Halong Bay with toddler 子連れでハロン湾

Halong Bay View
This Hanoi trip log is taking a lot longer than I expected…

The most difficult part of this trip, the loooong (with a 1 year old) 4 hour bus ride to the ferry terminal began quite early in the morning at 8AM. Mila woke up around 6AM, so we were all up, showering, packing and feeding and we just made it downstairs on time to catch the bus.  Our plan was to let her run around as much as we could until we had to board the bus.  Due to the early morning “run”, when we got on the tightly packed bus, she fell asleep and slept for the first 2 hours.  The hotel arranged the Fantasea cruise for us and the reviews we read were generally good, so we had high hopes.  The bus was a good sized tour bus, and the AC worked.  That’s all you can really ask for.

The bus made a pitstop at the ABC Stopover where there are some (overpriced) souvenirs and a small cafeteria. I actually bought two Ao Dai for the kids here.  I’ve had trouble finding silk pre-made Ao Dai for children that I liked in other cities I’ve traveled to in Vietnam.  The ready-made ones tended to be polyester and I wanted silk.  Most parents would tailor make a silk Ao Dai for children but I didn’t want to struggle with the little kids. Plus I always buy a bigger size for kids since their sizes seem to change every week. The ABC Stopover had really cute ones I hadn’t seen before.

Back on the bus and it was about an hour and a half to the ferry terminal.  Mila was generally in a good mood and with some assistance from other wonderful people on the bus, we made it to the ferry terminal before a meltdown.  Success!

The ferry terminal was very crowded and since it was drizzling that day, covered in dirt.  We were shuttled on to a boat named Dang Tam.  Cozy, decent seating, nice roof deck upstairs.  The boat dropped off half of the passengers on the overnight cruise and continued with the rest of us to the tour of Halong Bay.  The boats are NOT toddler/baby ready. They are fine regular tourist boats, but with steep dangerous stairs and a wide open back, They are definitely not meant for young children.  I was very happy to have the leash for Mila.  She kept wandering to the back of the boat and her favorite was the steep precarious staircase to the roofdeck. We briefly saw the overnight boat and it’s definitely not recommended for toddlers.

It was a very eery day at Halong Bay.  Very deep fog, couldn’t see very far ahead.  Suddenly, an island would appear here and there, then disappear back into the fog.  Beautiful and serene.  We had our lunch on the boat, the food was much better than expected. It was a full course of salad, “cha gio” (fried spring rolls), fried rice, chicken cutlet, fried whole fish, extra veggie dish.  I’m always impressed how they manage to get this much food out of a cramped ship kitchen. Being used to western tourist ships with terrible food, I thought the food was quite good.  Mila ate well on the boat, she loves the fried spring rolls.  It’s good to see kids being introduced to different foods at an early age.  I was impressed the other day when Nina picked up chicken feet in a soup and asked me, “Can I eat this?” and seeing my nod, just went on to gnaw at it until she ate all the meat (cartilage?) off of it. It may seem cruel to some, but I think it’s important to eat as much as you can from every animal that’s been killed for consumption.  Anyways, I digress.

After lunch, we came to the famous Dong Thien Cung cave.  It seemed like the entire island was made from limestone and the whole inside was a cave.  Breathtaking view.  It was unbelievable how beautiful it was.  The cave alone was worth the painful bus ride for me.

The next stop was a makeshift raft with kayaking option.  I stayed behind on the raft and my sister went out in a kayak since I couldn’t take that risk.  They kayaked the area where there were low caves that lead to big open space and some interesting rock shapes.  I hope to come back someday when the kids are older for this opportunity.  Marc would have absolutely loved this. Mila wandered around the raft and made friends, enjoying the scenery.

After this, the tour split up again and we changed to a different boat.  Sunrise something or other.  The second boat was not as charming as the first.  It had those tacky lights all over the interior like a high school disco night and was blaring music like it was 1999.

We opted to stay up on the roofdeck which was just a bit quieter. We chatted with some other travellers. Most of them were Westerners travelling through Asia on their trip of a lifetime.  They were either very young, or retired.  Funny how those two crowds come together.

