Half -Price Halong

Halong Bay Travel Blog

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Halong Bay

Getting back to Hanoi from Sapa was an event in itself. First off, we had the white-knuckle ride that was the journey to the train station, enforced by the karaoke-king driver who thought that overtaking on mountain corners was worth singing about. It forced even the biggest anti-smoker to consider taking it up, just to calm the shredded nerves. Then the return train journey became a bit of a comedy scene with the introduction of an extremely drunk guy to our cabin, Mones (sp), or Moon as he asked us to call him(?!) Even though I had seen the guy a couple of times that day already, it didn't take a detective to deduce he had been drinking all day. Hints were the continual repeating of his catchphrase, "I'm only Mones from Copenhagan, Denmark.

Dau Go Cave
" I felt sorry for the fourth person in our carriage - a Vietnamese guy obviously wanting to get some sleep. Apart from the occasional bursting into song, he told 23-year-old Liz that she could be a grandmother and me, "He's not shy, but he has the touch of a virgin about him"(!) He also kept referring to our soft-sleeper cabin as being like the upper deck in Titanic, and the one down the end as being for the lower classes. Fortunately, we lost him once he could tell we wanted to get some sleep, as he announed that he was, "off to find the Irish."

After that ordeal and a five-o'clock start, I spent much of the day doing very little; chilling out as much as you can do in Hanoi - the loudest, most hectic city I have ever been to. I booked up on a tour to Halong Bay, the natural gem of Vietnam.

Sunset
Now approaching the end of my trip, cost of the tour became a primary factor, and after shopping around I found one for about half the price of the majority of others. I knew it would be a risk, but took it anyway...

As soon as we were on the minibus for the three-hour journey to Halong City, we were told that there would be 30 people on our boat, not the 14 that was specified; it turned out that 14 was the number that would sleep on the boat and 30 was the number that were likely to spend the day there. I started to think I maybe should have splashed the money a bit more, but a good lunch onboard our junk boat helped calm any negative thoughts I might have been having. It was also pleasing to see that our boat looked almost a carbon copy of any others in the bay; I had convinced myself I was going to board a sinker.

Boris The Spider (again)

But the difference between cheap and dear disappears when it comes to the scenery, which is really what you come to Halong Bay for. The karst landscape dipping in and out of the ocean really is a beautiful sight - one to really destroy your camera battery quickly. After a little sailing around, we popped in to see some impressive stalagmites and stalagtites in Dau Go cave. Despite being lit up like a theme park attraction with some pretty tacky neon lights, it was still worth the visit.

One night of our trip was to be spent on the boat, while the other was to be spent on Cat Ba Island. I was a bit upset to hear our first night was on the island, cos I was loving the scenery surrounding us around the bay. It actually turned out they overbooked the boat, so some had to stay on the island who were only paying for one night on the boat.

Eagles overhead
By this point I was already starting to think, "You pay peanuts, you get monkeys," but once we found out we weren't staying in a harbour-front hotel on the island, as we were promised at the agent's, a few people were starting to get a more than a little disgruntled. I wasn't too bothered; I had paid $35USD for a three-day trip and even with a hotel a short walk away from the harbour, it was still worth that; perhaps it would have been nice if the guy in the agents had told the truth, though. I was feeling sorry for our guide by this point. Not only had the clientele quickly cottoned on to the fact that when he said, "Excuse me," it sounded like "Kiss me," (with murmurs of laughter as he seemed to say, "Kiss me, everybody," but he also seemed to be getting the flack from the broken promises the guide had made in the booking office.
Kayaking

That evening, representatives from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Deutschland and Holland all put the world to rights over a few Tiger Beers, discussing everything from world politics, education systems, football rivalry and - what every good discussion needs - debate over the story of the German cannibal who had cooked up someone he found on the internet's penis while he took he took a bath upstairs.

Our only full day in Halong Bay was spent trekking and kayaking. I thought the trekking was only going to disappoint, but it was quite a challenge. A walk in unbelievable heat to the top of a mountain gave good views over the bay, but my mistake in wearing flip-flops for the task came back to haunt me as mine fell apart, forcing me to walk down hot, sharp rocks and gravel in bare feet whilst the others raced off in front.

One-legged Liz has enough of the $30 boat
Kayaking round some of the karst rocks was also good fun, and a tiring way to end a pretty energetic day.

The highlight of the trip, for me, was once we had returned to the boat, where we moored in a pretty bay to watch the sunset and have a swim. You could see eagles flying overhead and the fleet of other junk boats made an attractive sillouette as the sun's light decreased. I could have easily spent another day cruising around the bay again, but after we headed back for Halong City the next morning, I was pleased that choosing the cheapest tour didn't have much, if any, of a detrimental effect on my experience of the Bay. It was great fun.

jannahw says:
What a stunning location and what a great way to see it!
Posted on: Jun 29, 2007
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Halong Bay
Halong Bay
Dau Go Cave
Dau Go Cave
Sunset
Sunset
Boris The Spider (again)
Boris The Spider (again)
Eagles overhead
Eagles overhead
Kayaking
Kayaking
One-legged Liz has enough of the $…
One-legged Liz has enough of the …
Where we moored on night 2
Where we moored on night 2
Karst rocks
Karst rocks
The convoy catch up
The convoy catch up
Halong Bay