The Ha Long Bay cruise felt like a holiday within a holiday. The boat felt more like a floating hotel than a boat - my cabin having a better view than any hotel room I've stayed in. The weather made a remarkable improvement and sitting on the empty sundeck at 6am watching the sun come up was one of those rare perfect moments when the world feels like it's all yours. Boat life was as relaxed or active as you wanted it to be - with optional kayaking (nope), swimming (nope), on deck tai chi, a cookery class, happy hour, fishing (!) and the chance to dress up for dinner (those garments on my bed are not pyjamas as I had thought...). The food was incredible - even without thinking of the small kitchen and limited ingredients on offer the chef was able to give me a choice of veggie dinner options and let me pick and choose what I wanted and I even had a foot massage on the on-boat spa which wins for "most relaxing experience ever".
We sailed with Paradise Cruises and for once something lived up to it's name. A truly unforgettable experience.
La Residence Hotel has to be one of the most beautiful I have stayed in, the art deco building at first seemed out of place in central Vietnam but the city of Hue is peaceful, calm and the classy hotel fits right in amongst slightly older history.
We took a cruise along the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda - the views from the top were incredible and despite being a touristy site the ground were so peaceful. Next up were tombs to Vietnam's kings - by this point it was the hottest part of the day and Hue was experiencing a heatwave. For the first time in my life I fainted - sorry Khai Dihn for fainting in your tomb. I'd been feeling fine until a few minutes before so no idea how this happened but it meant that I skipped the afternoon visit to the Imperial Citadel (an ancient palace now scared with bullets from more recent history) in favour of air conditioning and nothing more strenuous than sitting poolside. After an al fresco dinner we would be leaving Hue early the next morning - half hoping for somewhere a little cooler and half feeling like a little more time in this city would have been nice (aside from me skipping the afternoon visit I felt like we only say the "sights" in Hue and not much of the real city). All of me agreed that taking up residence in La Residence would be a good back-up plan.
Next up... Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon...