Well, it’s finally upon us and I cannot believe this is the final blog but we certainly ended this incredible adventure on a high. We booked onto a two day, one night cruise around Halong Bay. As I mentioned in the previous post, by paying for the top ship known as the ‘Dragon Legend’, we were allowed access to the unexplored Bai Tu Long Bay where only two boats are allowded to sail (this is in direct contrast to the two hundred boats that have access to the main section of Halong Bay). It was worth every penny from the moment we stepped on board. The room was twenty seven square metres with a king size bed and five star furnishings, it had a jacuzzi bath with panoramic views of the islands. The food was seven courses at every meal and consisted of fresh seafood the crew members caught. We always dined on the outdoor deck as we slowly passed all the islands around the bay (one thousand nine hundred and sixty to be precise).
The first day we sailed to one of the islands, departed the boat for kayaks and then made our way across the still ocean to a secluded beach where we relaxed for an hour or so. It was quite surreal that we were the only people in the world on a paradise island in the middle of Vietnam! After another incredible seven course dinner we did some night time squid fishing and although we were unsuccessful, the crew managed to catch a few which were served for lunch the following day.
The second day (after an absolutely glorious sleep) we sailed to a cave (again only two companies are allowed in it as opposed to up to four hundred people in the main halong bay caves) and saw some pretty stunning views from the top. We met some really cool people on the cruise and this, combined with the night time Vietnamese musical performance from the staff, the exceptional food and perfect weather, it was the best end we could have had for our travels. On the four hour drive back to Hanoi, we all converged at a local water puppet show and watched an impressive performance which demonstrated the culture and lives of the Vietnamese population, all illustrated by handmade puppets.
On the last leg of our journey in NZ, we thought we would RELAX at the Hanmer Springs pool complex which is marketed as a sort of mini centre parcs for New Zealand, little did we know that the day we opted to go was actually a national holiday in the form of “New Zealand Day”. The tranquility we anticipated was quickly replaced by an environment resembling Blackpool Pleasure Beach during a heatwave. Joking aside, when the hordes of families began to filter out for tea we had a lovely little afternoon!
While the above was an enjoyable interlude, the main purpose for venturing up the east coast was to visit Kaikoura, which was heavily damaged by the Earthquake and has really suffered ever since (almost every building/business seemed to be abandoned and the roads were an absolute bombshell). Aside from the damages, Kaikoura is home to an abundance of wildlife and we made good use of this benefit. Throughout our two days we went kayaking alongside seals in their feeding grounds and experienced a whale watch tour where we (luckily) saw two magnificent sperm whales surface for oxygen before diving to the deep dark depths shortly after. We weren’t expecting to make this tour as it was fully booked and were on a reserved wait list but as the sea was so choppy the captain issued a strong sea sickness warning which worked in our favour as many who were booked on actually backed out as a result of the conditions, they were not exaggerating either, Brogan and I enjoyed the journey sick-free but we were genuinely surrounded by vomiting from just about every possible angle!!
After finally making it to our final day in New Zealand, Christchurch, we did a full repack, abandoned a pair of walking shoes, waited an hour at the check-in desk as I was not granted a Visa for Australia (we got extra leg room for our troubles) and unfortunately had a delay on our flight. Things all ran smoothly from this point though and I was able to write this ending to New Zealand cruising at 800km/h, Brogan reading Harry Potter beside me. We’ve had such a brilliant month and are now ready for the next chapter in the series as we approach the land of the Kangaroo… Bring on Australia!
Jamie & Brogan