Junk Boat Day 2

Today is the second day of the junk boat cruise on Bai Tu Long bay in Vietnam (See Junk Boat Day 1).

This morning we start with a visit to a floating fishing village. Vietnam used to have much more of these villages of complete families who live on the water. Now many are paid by the government to give up their fishing life and move to land. Kids of the existing communities are forced to go to schools. It is said it is combat pollution but probably also so they can cater to more tourism on the waters.

The village we visited is small but we got a little idea on how the life is lived on the water.

All the holding nets for fish
Little dog friend on the lookout.

After a float by the village we are taken to a beautiful arch.

Next we head to a pearl farm. It is cool to hear how pearls are made (Always thought they were all randomly “found” at sea) but really this is an opportunity for visitors to buy some jewelry. It is nice to look at but pearl jewelry isn’t my thing.

After our visit to the oyster farm we head to an island to visit a cave and have a beach BBQ.

We climb a bunch of stairs to access the cave.

We find a small cave but it is an interesting way to spend a couple minutes.

After exploring we head back down for some beach time and lunch.

Tables are setup under umbrellas on a small slither of beach. The tide seems to be high so we have to walk into the water a bit to get to the tables. I order a beer or two. The food comes out family style in the form of huge plates of meat that just don’t stop (think churrascaria). It is good but protein is filling and we are wasting so much food. We have to ask them to stop. I wish I would have brought a bigger stomach for the day. (Sorry no food pics).

While we are eating it starts raining. Luckily we are covered. The rain ends just in time for us to grab our things and head back to the tender to return to the ship.

The afternoon has another kayaking adventure that I pass due to my shoulders still being sore.

Dinner is so so. I like the chicken dish served but we also have more squid and prawn (If I eat one more prawn I will throw up all over this boat). What really turns me off at dinnertime is the children on the cruise. I am used to going on cruises with kids and can excuse a certain amount of squirmy behavior but our cruise is small and intimate in nature so any misbehavior is amplified. Most kids were well behaved but for some reason the two nights I end up next to the unhappy or not well behaved kids. I try really hard to be tolerant.

Perhaps I would only do this cruise again if I had a companion to distract me or on an adults only cruise.

Other than the sore shoulders and the annoying kids the cruise is overall very nice.

I skip the squid fishing once more and call it an early night. I go to a village for a homestay tomorrow.

Junk boat Day 1

I am heading on Junk boat cruise. A junk boat is a Chinese style of sailing boat typical to Vietnam. They are very popular these days for leisure cruises on Ha Long Bay. The cruise company I chose (Indochina Junk) sails on the Bai Tu Long Bay. The Bai Tu is adjacent to Ha Long. It looks similar but is only open to a couple tour companies whereas the Ha Long tends to get packed on a daily basis with many tour boats.

The day before my cruise I take it easy; I walk around Hanoi and make sure I am all ready for my cruise.

I order some chicken soup while I am out. (Sorry I did not note where I got this lovely soup but I believe it is west of the lake).

Start of Cruise

A van picks me up early from my Hanoi hotel. There is wifi in the van but I have a hard time getting it to work. We will be without internet for a couple days so I would have liked to do some last minute catching up but I end up “checking out” early I guess.

On the way to the boat terminal we stop at a tourist trap plus snacks and booze place. I buy some snacks and a bottle of wine for the boat (fortunately I am still holding onto that wine bottle opener I bought many months ago!).

I check into terminal and we get assigned in small groups and wait more. There are multiple cruises leaving therefore many small groups are waiting around. The terminal has a couple places to eat and small convenience store. I stock up on some things like wet wipes.

My badge group

Finally our group is called and we walk out to our tinder boats.

tinders
Getting ready to head to cruise boat
almost at our boat

We enter from the back bottom of the boat. We are instructed to meet in the indoor dining room to get our room assignments. My room happens to be on the bottom floor toward the back of the boat. I can feel the movement once the boat starts the engine but it is not enough to get me sea sick (sometimes I get a tiny bit nauseous when I look out the window when the boat is moving).

Hallway to my room
View outside before we leave

Time to eat lunch. We eat lunch and dinner on the outside deck and breakfast inside in the mornings.

Steamed Mixed Seafood

I haven’t been in Vietnam very long but on this cruise is where I begin my dislike of squid and prawns. I normally like both squid and prawns but on the ship we eat it for almost every meal. I get tired of both quickly.

After the meal I walk around the top to soak in the nice view before I return to my room to prepare for our kayak excursion.

This afternoon is one of two kayaking adventures the boat offers. I like to kayak but don’t tend to go out too much. The kayaking trip they offer seems like a great opportunity to get out on the bay. At the loading area it is almost all tandem kayaks with only a couple singles. Because I am one of the few people alone on the cruise (and the only single person participating in kayaking) they give me a single person kayak. It is a sit-in which already puts me at a disadvantage (slow for me) but also since I am in the shorter kayak, I struggle to keep up the speed I need to keep pace with the group. The times I am able to just paddle at my pace and view the scenery I enjoy but unfortunately I feel pressured to constantly play catch up with the group instead of enjoying the moment. Plus my shoulders already hate me from the stress of my backpack and day pack and traveling. Now my shoulders are about to totally go on strike. Me not being able to enjoy the moment is a shame because it really is beautiful out there. I really wish the experience was set up so they have a kayaking zone where everyone can explore at their own pace and then they can round us all up when it is time to go back.

