Sunday, October 22, 2006

On the Way to Hanoi 131006

AirAsia launched its inaugural Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Hanoi flight (HAN) on 041006, so today, just 9 days later, we decide to try it out ourselves.

Departing KUL on schedule at 1700hrs, we are soon on our way ...

... in the setting sun ...

... some 37,000ft over Laos, at 832km/h (or so says my GPS, whose altitude is over-stated by 2,500ft).

Our actual flight path from KUL to HAN. Seems to be avoiding Cambodia. Pls click image for better view.

Half an hour later we land at the modern Noi Bai International Airport, 10min ahead of the scheduled 3-hr-25-min flight. Good start!Posted by Picasa

Morning Scene 141006

A brand new day, and in front of our hotel at Hang Bo street, a butcher starts business.

While a couple of the ubiquitous street vendors take up position. They are very mobile and are soon gone, seeking greener pastures I presume.

Narrow, shady street, typical of old Hanoi, and bikes are the kings of the road, where bicycles once were.
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Going to Halong Bay 141006

Today we decide to join the convoy of day-trippers to the famous Halong Bay, a World Heritage Site. Pls click image for better view.

It's a 3-hr (150km) ride, punctuated by this colourful stop in the middle of the journey.

The fleet of 16-seater Ford Transit vans plying the Hanoi - Halong Bay tourist route, neatly parked inside the compound of the centre. Quite a comfy ride along decent roads, well maybe the suspension needs to be worked on. :-)

Plenty of travelers thronging the entrance, mainly from the West.
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Fine Embroidery 141006

This is what the place is all about. Disadvantaged kids doing some really neat stuff.

Fine embroidery, all hand-crafted ...

... and meticulously sewn.

A whole gallery of the craft for sale.

Impressive display.

From Hanoi to Halong Bay 141006

Our actual road-trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay traced in yellow. Click pic for a bigger version.

The Hanoi-Haiphong highway is commendable. A bit narrow though.

Approaching Halong Bay, we glimpse its trademark limestone formations as a communist-era billboard beckons. Detailed Halong Bay map is HERE.

The modern terminal where boats cruising Halong Bay roost. Hordes of backpackers swarm the place. Very international feel to it.
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The Boats 141006

Various boats for one-day trips and multi-day trips docked at the terminal ...

... and stacked next to each other. Talk about quadruple, no, quintuple parking!

And we pass by boats with sleeping cabins, which go out to Halong Bay for days. Huge tourist industry this.

Squeezing between huge boats, we look for our transport, which should be at the outermost, for immediate departure.
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Our Boat 141006

We found our boat at last. It's virtually a floating restaurant.

All fellow Malaysians, settling in. Very cosy indeed.

Life vests in place ...

... and we are soon on our sea journey. Well, the plan is to visit a couple of caves on an island, cruise around the limestone outcrops, have seafood lunch, and return to port. Should be done in 4 hours.
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More Boats 141006

Pulling away from the port, we see more boats. Boats, boats, boats ... boats everywhere, all tourist boats!

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Three More Boats 141006

Just 3 more of these magnificent machines. I notice some have sail masts, to save fuel I guess.

This house-boat is like a floating temple.
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Our Boat Again 141006

Upper deck of our boat, the roof, that is. Notice the skipper in white, and the sail.

Very pleasant interior, as the boat chugs towards our first destination.

Leaving the chaotic mainland behind, we are hitting 10km/h.

And a fruit store gently attaches itself to our boat for some business.
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A World Heritage Site 141006

We are suckers for World Heritage Sites, so here's another tick in our WHS list (see HERE and HERE).

We arrive at the island of Thiên Cung to see the Hang Đầu Gổ (Wooden Stakes Cave), the largest grotto in the Halong area - a huge cavernous cave with stalactites (dropping top-down) and stalagmites (growing bottom-up) plus the whole she-bang.

Jockeying for position at the pier. Ours is on the right.
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