Why do we put ourselves through it...?

Halong Bay Travel Blog

 › entry 12 of 20 › view all entries
So... we got to hanoi in one piece (just about) and found a reasonable and clean hotel and cleaned up before tottering into town to have a wander round and our lunch when the road flooded and we had to walk through the water barefoot back to the hotel or else we would've been stranded in the cafe all day and being charged a nice sum, more than likely. So as the floodwaters rose we tiptoed back through the filth to our hotel, past overflowing drains with syringes sticking out (never exp0ected to see that) and people smoking hash. Hmmmm... thought the old quarter was meant to be nice but we carried on regardless before getting out the waterproofs and plodding back into town against the sky's wishes.

We did the usual, used the net, then headed to a cafe for coffee and cake (this is our usual trick to cheer ourselves up) and as the creme caramel and apple pie came out-the grins spread wide across our faces and we were ready for anything! We tottered down side streets funding organised crime (as steve mcallister puts it) by buying dvd's that clearly weren't out in the cinemas yet then got some juice and stuff before heading back to the hotel late afternoon, thoroughly exhausted we lay down in front of the tv... watched some random crap on tv then scooted off to sleep.

Next day we figured we'd live without alarms and actually have a lie in for once so we didn't get up til midday and then we headed for our washing otherwise we'd have been strutting about town naked-not so good!! We trundled past the shops and found a restaurant hidden behing a war monument in the old quarter and so embarked on dinner but the food was not worth it and so we downed our cokes ate the pile of muck on our plates and stumbled over the bridge of the nearby lake to a museum about the tortoise who captured the sword that was dropped into the water and saved the city from ruin-oh yeah, that really did happen!! (IN THEIR MINDS) Afterwards we marched up town to the market and got a hot drink to warm our cold wet bodies before shopping for the afternoon but the market shut pretty quick so we didn't have much time doing anything really.. On the way back we saw mum and dad number 2 (simon and beth) who were heading to a barbers as dad was overgrown with a beard like the captain out of tintin!! We chatted a while before heading off for some tea above a tailors looking out over the sparkling city which was a bit drier than yesterday. I guess it would have been very romantic for a couple but it was us and we were just laughing and joking and shaking our heads at the past few days wondering if it could really get any worse!? Believe me guys, it can!! Some people shut the doors on us outside (germans) and were very rude but the vietnamese lady opened the door, apologised and told them off-just cos they were cold-move somewhere else people, if you don't like it!!

We went back to the hotel to get into some warm clothes and then pondered a night watching waterpuppetry at a theatre in town. We sadly couldn't get tickets but some overgrown danish man hounded us into buying his tickets citing that they were first class, clearly they weren't but it was cheap so we headed on in. We were seated nearish the front so we were happy but then the terrible whiney musoc started and people were shutting their ears or just generally laughing, meanwhile i was dancing just to wind them up. Then came the story which had no structure but made me cry with laughter at how poor it was-one minute you had dancing water dragons shooting fire; the next you have the same waterdragon being used as a unicorn! THEN... a minute later it's a dragon (the only reason i know this is cos i read the booklet!) these random puppets bobbed and weaved across the water or raced boats or even danced-it was absolutely insane but for 1.50 you can't go wrong with a bit of mockery and it lightened our moods. I think the funniest thing was that half the cinema were asleep!! Another quarter were filming and the rest of us were just in disbelief but it's beggar's belief how they slept through such racket!!

After the evening's excitement we grabbed some food from the market for the bus and breakfast then headed back to the hotel to prepare for yet another 6am start!! We were dying!!! We got up and packed our bags then ran through the flooded road to our minivan which zipped around the area picking up random blocks of tourists to take to halong bay (which is meant to be magnificent by the way!) We finally hit the motorway and after about an hour we stopped at a disabled children's art foundation place for so we could spend some money but although it was for a good cause.. the prices they charged were ridiculous, ESPECIALLY for something that had clearly been stencilled-$25-55 was extortionate!! So we just fumbled around the grounds until the bus got moving again-I totally zonked out and before i knew it we were at halong city wher we were turfed off the bus while the others took in a tour of the bay. We looked for a taxi and ended up seeing justin, kenna and andy randomly sat against a wall waiting for a boat, looking just as disillusioned with the place as we were.

