headed north in Vietnam. Hanoi stands in stark contrast to the other places we visited - and it is a city that has prospered under its embraced communist rule. It is a fascinating country and one we won’t soon forget.

Halong Bay Image Gallery

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Fishing in Halong Bay, Vietnam
All sorts of Junk (Chinese sailing) boats in Halong Bay, Vietnam
View from Dau Go Island in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Colourfully lit formations inside Dong Thien Cung (Heavenly Cave) on Dau Go Island
Floating fishing village in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Golden view near the end of our tour of Halong Bay
On the route to Hanoi
Arrival in Hanoi
Changing of the guard outside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi
The Presidential Palace in Hanoi
Looking across the carp pond with Ho Chi Minh's stilt house on the right
Hanoi street scene
One of Hanoi's street vendors
Fascinating characters everywhere you look in Hanoi
Heading across the footbridge over Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
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WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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