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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Vietnam (Day 14) Floating Village Halong Bay to Dry Halong Bay

Our last day (insert sniffle) cruising Halong Bay.  We began with a "small" (according to them, but it wasn't, it was huge, we had so much food, all delicious) breakfast as we would wrap up with a 7-course lunch. Then, we relaxed as our boat cruised towards Vung Vieng, a floating fish village. 

Once we arrived, we tendered over to a port where we boarded individual rustic wooden rowboats for our exploration around this incredible engineering feat that is the floating fishing village.

There used to be hundreds of families, but most left when the government offered them free housing in Hanoi to get them to move onto land. Some of the people had never been on land before as no structures of the village are built on land. Now, there are only about 50 families. Fascinating to witness the daily life taking place in the village.

Check out the natural bridge!

So many caves to waiting to be explored!

After our boat ride, we stopped to learn about the farming of pearls.

We returned to the boat and cruised back towards Hon Gai Harbor while wrapping up with our final 7-course DELICIOUS lunch. It was a smooth tender back to the port and our luggage was transferred without any issues as well. 

Saying my goodbyes, I left a piece of my heart in the mesmerizing landscape that is Halong Bay. But, THIS moment here where the Captain graciously indulged me! It's the people you meet on your travels that leave the most lasting impression. Grade me on my Captain skills! Hahahahaha - why won't he let go of the wheel?   

Before we move on, I'll leave you some details of our specific cruise, which I would book again in a heartbeat.  I did everything directly with Indochina Junk via email.  When I gave them the dates that we desired, they gave me all the options for the various boats and itineraries.  Depending on whether you have an odd or even calendar day, there are different options/schedules.  We actually planned around taking the Dragon Pearl.  I didn't want a private cruise with just our family, but I also didn't want a large one.  With direct communication, I was able to confirm two cabins next door to each other.  Thank the stars above that our cruise went out on the day of departure as weather often results in cancellations (in fact when we got back to Hanoi, we learned that the cruises were being cancelled).  All in all, highly recommend this outfit.  We saw nothing of the crowds that we have read about online, so there must be something to their selling point of having been granted sole access to the area of Bai Tu Long Bay where we cruised.  

It was busy in the port with the simultaneous disembarking and embarking passengers, but we pretty quickly made it back to the waiting area to gather our luggage and look for our pre-arranged driver.  We would not be taking the return to Hanoi so we didn't have to gather with the others.  Didn't see any signs, so we sort of asked around if any drivers were looking for us.  Our cruise director actually found the driver, but he seemed to be concerned for us as he wanted us to know - there's just a driver, no guide and your driver doesn't speak english.  No worries, we told him being seasoned Vietnam travelers now - hahahahaha, we hopped into the car and then we were off and onward towards Ninh Binh.  

It was a long drive, but we were thrilled to arrive at the "Halong Bay on Land" destination. Heads-up - this was our favorite destination of our ENTIRE Vietnam trip!

View from our bungalow!

Our eco-friendly lodging Tam Coc Garden is a lovely garden resort outside of the main town that feels so peaceful.  We are staying in a family bungalow with killer views of towering limestone karsts all around.  There's a garden-surrounded pool, on-site restaurant, and free bikes to take the short distance to sights.

Turn-down Service :)

Goodnight Moon

We had just a taste of the landscape as we drove in and we were definitely blown away already by this "Halong Bay on Land".  We came with high expectations after seeing a bit of the region on "Amazing Race" prior to our travels.  Initial impressions of our accommodation are TOP!  We are feeling our breathing calm. 

We settled into our comfy beds excited for the morning to come and our big adventure family motorbiking around the sights of Ninh Binh. We would be meeting our guide Toan, whom I had booked a huge chunk of our trip with based solely on Internet reviews and email communication. 

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