We arrived in Haiphong after a two hour flight to be greeted with a pleasantly cool temperature of 22 degrees. The runway of the small airport was flanked with paddy fields where disaffected farmers tended to the land with their backs turned to the incoming planes. This was our first indication that Haiphong is smaller than we had anticipated. Leaving the terminal we approached a flock of taxis where a young man dressed in denim invited us to a Mai Linh cab, arousing my suspicions to the point that I inspected the car for any signs that it was a bogus version of the reliable national company. My mum told me to relax so we climbed in, although it turned out that this man was, to my surprise, the driver (with quite a poor knowledge of his own city!). We followed a wide road lined with dragon-shaped hedges into the sleepy town. We were to take a hydrofoil from the harbour to Cat Ba island, our destination, in the afternoon and had some time to kill in the meanwhile. This was spent appreciating Haiphong's cafe culture and taking in the peaceful ambience of the place. Haiphong was largely developed as a transport hub by the French and retains many colonial-era buildings. As we enjoyed strong coffee we were observed with curiosity and granted occasional smiles by the regulars who don't often see tourists stopping in the city. Around lunchtime we headed to a recommended German-style restaurant and brewery for home-brewed beer, sausage-and-chips and seafood, the latter being something Haiphong is noted for.
|A street barbers' shop in Haiphong|
|Mum loves Ca Phe Sua Da|
|Festivities in Cat Ba town|
|Three girls share a bicycle|
|Police officers join the audience of the show|
|Back street of Cat Ba town|
|A friendly warning as we ascended to Cannon Fort|
|The beautiful Lan Ha bay, part of Halong Bay|
We have travelled a fair way today and have found ourselves in one of the world's most special and beautiful places. I can't wait to introduce the magic of Halong Bay to mum and Crystal tomorrow; I know they will love it.