Day 9 (Around halong bay)
After a quick mixed breakfast (Mix of Vietnamese and English) , our guide instructed us to get ready of supposedly the most breathtaking cave of halong bay , surprise cave; so called because each of three partitions within the cave was/is supposed to be more beautiful than the previous and that truly surprises the tourists. We quickly packed our bags as well since the rooms had to be vacated for the next group by 9.30 a.m for cleaning. A few members of the group were traveling to some bunglow in halong bay for an extended stay while another group was going to depart (including us). A another 5 minutes boat ride, we reached surprise cave.
Rightly so , mentioned by our guide, each of partitions overtakes the beauty of the previous one.However, the award for the most beautiful cave still went to paradise cave in our dictionary.
We spent about an hour inside the taking shots ; nothing different if one has already experienced Phong Na.
On exiting the cave, there is a viewpoint which offers a fantastic view of halong bay.
After reaching the ship, an early lunch and a part of the group left for their bungalow stay and rest of us chilled at the ship waiting for the bus to arrive from Hanoi as the ship moved towards halong bay port while offering stunning views of halong bay. Me and Karthik spent hours taking shots, relaxing on deck and just enjoying this potentially once in a lifetime experience.
At about 12 or so, our boat arrived to pick us up and we waived the staff a sad Good bye. A quick boat ride back to the shore and then a long bus ride to Hanoi. It was our last night in Hanoi; time for the last round of shopping. Karthik still had to pick a bunch of T-shirts for his cousin and I had too needed a halong bay t shirt; so it was time to go hunting again. A small shop at the busy street near the lake seemed as good as any ; after some negotiations and half hour of selections, 6 T-shirts were the winners for 300K VNDs . Coupled with the Mini Vietnamese hat for 15K VNDs and the halong bay globe for 100 VNDs, our shopping for Vietnamese souvenirs was finally complete. On the way to pillow backpackers, I picked up my last glass of traditional vietnamese coffee and we just strolled through the old quarter. Karthik on the other hand was still stuck with tasting the milk coffee from Hoi An. A chic shop aptly named “Milk Coffee” presented the opportunity. For 40K VNDs per glass, it tasted ok but not really worth it especially since the milk coffee at Hoi an costed us only 20K VND and was much better. Ah well, the ill effects of commercialization.
We lost track of time and it was almost 11 p.m by the time we reached our hostel and our flight was scheduled for early 7.30 a.m. Time to hit the bed.
Flight Back to Bangalore
The airport shuttle which makes it way through Hanoi found its way to our bus stop at about 4.30 a.m. It saved us the trouble of ‘communicating’ our destination to the taxi drivers. It took us about an hour to get to the airport and costed only 30K VND per head. The first check point on the way was the Ho-Chi Minh. This is how we had booked our ‘return’ to reduce costs. We reached Ho-Chi Minh by 9 a.m or so. The flight out of Saigon was scheduled for 2.30 p.m and as planned, we quickly made our way out and traced the route to the war museum at Saigon, the most famous sight seeing spot of saigon. It took us about 45 mins or so to reach the war museum.
About the war museum
The War Remnants contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists.
The museum comprises a series of themed rooms in several buildings, with period military equipment placed within a walled yard. The military equipment includes a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, an F-5A fighter, a BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter” bomb, M48 Patton tank, an A-1 Skyraider attack bomber, and an A-37 Dragonfly attack bomber. There are a number of pieces of unexploded ordnance stored in the corner of the yard, with their charges and/or fuses removed.
One building reproduces the “tiger cages” in which the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners. Other exhibits include graphic photography, accompanied by a short text in English, Vietnamese and Japanese, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre.
The entry fee at the time of entry was about 40K VND per head. One needs at least 3-4 hours to soak in all the content on display but we had only an hour or so; so it was quick rush through. Most of the exhibits are split between rather graphical photos of the vietnam war and it effects ; and the weapons used by either side during the war. Its not recommended for kids for sure.
Our flight out of Saigon was scheduled for 2.30 p.m and we were on time; well almost. We reached the airport about an hour before check-in but we didn’t quite factor in the security checks and there was a rather long line. We just made it to the flight and off we were from saigon.
Our first stop on the way was Singapore’s changi airport , known to be the best airport in the world; it surely lived up to its reputation. There are a plethora of eating joints and restaurants ; cushioned resting joints with power outlets and free wifi. I liked it so much that I started searching for ways to immigrate to singapore; the country which boasts of highest density of millionaires in the world.
We boarded our flight to Bangalore by 9.30 and return to Bangalore was absolutely torture. 4 hours in a very cramped up space was rather unpleasant. 1.30 a.m and we were finally home. I waved karthik goodbye promising to meet soon to exchange photos and this was the end of our awesome journey.!