We stayed the night on Cat Ba Island.  The bus ride once we reached the island was honestly a bit painful after a long day. Mila was passed out and exhausted and my sister and I were ready to do the same.

We stayed at Cat Ba Palace Hotel and this is one hotel I’ve stayed in Asia so far that I do NOT recommend.  The dinner was bad.  The lunch on the boat was much better.  Their “cari ga” (chicken curry) was probably the most watery and sad curry I’ve ever had. The room looked OK when we first entered, but for some odd reason, the whole room was damp and so was the bed. I showered with Mila first and by the time my sister got in, no hot water. I suppose it is a budget hotel, but I would have preferred to pay a bit more for a dry bed.  The staff was generally nice and helpful.  We were on the second floor which may have contributed to the moisture in the air.  The hotel was built up against a mountain, so its back was essentially a steep cliff.  We were exhausted from travelling and went to bed early, but were rudely awakened by very loud Karaoke from downstairs.  I guess the staff have their nightly Karaoke after they are finished with their work, but it was painful and sounded like they were singing in your head.  I went to ask them to turn it down a bit, they said, “just another half an hour?”  I hate to be the But-I-Have-A-Baby-Mom, but I had to pull that card since all three of us needed the rest.  They turned down the mic and we passed out soon afterwards..

The next morning, we were up early again.  Fortunately, after the Karaoke ordeal, we had a good night’s sleep.  We left the hotel at the same time, around 8AM, and went back to the small pier.  We were really hoping to see our Dang Tam boat back and were very happy to see it approaching the island.

Back on the boat and back to Hanoi, we encountered an entirely different set of people.  There was group of young Israeli guys.  I’ve noticed this more and more as I travel, guys from Israel and other areas of the Middle East love little kids.  It’s just an observation, but it’s nice to see because I used to think young guys didn’t really take an interest in young children.  They smiled at her, when she would trip, they would help her up and cheer her on as she (with support) climbed up the steep stairs to the roof deck and clapped when she finally made it.

This was the last day to enjoy the scenery so we hung out mostly on the roofdeck.  The way back always feels faster than the way there and soon we were back at the ferry terminal waiting for the bus to Hanoi.

The bus ride back was a bit tough since Mila had gone from enjoying the fresh air to being in a packed bus, and she was not pleased.  Eventually, she settled down and was chatting up the other passengers on the bus.  We arrived back at the hotel at around 4PM and were relieved to be back in the comfortable room at Tu Linh Legend.

ベトナム旅行、たったの4日だったのに、全然書き進んでいない…まだ食事のこととかあるのに。

それは置いといて、恐怖のハノイからハロン湾への道のり。何しろバスで4時間、それから結構延々と船に乗る。これを3歳児連れてやるのは無理だろうと諦めていたハロン湾。一歳児一人なら結構どうにかなりました。朝6時起きで準備と実良の運動もかねてお散歩し、朝ご飯もたらふく食べて8時のバスに乗ってほぼすぐ実良はおねんね。ツアーはホテルのお勧めでFantaSeaクルーズにして貰いました。レビューを読む限りはなかなか良いようで、バスも普通に大型観光バスで一安心。

2時間程行ったところにABCストップオーバーという観光ストップがあって、そこで軽食、トイレ、おみやげ屋さん等を散策。大きなデパートっぽい感じで綺麗にしてあるし、悪くない。お土産屋さんは凄く高いんだけど、いいものな気がする。これまで2度ベトナムに来ているのに、今まで子供達にかわいいアオザイを見つけてあげられていなくて。子供用にもう出来ているものは大抵ポリエスターせいのぺかぺかしたやつで。絹のものがなくって。テイラーしてくれるところはたくさんあるんだけど、子供二人を押さえつけて作るのもめんどくさく、しかもすぐ大きくなるからサイズの大きいものが買いたい、と思っていたら、なんと意外にもここで色もデザインもかわいいものが。お揃いでそろえられるので、ちょっと高いけど買っちゃった。新菜も喜んでくれたので、ま、それはそれでいっか。

ストップオーバーの後、もう1時間半。もう流石に寝てはくれないけど、バスに乗ってる方々と笑って遊んだりして、メルトダウン状態の直前で何とかフェリーターミナルまで着きました。ちょっとげっそり、でも思ったよりはまあまあ。一番のハードルはとりあえず超えた!