Finally, we got a taxi after being harassed by an assortment of annoying vietnamese men trying to take us this way and that and we ended up at a hotel 2 minutes later but as lindsay checked out the room-i paid for the taxi and the guy who owned the hotel tried to tell me the taxi was more than it was but being eagle-eyed i cut him short and paid the driver instead who was honest enough with me and didn't rip me off like the other man intended to. Meanwhile, lindsay bartered the price of our room and soon we came to an agreement of 170,000 vietnamese dong ($10/7 pounds for the room) which included cable tv, air con, fan, twin beds etc so we were more than happy. We even had a balcony but again the rain pushed forward heavily!! After dumping our stuff and me kidnapping the passports off them-i didn't trust them for a second!! We then headed down to the bay where i attempted to get my pictures put onto cd so i could upload them but no.... the guy tried to rip me off so i left him with the cd of me and linz and stomped off up the street cursing him while looking for somewhere else to develop my pictures.

We got to a tiny restaurant and as it was cheap and cheerful we got lunch and settled down for the afternoon. Lindsay ordered noodles with beef-they were blatantly out of the packet!! I oredered vegetable soup but it had pieces of grass in it and vegetables but figured it was better than having dog in it so pushed it down my throat. My coffee was a strong vietnamese black coffee and the milk was a tub of custard but figured i was game for anything after our adventures so far. We strolled into the market and bought t-shirts, a bag and magnets before heading for shelter in a nearby internet cafe which was free if we ate a cake and had a drink-kerCHING!! That was us sorted so we relaxed while the rain pounded hard at the glass windows around us. The cakes were pure chocolate so we figured a long walk up the bay was needed when we had finished, just to get off those damn calories!! On the way up the road i spotted a dog and called it over but then we had to run away cos it was pretty much foaming at the mouth and growling like a bloody wolf so that'll teach me to whistle at strange dogs!

We got to a tour place and tried to book a tour but they too tried to rip us off-originally starting a 3day tour off at $120 and eventually cutting it to $60 but we fended them off and went our seperate ways. The touristwoman had told us that the pier wasn't open now but when we got there it was open, so why lie!? we'd just about had enough of this lying malarky and then we met the biggest creep of all. He tried to sell us a trip on a boat to halong bay and cat ba island and the caves. I was reluctant about booking with this guy as we'd seen him earlier and he had tried to rip us off on a half day trip but we sounded him out. He asked if we wanted dinner. We said no (bearing in mind this was a seafood dinner) but he only cut the price by $1 so i lay into him until he cut the price a further few dollars until we were satisfied and we agrred to go on the trip on the pretence that all entrance fees and everything are paid for-hmmmm...! But out of the goodness of his heart (yeah right!) he drove us back to our hotel which was a few km away from the pier but we had to clamber on the back of his motorbike-both of us. Lindsay held onto me and i held onto her but the guy tried to grab her arms and wrap them around him but i fended him off and so we drove smoothly back to the hotel where we dumped our stuff, watched charlotte's web, grabbed our raincoats and splashed our way down to the atm before going for a wander.

We got to the net to try upload pix but they didn't have cd roms so we scuttled off to an asian restaurant that served up the worst grub i think i've ever eaten. Lemon chicken was boned chicken with sesame seeds on, and a tiny drip of lemon drizzle, rice was just pure stodge and vegetables were a plate of spinach with a piece of garlic on top-mmmmm.... "yummy!!" We tried to swallow a little but in the end gave up cos it was dirty stuff and so we ended up back at the hotel preparing for yet another early start!

