Beautiful Bay and Bad Kareoke

Halong Bay Travel Blog

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On every side of my kayak, magnificent, jagged limestone formations jut out of the water, covered in lush green vegetation so vibrant I have to blink my eyes to make sure I'm not dreaming. Visiting Halong Bay has been a dream of mine for years, ever since the first time I saw photos, and I can't believe I'm actually here now. An early start this morning squeezed about 15 of us into a bus and on our way to the city of Halong, where we waited at the dock for nearly an hour before they finally sorted everything out and got us onto boats, ours being called the "Halong Party Cruiser," and with the bumping beat of music as we boarded, we were determined to make the junk boat live up to its name,even after the boats crew demanded $10 for the vodka (worth itself only $2) we'd brought on board, and ended up confiscating when we decided it wasn't worth it.

From the entrance of the cave
One of the French Canadian girls saw this and hid their rum, promising to share some with us later.

Our boat is half Vietnamese tourists and half Western backpackers around my age, which immediately had us easily slipping into two seperate groups, the Vietnamese eating and chatting eagerly and rather noisily at one table set with chopsticks and small bowls, and the rest of us at another one with small plates, quietly in comparison devouring our food after the inevitable 'So where are you from? What's your name? How long are you traveling for?Been anywhere besides Vietnam yet?' Sort of questions.

After lunch our boat headed towards a huge throng of others all gathered near what seemed to be a small floating fishing village nestled between several impressive limestone islands.

The cave all lit up on random colors
We were warned to not buy anything from the women selling food, drinks, and knick-nacks, as they would apparently come on board after this and steal valuables from our room at night. I do hate how corrupt people can be and how they take advantage of tourists.

Anyway, all climbed from our boat onto another one in order to get to shore, and were soon following heaps of other tourists into a cave that's deemed to be the most beautiful in the whole bay. On first impressions, it seemed pretty small, but then we headed into two other parts of the cave that were absolutely massive and pretty stunning. Huge stalagtites and stalagmites hung from the ceiling and protruded from the floor, dripping water as I tried to protect my camera in between taking pictures. Our guide kept pointing out how different formations looked like various animals, the coolest in my opinion being the giant King Kong and a big turtle that was supposed to be the golden turtle that the king once gave his sword to after defeating the Moguls.

We were told that rubbing its head would bring us luck, and even though I don't believe in luck, I did it anyway-the surface of the head was smooth as polished marble and I couldn't begin to imagine how much love it's had over the years, especially with all the Vietnamese who often leave small bank notes near it in prayer.

Kayaking was supposed to be the next on the list, which had me growing more frustrated by the minute at the utter lack of organization the Vietnamese who run tour groups in Halong Bay are. Our guide simply disappeared, so we walked to where people were getting into kayaks. As it seemed the logical thing to do when you're told to go kayaking, I picked up an oar, and was sternly told, 'No, you wait.' So I put it back down and asked several people when we would be able to go and where to wait.

This got me little response, which had us simply standing on the dock watching about 20 other people enjoying their kayaks. When we asked a man why we couldn't take one of the 50 kayaks that were sitting there unused, he simply told us that there weren't enough, when there obviously were more than enough. Nearly 45 minutes of waiting rewarded Craig and I with a kayak, and we were off and determined to make the next half hour amazing, which it really was.

The beauty of this place continues to amaze me, especially when we sighted an eagle flying in circles on the hunt for some lunch, gracefully swooping down and snatching something from the water. Too soon we were back on the boat, cruising around and getting to know each other better. Dinner was pretty much the same as lunch, and a beer hadn't tasted so good in a while.

After an amazing sunset it was time to start drinking, really amped up when we heard a loud and enthousiastic 'one, two, three,' but in Vietnamese. Turns out that it was one of the guy's birthday, and before we knew it we were joining in their shots of rice wine with euqally loud enthousiasm. With everyone all warm and happy with a bit of alcohol, the Vietnamese started on their kareoke and we all headed to the top deck of the boat for drinking games, including of course the infamous Never have I ever game.

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From the entrance of the cave
From the entrance of the cave
The cave all lit up on random colo…
The cave all lit up on random col…
Halong Bay