フェリーは雨が降ってることもあってドロドロ。20分程待って、Dang Tam号に搭乗。みたとこちょっとぼろっちいけど、後で何隻か乗ってみた中ではこれが一番良かったかも。ルーフデッキのチェアとかもちょっといい感じで。船泊予定の人達は半数が途中で乗り換えして、うちはこのままDang Tamで出航~。予想はしてたけど、小さい子供を連れて乗るにはちょっと危険な観光船。日本とかシンガポールみたいな安全第一のところから来ると結構びっくり。後ろとか、壁ないし。船の後ろに座って足ぶらぶらしてるお兄ちゃんとか気持ち良さそうだけど、子連れは怖すぎ。デッキに登る階段は狭いし急だし。何故にそこを登りたがる一歳児…もちろん実良さんにはお散歩紐とママがしっかりついてます。

ハロン湾は霧が深く、とっても神秘的。深い霧から島がぼうっと現れてはまた消える、あ~、この景色が見たかったんだよね~。晴れてたらもっと綺麗なんだとは思うけど霧の中もいいと思う。雨はやんでたので、上でゆっくりも出来て、リラックス。船に乗って結構すぐにランチが出ました。全然期待してなかったんだけど、これが意外を美味しかった。きゅうりのサラダ、チャーハンに揚げ春巻き、とりカツ、それに魚の丸焼きと他野菜。ゴージャスじゃん。あの小さいキッチンから良くこれだけ出てきたな、とびっくり。アメリカの観光クルーズとかと比べてもずっと美味しかった。実良さんも揚げ春巻きが気に入ってパクパク。どこでも何か食べられる子供って嬉しくなる。どこに言っても何か好きなものを食べられるっていうのは人と共有出来る事があるって事だし、嬉しくなる。そういえば、この間、新菜がスープに入ってた鳥の足をひょいっと掴んで、”これ、食べていい?”って聞いてきたので、”いいよ”って言ったら結構ニコニコしてそのまま食べてた…びっくりしたけど、いい事だな、とも。私はベジタリアンにはなれないけど、無駄にしない気持ちはもっと持つべきだと思う。この部位はいや、美味しいところだけ食べたい、じゃ無駄が多すぎるよね。そういう意味でも色々な文化に触れて何でも食べてくれるのはママとしては嬉しい。

それは置いといて、ランチの後は少しして、有名なティエンクン洞へ。実は私あまり調べてなくて、全然期待してなかったんですが、凄く綺麗でびっくり。しかも雰囲気からして、島全体に鍾乳洞があるようで、感動。他の島にもまだ知られてないだけで、こういう洞窟が無数にあったりもするのかな、と思うと、更に灌漑深い。この洞窟を見られただけでも長いバス時間も良かったかなと。

その後は近くにあるちょっとした浮舟みたいになってるところからカヤッキングのオプションが。この美しい景色の中でカヤッキング、めっちゃ行きたかったけど、流石に無理なので実良とお留守番。っていうか、この浮き島自体相当危ないわ。でもああ、この景色を感じたかったのよね、と思いながら妹が帰ってくるのを待つ。カヤックでは、低い洞窟を抜けると、また違う景色が広がっていたり、なかなか楽しい経験だったよう。マークがやりたがるだろうな、いつか子供達が大きくなったらまた来よう。

カヤックの後、カットバ島宿泊予定の私達は船を乗り換える。Sunriseなんとかっていう船は、中には90年代のディスコみたいなライトが…で、もうなんか変なテクノ系ずっとかかってるし。こりゃまいったな~、とルーフデックに逃げる。デックには年配の方とか若いアジア横断旅行中の人とかが旅行ダイアリーを書いてたりしてたので、一緒に座って少し休む。皆和気あいあいしてていい感じ。いや~、子連れやっぱいませんな。

カットバ島に着くころにはいい加減疲れも出てきて、ホテルにつくまでのバスが少し辛い。Cat Ba Palace HotelというFantaSeaの直営ホテルに泊まったんですが、ここがあんまり良くなった。食事もはっきり言って、船で出たものの方が美味しかったし。鳥カレーが水っぽい、肉がかちかち。食べたけど、うーん、もちっとどうにか出来たのでは?量は多いんだけどね。部屋自体はパッと見は普通だったんだけど、何か全体的にじとっとしてたというか、ベッドもジメジメ感があって巨大乾燥機が欲しかった。一日バタバタしてたので疲れて早く寝ようと思ったら下から大音量のカラオケが…何事かと思えばスタッフが仕事終わった後に宴会タイム。隣で歌ってるような音で寝れない。そりゃ早く寝過ぎといえばそうなのかもだけど、スタッフのカラオケタイムって...

