The day stared for us again at 6am but I can’t say that I am getting used to the early mornings. However today we was not getting up to catch a plane or a bus, but to partake in an hour of Tai Chi on the top of the boat during the sunrise. It was such an experience and well worth the suffering. I think our Tai Chi master was a little bit worse for ware as he had been up until 2am with some of the other guests, still he just carried on, and so did we. The sun started to rise and it was just one of those moments that will probably stick with me forever. Breakfast was served at 7:15, they really do love their early mornings, and to our delight there was toast, eggs and sausages. The toast was almost unlimited but we only got a single egg and half a sausage each but it was much better than just noodles that we have had to put up with in the past. After my 4th piece of super sweet toast I was full and ready for the days activities that started with the Ha Long Bay Pearl Farm. Something that I did not know was the most of the pearls on the market are “cultured”. This basically involves workers cutting a small piece of meat from an oyster (that has already produced a pearl) and inserting it into a baby oysters ovary (see pic below of a worker doing this). At the same time, a small ball made from ground oyster shell is also inserted. This gives the oyster something to start with and results in the small ball becoming coated in Calcium Carbonate (what pearls are made from). This process takes 18 months as opposed to 15-20 years if left alone in a natural setting. At the end of the tour we were forced into a shop and it’s lucky Hayley isn’t a fan of pearls as one of the necklaces was £5,000!
Once we were all finished at the Pearl Farm everyone was herded onto a smaller boat and we cruised through the bay for an hour and a half to tonight’s destination, Cat ba. Cat Ba is something out of a brochure, it’s one of the most idyllic settings we have ever experienced. Imagine a small secluded beach with a dozen bungalows, half of which are out in the sea on stilts. A soon as we landed everyone was taken to the main building and lunch was served, as usual lots of different dishes were brought out to each table for us to share. Seafood is popular over here so we stepped out of our comfort zone and tried a giant prawn! We noticed one couple had chosen to sit out in the sun and got just as much food as the tables of five, note taken for next time. The photo below was taken whilst sitting here writing this blog, definitely the best blogging view to date. We lucked out and got one of the Bungalows on stilts with the sea lapping below. It still amazes me how cheap this is, you would be spending three times as much to have this in the Caribbean. We are so grateful that we chose not to stay on the boat a second night, did I mention the bungalows were £40 cheaper?
After washing all of our dirty clothes, and being the only one’s with a clothesline outside, we made our way down to the beach to take some photos. To my surprise Hayley said she wanted take a swim so I dashed back to the room to drop off the camera and we went swimming, the water was so warm we stayed in for some time it was bliss. Once the fingers became a wrinkly mess we decided to go out onto the jetty and take out one of the canoes. We really managed to clock up some distance and went right out in to the main cruise lane and it got really choppy but we stuck with it and was rewarded with a small little archway that we was able to cruise through. Spending the evening watching it get slowly darker listening to the sounds of the sea was absolute bliss and the most relaxed I have felt since we left England. We got chatting to the neighbours and it turned out they are from Wales, small world. They are both teachers that have moved out to Hong Kong for a couple of years and are exploring Asia each school holiday, sounds like a great way to do it!