6.30 the alarm went off and we crawled out of bed after a restless night in the room from hell-the air con kept cutting in and out all night and lets just say... IT WASN"T EXACTLY QUIET!!!!! So we brushed the hair from our faces, peeled the gunk from our eyes and skipped downstairs to our awaiting lift to the boat. We got onto the boat and for an age, it just seemed like it was us doing the outing but then the vietnamese piled on and an asian lady and her british fella and we set sail on what they call a "junk" over here. Basically, it's a boat that looks like a wooden house but this particular one didn't have beds, just seats, a bathroom and a kitchen hidden somewhere and the captain drives the boat from inside the bunker and not outside and surely doesn't have a good view of what's ahead in the water but hey... wasn't going to question it for fear of getting thrown off! We bobbed along for 30 minutes til we got to the opposite side of the bay and picked up a nice australian/russian couple-then we set off to an island where we had 40 minutes to look at some caves. We went inside to see stalactites and mites etc but the place was lit up like a bloody christmas tree with different coloured lights and had become somewhat of a joke. As we crawled under rocks to find our way out- we took photos of us next to the penguin bins orrocks posing like the asian tourists were doing all over the place. We too looked like muppets now.

Then we trekked up a hill to another cave that was bat infested and got chatting to the aussie/russian couple who sneakily hadn't paid yet but we were still grumbling over the fact that we had to pay our entrance fee and the other's hadn't because the captain had given them money-hmmmm.... we were going to let loose when we got back!! Oh and what happened to the english speaking guide too!? After our 40 minutes we headed back to the boat and set sail again while we gave the guy handing out money an ear bashing until he gave us the money but then came another cave and we had to pay to get in this one ourselves-grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....! It wasn't worth it either as we got onto a rickety old boat and took 10 minutes to go up and under the sea caves-what a waste of time, we all grumbled as the wetserners and the english speaking asian woman were all segregated from the vietnamese.

Then we ended up at a fish farm where the fish were poorly treated and some were even floating upside down and clearly not in any fit shape. The crew from our boat chose the fish they wanted for the lunch and netted it out of the confined area barely big enough for a mouse!! Then they lay it on the wooden deck and beat it twice with a baseball bat while we all cringed and looked on in horror-talk about giving the fish some dignity, eh..??? thank god i don't eat seafood!!! We were then thrown back onto the boat and taken through more limestone cliffs and caves to Cat Ba island where we were sold a ticket for a small climb up to the viewpoint. SMALL CLIMB!? We had to mountain flipping climb while keeling over the banister every so often gasping for air, us wetsreners ploughed on up and 15 minutes later we had reached the top, lost half our body fat and possibly a lung in the process but hey... it was a nice view!! No wonder they have a minibar at the top of the hilll!!!

After photographing the bay and posing for a wee while we attempted the steps back down (that's if you can call them steps!!) and so we marched down in our troop ready for battle and stood watching the waves lap the bay playfully before attempting the boat journey back-we were already late (good job we hadn't booked the bus to ninh binh!!) While everyone around us tucked into seafood we sat with our sorry looking biscuits and a can of coke, although we were offered some by thewesterners we couldn't face it and on the long boat journey back we fell asleep like everyone else on the boat including the driver who was only pushing the boat to 1 mile an hour when all we wanted to do was get off the boat and eat something proper or sleep!

We hit the city/bay about 4.30 and took a taxi to the bus station only to be told that there were no buses to anywhere but hanoi that night. We grumbled but bought a ticket for the morning to hue and headed off into the sunset looking for a hotel packed heavily with our bags. We looked around the surrounding area but nothing, then a kindly old lady walked us over to a hotel in the distance where we bartered for a room for the night. The beds were hard, the tv wasn't cable like advertised, the aircon was crap but it was just a bed for the night so we dropped our bags and walked around to try get food but nowhere did food-only drink and even then they couldn't speak english!! So we got a taxi into a nearby town and hopped out somewhere random but even here they didn't have food and by now we were really drained and just wanted to sleep! Ha-fat chance on those beds!! After trying to get food in 8 or 9 bars, a lady finally showed us a restaurant where she helped us order from a thoroughly vietnamese menu.