Also I did not even notice until a friend later commented that I am missing the hatch cover. (LOL) I could have sunk! At least I had a life vest.

Ship ahead!

After a tiring kayak adventure I go back to my room to clean up for dinner. Wandering before dinner, I eye the pool but never get around to using it. It is just a small little pool anyway.

Dinner time.

Of course more prawns and squid. I enjoy the mackerel and the dessert tonight.

King Prawn and Squid Cake

One of the staff members has a flute performance for us. The two main boat activity guys seem to be jacks of all trades.

I believe there is an evening squid fishing adventure but I pass for the night in favor of early retirement. This isn’t exactly a party boat either, evidenced from the plethora of children that are aboard (many of the them unhappy but more about that tomorrow).

Map of the bay

Felucca

We start on our felucca ride mid morning.

Our bags are loaded into our boat while we finish breakfast.

I am fighting Egypt belly. I am hoping that this ride wont be too uncomfortable for me.

The felucca is where we are to spend about the next 24 hours.

Shoes off for this journey. We all climb up and bend over and find our lounge spot on the cushions. Since the boat is stationary it is kind of warm. Fortunately it cools down as we start to sail.

We do a loop in the water, during that time we gather with the other boat, the other tour of the younger travelers. We always have them in our sight.

After a couple hours we dock to eat lunch. Lunch is served in the middle of the boat. It is a nice mix of mashed potatoes and vegetables, shashuka, pita, and babbaganoush.

I am still fighting nausea and cramps. Because I skippped dinner the night before and ate a very light breakfast I give it a go, all except the babbaganoush.

My stomach isn’t happy with the food because the nausea continues.

People get off the boat for a swim. My stomach pains make me decide to just chill on the boat, best to be close to a bathroom.

Then we are off again. Beautiful views of the Nile. The boat sails in a zig zag fashion to grab the wind.

Someone plays music from their phone onto a Bluetooth speaker. It is relaxing. Definitely a better option for someone with stomach issues vs sightseeing at a very hot site for the day.

Some on the boat torture our tour guide. He is a good sport about our teasing.

Finally we dock for dinner and the night. We go onto shore to see the donkey and dogs that are hanging around. A man has been riding the donkey and he offers rides to some in our group. The group of dogs are cute. They are dirty and you can tell they survive on the daily scraps from tourists on the felucca boats.

It is back to the boat for dinner which is served on the roof off the boat. I skip dinner because my stomach is still angry at me from lunch. I ask for the guides to set aside some pita for me for later in case I get hungry and am willing to eat. I do try to eat a little bit a couple hours later. Best to not go to bed starving.

We are winding down for the night and the young group in the boat next to us is just getting the party started. Karim our tour guide convinces us to go out to the fire and sing some songs with a drum circle. He insists it is too early to go to bed. I think it is only 9 pm. I am also not drinking alcohol (except 1 beer I tried) because of my stomach pains. We have fun singing random songs by the fire. Some are Nubian chants, some are pop hits. After a little while we are done and head back to the boat to get ready for bed.

I find a nice spot at the end of the boat where I have access to fresh breeze. At first I am warm but as the night progresses I get chilly. I grab one of the provided blankets and snuggle up for a good nights sleep. Ear plugs are necessary because the party is never ending from the other boat.

Most of us wake around 6 am and get ready for breakfast. Breakfast is thin crepes, Boiled eggs, and bananas. I eat. It is about time I join the living again.

We will see how my stomach responds.

Now off to our 3 hour drive to Luxor. I am hoping we first have a stop at our hotel for a shower and some teeth brushing before we do our daily sightseeing.

Bosporus Cruise

Everyone says you need to take a Bosporus cruise.

I did some research on some of the dinner and higher end cruises and they all had mixed reviews so I decide to take the cheap route and take the regular boat ride. The ride itself would be sufficient but it is very crowded and full of very ill behaved kids and adults. I am surrounded by a very large extended family whose kids scream over me and bump into me pretty much the entire cruise. One of the kids screaming over me later starts slapping and punching his mother. I am appalled at this behavior but it isn’t my country and isn’t my culture so I keep my mouth shut. Later, men a couple rows back get into an altercation. It is all very distracting from the beauty of the Bosporus. If I had to do it all again I might splurge for a higher end cruise.

Maybe humans are better behaved on those?

I’m on a boat: Lisbon Style

A couple of weeks earlier I saw a fun party boat on the Tagus river in Lisbon. I put it on the maybe to do list when I return to Lisbon in a couple more days.

A couple of days after I did take that boat for a ride.

I attended a sunset cruise. During the cruise there is commentary in multiple languages and supposedly a welcome glass of wine (it ended up being more than one glass – partially because I kept spilling mine and I blame the wind for that, um yes wind).

It is here that I finally broke out of my anxiety shell and chatted with other tourists. As a solo traveler who is also an introvert, it is very easy to let days go without real human connection.

It was a beautiful evening to cruise along and watch the sunset. I am very glad I booked the boat ride.