We were picked up at 6:30 am by a luxury minibus which squeezed itself through the narrow streets of old Ha Noi picking up passengers along the way. The bus drove us from the capital to the coast of the Gulf of Tonkin. The countryside was flat and swampy. Everywhere rice fields and building activity. Here and there some large factories recognizable by the high chimney. We drove north along the coast and crossed a long bridge over a bay to reach the jetty for our overnight cruise on the Bai Tu Long Bay. Some 48 boats tour this bay while over 500 boats tour the more famous but similar Ha Long Bay. Our boat took 22 passengers. It is 2 decks high with a sundeck on top. Lunch was quickly served after departure while we slowly cruised around the oval shaped karst mountains sticking out of the water. At one point, in between the dome shaped islands, we boarded a small tender boat and went to a nearby pontoon with canoes. We paddled around for an hour visiting a small cave and swimming off one of the few beaches. Other cruise ships had the same schedule so before long the small beach was covered in red, green and yellow canoes. Back on the ship, we enjoyed a misty sunset and again a lovely 3 course meal. The next morning the boat dropped us off at one of the few caves in the islands. Again we tried to hit the site before all other tourists did. Still it was busy at the cave entrance and exit. Lunch was already served at 11:30 am while in the harbor. All in all, a quick tour of the lovely bay. Touristy but for a reason. After a long wait the minibus picked us up and we started the time consuming drive around to pick up the other passengers for the trip to Ninh Binh. The coast of the Ha Long Bay is currently being developed. The beach front is planted with palm trees and along the boulevard many luxury hotels and houses are being built. Nobody lives there yet but they must be expecting thousands of wealthy tourists or well to do families from Ha Noi.