Our next adventures in Vietnam took us to HaLong Bay.  Thank you to La Selva for helping arrange our 2 night boat cruise on Azalea.  We picked it because it went from the Got Port which is closer to Hanoi (2hr transfer – not 4+hr to the other more popular port) and it was supposed to sail in a quieter part of the Bay.  The transfer limo was great and we met a nice couple from LA.  She is in “gaming” and had lots of stories of world travel and celebrity encounters to keep the us interested.  We shared the “best of” advice for many countries around the world….always fun.  The port and check in and transfer onto the Azalea was smooth.  It is a very busy port and obviously BIG tourist business.  The kids loved the look of the ship.  There are 16 rooms – 32 people on board.  Some guests stay only one night and some two nights….it is interesting how they get us on and off and to our activities by day boat so that the real boat can bring the returning guests back to port.

snuggling on the day boat

All in all we had a great two nights.  Plenty of activities to keep us busy – including checking out a cave, biking on CatBa Island to a small village and kayaking in HaLong bay to remote beaches.

Rich and Wilson tried SNAKE wine….OMG YUCK!

You have GOT to be CRAZY….snake WINE…but Wilson is watching

Crazy he is


…and then he takes a SIP

…and likes it!


That’s right Lulu….GROSS

We all tried our hand at squid fishing!

Lulu tried her first sip of alcohol….I had ordered a “sex on the beach” cocktail at happy hour.  She was aghast by the name of it (followed by many “learnings” re:sex from her favourite puberty book….and to my shagrin a number of questions about sex….for me!).  So – likely in a move to quickly divert the conversation elsewhere….I told her to try it –it tastes like Kool-Aid (ok – I might regret that reference when she is a teenager and looking forward to trying alcohol)…so she did.  She is not really impressed…but proud of herself for trying it…ESP because of the name!

The kids had fun in the bath and in the rooms…while other boats came by surprising them in various states of undress…

We had nice meals – bfast buffet, lunch on the day boat and supper served from a set menu.  Lulu and I had the “kids meal” often as the menu included a LOT OF SEAFOOD.  Oh well, spaghetti Bolognese and chicken with rice was good for us.  The amount of food was excessive (one of our two feedback points) – so much to waste…or in our case for Rich to try to eat so that it wouldn’t look so bad giving an entire course back to the kitchen.

And we had nice views.

…ha ha …the views!

Our second feedback was about the lack of English from one of the main “guides”.  The cruise officer spoke excellent English but when he was with the real boat going back to port…we were left with the day guide and you never really knew what you were getting with Martini (yup…his English name!). So with generally a good attitude we went with it…and it worked out.  The boat didn’t leave without us when we were last back from biking (um…..because Rich with Lulu on the back of his bike MAY have taken a wrong turn…and therefore evaded my attempts to turn around and find them…and therefore MAY have caused some panic for me…and Wilson who was already waiting at the dock with everyone else on board except his parents and sister….ARGH!).  The dayboat was there when we returned from kayaking.  I wasn’t sure how the pick up from the port (arranged by our home stay in Ninh Binh) was going to go….but as always with Wilson…you have to fake it until you make it or his anxiety will take over!  I have emailed, taken pictures of maps and implored the contact at the home stay to be at the right port (Got Port) today at noon to get us when we dock with Azalea……let’s see!