Beware the jellyfish!

Halong Bay Travel Blog

 › entry 22 of 39 › view all entries
Our funky hats

So, we decided to book a tour of Halong bay through our hostel.


We had seen every tourist agency advertising tours of Halong bay but decided to go through our hostel as we got to speak to others that had been and had heard that it was good value for money. We decided on a 2 day 1 night trip, rather than the 3 day as we didnt think we were strong enough for rock climbing.

High tech petrol station
We got up nice and early and met down in the foyer of the hostel at 7.45am. As our names were called out we each got given a brightly coloured sombrero to wear, that way we wouldnt lose anybody in a crowd. We boarded our coach and started a rather bumpy (we were at the back so felt EVERY hole in the road) journey. We were slightly worried about making it in one piece after our driver managed to hit a moped in front of him (the moped driver didnt even look behind him, he just drove off so Im sure hes fine) and was further worried when, just before a toll booth, the driver left his seat to get his wallet to pay the toll but the coach kept moving!! Where are seatbelts when you need them?!? Sarah managed to avoid all the worry as she fell asleep quite quickly and managed to contort herself into a rather strange position on the seat, it didnt look comfortable but she didnt wake, even when we hit some rather large bumps in the road and were all thrown about.
Cruising around

Some of the others decided the only way to handle the journey was to make a start on the alcohol so vodka and rice wine were cracked open and consumed.


We arrived at the dock around 11am, and immediately saw why we needed the hats. There were people EVERYWHERE. It seemed about half the western population in Hanoi had decided to take a trip to Halong bay. We boarded our junk, a nice little boat that used to transport wares abroad to be sold. We had to wait while the boat fueled up, the 'tanker' was actually a raft/boat thing that pulled up along side, a large hose was thrown up and fuel was pumped out of big blue barrels that were sitting on the deck, very high tech(!) The guys pumping the fuel were very interested in my tattoos, pointing at my arm and making comments I couldnt really understand.

People jumping off the top of the boat
The overall impression I got was they approved which is a better reaction than the old chinese women trying to scrub it off my arm!!


We left the dock about 20 minutes later, cruising out slowly and spent several hours gliding through the water, passing huge limestone rocks jutting out of the sea towards the National park. The rocks were formed by tectonic plates shifting, where they came together they pushed the soft limestone sea bed up out of the water, where erosion has slowly formed them into shapes and sizes. The myth that many Vietnamese believe is that a dragon, sensing that the open expanse of water leading to Vietnamese land was vunerable to attack, swooped down, scattering his teeth and bones into the water, and the rocks formed in their place, thus forming a maze of coves that was impossible to navigate without a map.

Beware the jellyfish!
I like the myth version better.


We arrived around 2pm, anchoring near a cluster of coves. Everyone immediately got changed into swimming gear and started diving in. Lots (including me!) braved jumping off the top of the boat, while others stood on look out for jellyfish. A sting from the jellyfish is painful but not life threatening, still prevention is better than cure! Half the group then went kayaking, Rachel and I managed to haul ourselves into the same one and off we went. It started to rain quite heavily as we set off, we were a bit concerned about holding a metal oar if it started thunder and lightening but the rain stopped within a few minutes so we carried on. We kayaked through two tunnels, the roofs so low we had to duck at some points, listening to bats chittering.

Going caving
We paddled into the cove, which was actually pretty dirty, the locals not having a garbage collection service just throws their rubbish into the water and it ends up getting trapped in the cove, with no way to get out again. We also saw a couple of jellyfish, a small brown one and a larger white one, silently gliding beneath the surface.


After everyone had kayaked and spent some time swimming we left the cove to head for a cave. We pulled up along side the rock and all jumped out, eager to explore. The only problem being there was about 30 people and only 4 torches, all going to climb through a pitch black cave! There were a few scrapes and some bumping into the person in front, some were taking pictures just so the flash would highlight the section in front of them for a few seconds.

Sunset in Halong bay
We soon came to a dead end so turned round and made a rather cautious exit back to the boat. We then cruised to our docking place for the night, a cove that had many other junks already anchored, which we found out later is where all the boats have to dock, as none are allowed to stay inside the national park overnight. Dinner was a host of different dishes, seafood for the carnivores, noodles and veg for the vegetarians. After dinner people settled down to chat or play games, a nicely chilled atmosphere. Of course there was plenty of drinking and it wasnt long before someone suggested the fun game of jumping form the top of the boat again, only this time naked. Not surpisingly the guys were more than eager to lead the way, but there were plenty of the girls up for it too. Rachel and I didnt fancy it so nominated ourselves as offical photo taker (keeping it clean of course) and towel holders.
One of the many junks
There was only a few at first, but within half an hour most of the people had gone in, some clothed, some in their birthday suits. A storm had been building most of the night and soon after the first peole went in it started pouring with rin, this of course didnt deter anyone as they were getting wet anyways but Rachel and I got soaked through, by the end we were as wet as those that had jumped in! We retired to bed around midnight, leaving a group to dance the night away. We found out in the morning that some had stayed up most of the night and had still been jumping in at 5am, but that ended when one of the girls got stung. She swam into a jellyfish and its tenticles wrapped themselves round her side, stinging her several times.


The next morning we got up early for breakfast, then spent a while swimming and sunbathing before a boat arrived to collect the people that were doing 3 days instead of 2 and took them off to do rock climbing. The rest of us settled down onto sun loungers to enjoy the peaceful journey back to the dock. We arrived at midday, had lunch in a restaurant opposite the dock then got onto a coach for the journey back. I decided to try and sleep so I wouldnt have to endure the sight of the coach swerving across lanes of traffic to avoid cows on the road !

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Our funky hats
Our funky hats
High tech petrol station
High tech petrol station
Cruising around
Cruising around
People jumping off the top of the …
People jumping off the top of the…
Beware the jellyfish!
Beware the jellyfish!
Going caving
Going caving
Sunset in Halong bay
Sunset in Halong bay
One of the many junks
One of the many junks
Halong Bay