This had to be one of the earliest days that I had to wake up during my self-planned holiday trips…We were up and about by 7am, busy packing up our bags before dashing down for our breakfast. By 8am we had to be at the hotel lobby waiting for our shuttle service to send us to the Tuan Chau Marina for the Halong Bay cruise. The pier is about 3.5 hours drive from Hanoi city, actually its only 165km away but there is strict speed limit of 60km/hr for most part of the journey (road passing through town only 40km/hr) with a 20 mins rest break in-between.
We would be spending the next two nights onboard the gorgeous Au Co boat and cruising in the waters around Halong Bay area. Look at the beautiful boat, can you imagine there were a total of only 13 passengers on our trip?! It’s off-peak season now as its the start of a hot hot summer…I heard the boat has capacity of up to 60 guests. We were so pampered and enjoyed the exclusivity. =)
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all covered for our trip, with a BBQ buffet dinner on the last night. Other than buffet breakfast the rest of the meals were 5-course set meal comprising of a mixture of fusion-Vietnamese and International cuisine. They named it the five elements cuisine: Fire, Wood, Earth, Water and Metal.
Lunch on Day 1:
- Fire – Au Co Signature Salad with dragon fruit & Phan Thiet scallops Wonderful presentation using the dragon fruit skin as a receptacle.
- Wood – Black Forest Mushroom Soup served with tempura enoki mushroom Interesting soup that I felt got some Jap influences.
- Earth – Cold Beef Salad with Tamarind Dressing with rice cracker Finally a dish that is more Vietnamese.
- Water – Sauteed Tiger Prawns with Colorful Sauce served with ginger rice and green vegetables Fresh juicy prawns.
- Metal – Passion Fruit Panacotta & dark chocolate tart Vietnamese seemed to like using Passion Fruit in their dishes, but I like it~
Pre-Dinner Activity was Cooking Demonstration on the sundeck and Chef shared with us recipe for making spring rolls. We had the chance to try it out hands-on in a friendly contest.
Dinner on Day 1:
- Wood – “Banh Xeo” Vietnamese crepes with squid, crab meat, shrimp, chicken and vegetables A Vietnamese savoury fried pancake.
- Metal – Red Rice Noodle Soup with crab broth, tofu, piper leave rolled pork A light broth Vietnamese style dish.
- Water – Lemon Leaves Steamed Prawns served in a pineapple Another presentation that made us gasp in awe. Fresh seafood was their forte. The shells came off easily.
- Earth – Grilled Bay Seabass with Galangal Sauce served with Lotus seed seafood rice and sauteed pok choi The fish was fresh but the side was abit bland.
- Fire – Black Sticky Rice with Yoghurt & Fruit flambe Chef prepared the dish in the dining hall with the hot pan & burst of flame.
Lunch on Day 2:
- Fire – Minced Ha Long Seafood on lemon grass Wonderful starter of seafood fishcake.
- Wood – Pumpkin Cream Soup
- Water – Ha Long Steamed Squid with banana flower salad I wondered if the squids were the ones caught from the lake the night before? Nonetheless I loved the banana flower salad.
- Earth – Chicken Roulade with Onion Cream Sauce served with mashed sweet potato, glazed carrot & morning glory This was the only dish I couldn’t finish during the cruise. Not that its not good. Its simply too filling for Asian’s stomach.
- Metal – Cream Brulee Steam Banana Cake with coconut An East-meet-West combination of dessert.
Dinner for the last night onboard the cruise was a special event. It’s buffet BBQ dinner and we were seated at the alfresco area at the back of the boat. Most of the guests were already lurking around the buffet spread, but we were not drooling over the food. Rather we were busy snapping photos of the intricately crafted displays!
Variety of soup and salads for starters. Sumptuous spread of BBQ food included Oysters, Clams, Squids, Prawns, Chicken Wings, Pork Skewers, Fish etc. And spread of dessert of fruits and cakes.
Other photos taken during cruise:
Visited Surprise Cave (Hang Sung Sot) on first day, the interior was lit with coloured lightings to enhance the look and ambience. What I liked about the cave was the natural cool air~ It’s so cooling inside. And as it was non-peak season, we had the cave to ourselves most of the time. Later that night, we tried our hands on squid fishing and realised that its much more productive to use the net to haul them up instead. However even hauling them requires skills, the crew members did a great job~
Day 2 was an action-packed day which saw us visiting the floating village on the small rafts rowed by the local ladies, cycling on Cat Ba island and kayaking in the lagoon.
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