April 17th, 2015 - Hanoi & Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - Day 246

We woke up this morning at 5:30 AM after 6 hours of sleep conscious that we somehow needed to get another 17 million Dong in order to pay for the cruise on Ha Long Bay, and we needed it by 8:00 when the driver was supposed to pick us up at the hotel.  No money, no cruise.  I started by opening my computer and logging onto the hotel wifi.  I saw that I had a Skype message and immediately listened to it.  It was Charles Schwab with a fraud prevention alert.  We have had many of these over the course of the trip, so in some sense I was relieved that Schwab had just shut my card down last night because of unusual activity - 5 ATM withdrawals in 5 minutes in Vietnam.  I called and let them know it was me and my card was active again.  I also called American Express just in case and they let me know they would be able to help me get up to $4000 worth of local currency, but could not start the process until after 8:00 AM Hanoi time, which would be too late.  Since our Schwab card was now active again I went downstairs and started withdrawing from the hotel ATM, it worked, we were back in business.  However, after another 5 transactions the ATM told me I had exceeded the limit of withdrawals.  I anticipated this would happen and figured I would just have to walk to find another ATM figuring it was a local bank limit.  However, after a 20 minute walk and 5 more ATM’s I knew were were in trouble again.  I still needed at least 10 million more and that was just to pay for the boat, without any incidental expenses along the way.  I hurried back to the hotel and called Schwab back.  I found out I had reached my limit for 24 hours, but that they could raise the limit for today only.  They did that and once again I was back in business.  I went down and did another 7 withdrawals and finally felt like we had enough cash for the boat and for incidentals.  

We packed up, ate a great buffet breakfast and then met the driver.  We paid him and 3.5 hours later we were boarding our boat in Ha Long Bay.  We had been upgraded to a nicer boat and when we arrived at the dock we were excited to see our boat waiting for us.  

45 minutes after we arrived we boarded he boat, found our rooms and had a wonderful lunch.

The bay is simply stunning, with thousands of tree covered rock islands jutting straight out of the sea.  

After lunch we were able to relax a bit before we arrived at our first destination - Vung Ha Beach.  

We decided to kayak to the beach rather than take the small transport boat.  It was a short trip to a beautiful beach, where we were able to swim and relax for about an hour.  I spent a little time flipping the kids off my shoulders like they were 7 years old again, which was fun.  

After the kayaking we returned to the boat, had a little rest and then showered for dinner.  When we were ready we made our way up to the deck for happy hour and a game of euchre.  It was a beautiful evening and being able to relax surrounded by incredible views was just what we all needed.  


Dinner was fantastic, a five course meal capped off with a wonderful grilled sea bass.  Everything on the boat do far has been great.  Once the meal was over we made a bee line to bed.  The last couple of days, plus the time zone change had gotten to all of us and we were ready for a good nights sleep.  

Here are some other pictures from the day: