I couldn’t leave Hanoi and Vietnam without taking a quick trip to Halong Bay eastwards on the coast at the Gulf of Tonkin; eventually, after days of gentle cajoling, Lee finally managed to sell me a tour there. Halong Bay is a truly beautiful spot and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site: gorgeous blue waters heavily punctuated with forested limestone karsts rising out of the sea. There are more than 2,000 of these little islands and the sight is something out of a James Bond movie.
I joined an overnight tour on an imitation junk boat which chuntered gently around the islands. We stopped off at a vast limestone cave system on one of the islands; I’d seen quite a few of these caves on my trip but they’re still awe-inspiring. We stopped off for the afternoon at a makeshift jetty from where we jumped into kayaks and explored a couple of the smaller islands around the bay.
That afternoon, as the sun began to drop, we climbed a mountain on one of the biggest islands where, at the top, we feasted on some unforgettable views across the limestone islands dotted around the impossibly turquoise blue waters of Halong Bay. That evening, from the deck of the boat, we watched the sun go down over the horizon with an ice-cold sweet Vietnamese beer – a fantastic trip.
I left Hanoi and Vietnam with a slightly heavy heart. I could have stayed there for several more weeks, perhaps even months, and I saw how many people could relocate for much longer periods. It’s easily one of my very favourite countries.