音を下げてくれって頼みに行ったら”後30分我慢して”って、いや、無理。無理だって。赤ちゃんがいるから気を使ってよ、ってママにはなりたくないが、ここは流石に子供を理由に音を下げてもらってようやく安眠。うーん、FantaSea、ホテルはもう一声!カラオケのごたごたの後は爆睡したので朝はさっぱり。また朝の8時に出てピアへ。嬉しいことにまたDang Tamの船が来てくれてほっとした。もー、あのテクノ船だとハロン湾の空気ぶち壊しだもん。最終日はゆっくりしたいわ。

船でまた絶景をみながらフェリーターミナルまで、帰りはほぼずっとルーフデッキでくつろぐ。今回は船にイスラエルからの若い男性旅行グループが乗っていたんだけど、彼らが実良の大ファンに。もう子供が可愛くって仕方ないみたいでふらっとしようもんなら2人がかりで助けに来てくれるナイトぶり。私の偏見ですが、中東の方の若い男性は本当に子供を可愛がってくれる。今まで20代の男性から見ると子供なんてわけの分からない生き物なんだろうな、と思っていたけど、彼らは本当に子煩悩というか、泣いたら駆け寄って笑わせてくれたり、ルーフデッキに行きたいと急な階段を一生懸命に昇る実良を急かせるどころか応援して、着いたら拍手喝采してくれたり。いい若者達が多い。家庭内で皆で面倒みてるんだろうな~、と思う。こういう経験をすると、子連れ旅行もいいな、と感じられる。何かと物騒な話題の多い地域ではありますが、旅行中、またはシンガポールで出会う中東の若い男性には結構和ませて頂いてます。ま、許可なしで写真撮りまくろうとしたり、マナーのない人もいるけどね。でも、純粋に子供の好きな人もとても多く、それに救われる事もよくあります。もう船を降りてバスに乗る頃には別れがたいといった感じのお兄さん、かわいらしいです。

いい加減最後のバスでは実良さんもグズグズになったりもするも、周りの寛大さに助けられながらTu Ling Legendに到着。前に一泊しただけなのに、おかえりなさいませ、と言われてほっとする安心感。やっぱこのホテルいいわ~。FantaSea クルーズも全体的には良かったです。でも、Sunriseの船にあたっちゃうと、辛いかもね~。出発前に、うるさい船はいやだと伝えておくと、全然違うかもしれません。折角の旅行ですから、しっかりリクエストして、楽しんで下さい。

Halong Bay 1 Halong Bay 2

My sister on the kayak heading towards a cave

My sister on the kayak heading towards a cave

The cave my sister canoed through.  Pretty Cool

The cave my sister canoed through. Pretty Cool

Halong Bay 4 SmallDSC05456 Halong Bay 7

The view from the top of the island

The view from the top of the island

Cat Ba Palace Hotel Entrance  Looked OK...

Cat Ba Palace Hotel Entrance Looked OK…

Cat Ba Palace Hotel room.  It's gooooold, but moist....

Cat Ba Palace Hotel room. It’s gooooold, but moist….

Would be cool if I didn' have Mila with me.

Would be cool if I didn’t have a toddler with me.

The Kayak stop where I hung out with Mila for an hour

The Kayak stop where I hung out with Mila for an hour

And they are off!

And they are off!

The beautiful Dong Thien Cung cave

The beautiful Dong Thien Cung cave

The light shining in through

The light shining in through

Look at that!

Look at that!

I just thought this little house is cute

I just thought this little house is cute

Mommy, Seriously, this post is a bit too long...

Mommy, Seriously, this post is a bit too long…

 

 

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