Half -Price Halong
Halong Bay Travel Blog› entry 85 of 117 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.