Friday, February 4, 2011
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay is said to be one of the most beautiful spots in Vietnam, and after spending time there I am not disputing that claim. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and you'll soon see why based on the pictures alone. The bay is VERY popular, so when you first arrive you can't help but notice how crowded it is with tourists and boats which can sadly take away from the natural and incredible beauty of the place. Then our group was told where we would be spending the majority of our time, and it was far away from the madding crowd. Now for those who follow this blog, you'll know that when I travel I like things to be a little bit better than ordinary, and thus will pay accordingly for something truly special. I got that and then some. Three days aboard the Prince Junk was definitely one of highlights of my trip to Vietnam. You couldn't have asked for a better cruise. We went to areas of the bay that were completely uninhabited - no other boats, no other tourists.
Just you, the bay, the boat and an amazing crew that was there to attend to your every need and wish. Spoilt? Yeah, very much so, but it was worth it so no regrets or apologies for that. Truly an extraordinary experience.
The food was just incredible (I found it amazing, not shocking, what can be made in what constitutes as a kitchen on one of those junks. It goes to show that maybe you don't need that $8000 stainless steel cooker to accomplish what can be done with a pot, a few sticks of wood and a fire!). It was also beautifully presented as the pics below will show you. These were just a few of the dishes we had. Keep in mind that these pics were not taken all in one sitting but over the course of the three days on the Prince Junk.
So starting from the top left corner: 1. Fish soup with diced green onion and cilantro 2. Salad with pickled sliced carrots, cucumbers, red peppers , bean sprouts and peanuts 3. Mini oysters Rockefeller (I know right? An old school dish updated beautifully) 4. Warm cucumber salad 5. Roasted chicken leg 6. Prawn in butter sauce 7. Mixed stir fried vegetables 8. Breaded whitefish and white onion sizzler 9. Boneless sweet and sour pork, variation one 10. Chicken soup with vermicelli noodles (for breakfast actually) 11. Alan's (one of the guests on the cruise) breakfast omelet which looked really good 12. Steamed prawns with a beautifully decorated watermelon (Chef is 21 years old – it took him three hours to design and carve the watermelon - impressive non?) 13. Tender slices of beef in a garlic soya sauce - my favourite dish, just lip smackingly good (sorry but it was!), accompanied with another beautiful carving; two ducks carved from Daikon radish with carrot beaks and burnt bamboo sticks for eyes - beautiful pieces of work made by Chef. I get so excited when I see this kind of craftsmanship. This is what the Chefs, particularly Chef Wright, at culinary school would talk about it in detail when asked. You should have seen me at the dinner table when it was presented - I couldn't shut up about it!! 14. Boneless sweet and sour pork, variation two - this time with added pieces of plaintain to the dish!
As I said, we ate well – really, really well!
We even had lunch set up for us on a secluded beach- heaven.
The group I was with consisted of four other people who were fun, funny and a real joy to be around and thank God we all got along. There is nothing worse than being stranded for days with people you don't know and don't get on with, especially if you have to see them pretty much all day and most of the night.
Oh and this is news. I went kayaking. Kayaking!!! Those who don't know me wouldn't care too much about that bit of news and those that do probably don't either but it was a big deal to me and I was stressed about it. Why? Mostly because I was afraid I just wouldn't get the hang of it and look like an ass in front of total strangers. As it turns out there was nothing to it; so long as someone was in the kayak with me to help with the paddling. Look at how smooth the water was and there was no one else around so it was incredibly peaceful, tranquil, just amazingly quiet. You could watch the hawks and eagles and some other bird whose name I can't remember swooping about. You could see the coral when you went up close to the rocks. The sunset on the water was stunning. Who knew kayaking could be so rewarding? Don't say anything Marcia (my sister who happens to be a kayaking nut and has forever been telling me I should do it!)
We also went exploring in caves, visited a fisherman's village – it was just an incredible three (short) days. The pictures can tell the rest of the story.