Monday 18 October



Breakfast at 6.30 am, and then we must return to the mainland. Our boat for the return journey is a larger one, with an open upper deck above the main cabin. This time, Ha Long Bay really shines for us—it is a bright clear day and many boats are at work, fishing, ferrying, or tending nets. The air is much cooler and less humid than before and the bay is is all too photogenic.

We reach Ha Long City before noon, and transfer to our air-conditioned coach to return to Hanoi. The countryside that we pass through is mostly agricultural and the work is very labour-intensive. We see people ploughing behind water buffalo, one furrow at a time, others hoeing, and still others working the irrigation system. Two work together, holding a conical bucket between two ropes, which they use to scoop up water from one irrigation channel and empty it into an adjacent one.

We arrive back in Hanoi mid-afternoon and drop into the Sinh Café on the way to the Prince Hotel to book Tuesday’s tour to the Hill Tribes. It is shop ’till you drop this evening—a final chance for souveneer hunting. I am relatively unsuccessful again, but the other three return fully-laiden.