Postcards from Abroad

Whether your dream is to stay in a colonial-era bungalow in the middle of a tea plantation, an Indian princely palace, or to cruise in luxury the Irrawaddy to Mandalay, we never tire of searching for your next great travel destination. This is the place to share with us your most recent adventures.

Hallowed Halong and Tam Coc by James and Cate Fraser

Halong Bay KayakOur 2 night cruise in Halong Bay has been interesting. The giant mysterious karsts stand tall in the emerald waters, some contain tiny sandy beaches and others reveal mighty caves and caverns.

 

 

 

 

Halong Bay

Kayaking through gaping holes in the karsts was fun whilst watching monkeys swinging in the trees. We observed noisy speedboats roaring about transporting groups which were then herded into sampans to be rowed about, their life jackets creating colourful splurges of orange and blue. Think we made the right choice by kayaking!

Halong Bay Kayak

We are thoroughly enjoying our upgrade to a much smaller five cabin boat which we are sharing with charming Americans. Early mornings begin at 7am with Tai Chi on deck and we have tried squid fishing, watched cooking demonstrations, visited fishing villages, a pearl farm, all interspersed with bouts of sailing. No, we did not buy any pearls, I was sorry not to have had mine with me as I could have got a valuation and probably done my own assessment with all the information provided about lustre, surface, shape, colour and size. The explanation from start to finish was informative, particularly implanting the gonad to start off the process. Also acquired a new date to remember, 1893 - beginning of cultured pearl production here. Did get the feeling though that some guides were only interested in obtaining a purchase as the most interesting introduction room all about the history of pearls was practically ignored by ours. Only a later return to read the information meant we were better informed. Do these places ever get given feedback?

Halong Bay Pearls

 

Halong Bay Valentine cruise

Our visit to Titop island is not to be recommended. Packed boats dropping tourists off, hundreds of people milling around on a very crowded beach, many of them blatantly taking photos of women they deemed attractive. It made some of the younger members of our group surprised and slightly uncomfortable at the more invasive of the photographers. The scene evoked images of a jam packed Brighton beach in a heat wave. The walk up 425 narrow steps to the top was rather daunting due to sheer numbers, however once at the top the scenery was breathtaking even as people jostled about. Could it be we arrived at the wrong time? I think not! The time has come for some companies to consider what certain tourists would get out of this experience. That said we discovered that if one sails later in the week there are even more boats! All in all it was a very comfortable trip, delicious food and the staff attention to detail excellent. The downside was the patches of litter we passed through in the bay, plastic bottles etc from the numerous boats. As a Unesco World Heritage Site we hope more care will to be taken of this beautiful place for the future.

Halong Bay Cruise 4

Ninh Binh is a strange mishmash of deserted and overgrown public areas, gigantic concrete soviet style gates/ arches reminiscent of the Arc De Triomphe, (but maybe slightly less pleasing to the eye),and long wide streets. Yet away from the main drag it is a delightful mix of narrow shady streets with small home run cafes. Large red flags fluttered everywhere to celebrate 25 years as an independent province. Just stayed a night so we could experience Tam Coc.

Tam Coc or Dry Halong Bay has dramatic limestone formations which jut from the green paddies and wetlands. We meandered along the Ngo Dong River through the green waterways by sampan passing through 3 caves rowed expertly by Van using only her feet! Another rather grey day but even without sunshine the landscape was beautiful, rather spoilt at one stage by a Vietnamese singing Karaoke with his microphone attached to a huge speaker which was turned up to FULL volume! Tam Coc rocked! Vietnam is definitely more touristy than Laos.

Tam Coc 1

 

Tam Coc 2

Next and final stop Sapa in the extreme north!

Reflections, and Hectic Hanoi by James and Cate Fr...
Shy Sa Pa is revealed by James and Cate Fraser

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