Waking up after a good nights sleep on the ocean with an air-conditioned room the sights I saw at 6 am made we wonder why I spend so much time in office meetings and less time closer to nature. The sun had already risen but being so low it gave me a picture perfect start to the day of the different islands.
Our major excursion today was to the Hang Sung Sot Caves, life jackets on again, we boarded our mini boat for today’s adventure. The Hang Sung Sot caves go very deep into the mountain, the in cave lighting used only adds to the grandeur of the caves. You could make out many different formations in the rocks, a turtle, faces, a dragon and probably the most realistic to feet hanging off the end of a cliff.
Around 11 am our Halong Bay visit came to an end as we cruised back to land. The boats chef gave us an entertaining demonstrated of making a Fisherman’s net using a carrot and other neat presentations for food. We watched a 4 hour trip back to Hanoi, lucky this time there was no traffic jams.
This gave us a chance to visit Hoa Lo Prison also known as the Hanoi Hilton (careful which Hilton you go to as there is actually a Hanoi Hilton!). This prison was first created from a school by the French colonial government in Vietnam mostly housing Revolution Fighters but later was used for housing US Airforce personnel who were shot down in North Vietnam including future Senator John McCain (the prison had photos of him as both a prisoner and when he visited as a Senator many years later). The conditions on display made you wish you were never accomodated at the prison Hanoi Hilton.
We than had a Cyclo tour of the city which lead to hair rising moments as traffic was going everywhere (I mean it – see this video) luckily I don’t have any hair to rise :). My driver / cyclist was very chatty and pointed out a lot of sights I later learned others missed like the Vietnam Stock Exchange (opened in 2010), the Vietnam Reserve Bank, a statue of the founder of Hanoi (established 1010 by Ly Thai To, the first ruler of the Ly dynasty), and the magnificent looking Hanoi Opera House.
Our tour ended at the Vietnam Contemporary Arts Theatre and a performance of a Water Puppet Show. This type of cultural show is only done in Vietnam apparently. The control of the puppets in a water environment was amazing and I found myself wondering how they do it. While it was in an different language I got a good understanding of the various stories and laughed a lot especially doing the fox trying to catch a duck.
After this show it was time to head back to the hotel and later to a trainee restuarant the Hoa Sua Training Resturant and Bakery. This is one of the many ways G Adventures supports local communities. The meal was excellent.
The pace of this trip goes into overdrive on some days like today. Tomorrow it’s off to Ho Chi Minh City or as some Westerners still call it Siagon.