We sat with chicken for a while, then 5 minutes later spinach and garlic then 20 minutes later came the rice-random. The food was from an outside cafe place but we were so hungry anything would've done but there was no chicken on the bone so we just ate the spinach and rice-again, "a beautiful meal" and they blatantly charged us more than it was worth! The locals offered us some rice wine and cola but i declined while lindsay took the shot but she looked pleasantly surprised by the taste and didn't feel ill. Then we hit the supermarket for juice and food for our epic 16 hour journey tomorrow before taxiing it back to our hotel. Asleep by 8pm, how lame is that?? But we woke up to bad necks and backs!! It was 5.30 am and all we wanted was one day of rest-grrrrrr...! We again tottered down to the bus station, ticket in hand and climbed onto a local bus while our bags were slung underneath next to a chuffing motorbike again-yeay... oil stains!!!

We set off on our journey of people who knew no english and the driver's helper spent the journey staring at me or hanging out of the door collecting people for the long ride to saigon (ho chi minh city) Lindsay also had the pleasure of a passenger staring at her-nice... the seats were hard and squashed together but we managed to bob in and out of consciousness and get 40 winks here and there. We were continually in battle with a woman behing who kept putting her feet on the top of my seat or shutting the window when it was roasting. I would've had sympathy for her but she was rude and we totally paid more than her to ride that godforsaken bus! At about 1pm we got off the bus for food but it was pho (soup) again and i'm not down with that unidentified meat stuff so i declined while lindsay lapped it up i wandered around the grounds looking for a drink but the cans were filthy on top so we ended up showering them in water before they were actually drinkable. Then back on the bus for another 7 hours and off again for food but instead we stood by the roadside chatting while my busman stalker and his friends all stared or questioned us in vietnamese. The day before, some woman thought I spoke chinese and looked surprised when i said i didn't.. CRAZY STUFF!!! The lady on the bus was still arguing about windows but everyone was smoking on the bus and i couldn't breathe so i feigned illness til she let me have the goddamn thing open-cowbag!! Even if it was for only a minute!! OR a little bit open.

Back on the bus for another few hours and by now we shouyld've arrived at hue but ha... fat chance!!! Lindsay got off to have some fresh air but was feeling faint (blatant food poisoning) then she came back on and just fell head first onto the seat and my lap. I grabbed her and got her awake and made her sit down while she chugged water to bring her around. Luckily the bus drivers have a spare supply of water and after about an hour or 2, the colour came back into her gills and she looked a tad healthier. It was 2.30am by now and the driver had explained though actions that the bus doesn't actually go into the centre of hue-marvellous, so we were going to get turfed off somewhere random and late into the night but luckily the stalker was on the ball and called an english speaking taxi firm for us (pity it was so goddamn expensive!! DELUXE TAXIS-PAH!!!) We sat on the curb for a while before being picked up from the middle of nowhere by a woman driver who took us into the centre of hue and dumped us outside a hotel. At first no one answered and we were pretty scared and tired and fed up in general but eventually a light came on and they booked us in for the night-trying to rip us off again we bartered until we settled on one price and then made into the room before we zonked!!!

Today we got up at 4pm, how bad is that!? but we were absolutely exhausted and are emotionally drained by vietnam but after partaking in an indian lunch which said boneless but grumble grumble-wasn't and finally finding a decent bus firm-blatantly VIP this time we think we're able to get down to siagon more easily and safely than before. No more vietnam hitler buses!!! So.. fingers crossed we'll be safely in hoi an by tomorrow evening.

We've just been roaming the streets for the past few hours and getting piccy's on disc and then we hit the wat bar for tea but again it was yack-soup was mushy peas on a plate with no taste... mmmmmmm!! Then it began raining again-torrential rain and now after an hour the flood waters are up past my ankles and i know i'm short but c'mon... gimme a break!! The barman had to call us a taxi cos it got too badto walk back in never mind seeing through the rain. Bless the barman who wants to become an "airhost", he was telling us to be careful in ho chi minh cos it has evil people and muggers-nice!! So loving Vietnam!!

Stay tuned.....!!!
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Halong Bay