I had to get up at about 7:30 for an 8:30 pick-up today for my three day/ two night trip to Ha Long Bay. This trip is supposed to be one of the highlights for me. Everything I have read and heard about this place has been good. Good based on how beautiful it is, not necessarily the boat. That part could be hit or miss. Often what happens is travel agents promise this and that, show pictures of the boat you will be on, but in the end it could be a pile of junk. So, I am crossing my fingers for something that isn’t a total peice of crap. One of my friends mentioned being on a junker and hearing rats in the middle of the night!
I grabbed my free breakfast of eggs and toast before the bus driver picked me up in front of my hotel. I was the first on the bus and I was really hoping I would be in a group of younger people. Not a bunch of old people or couples with kids. When we pulled up to the next stop, three young and beautiful 23 to 24 year old French girls got on the bus. They were just traveling Asia a bit before they head to China for four months for an MBA program. I was feeling pretty happy about that and started up a bit of conversation immediately. When we got to the next stop, we picked up two young Aussie dudes. One of them seriously looked like Zac Efron and before he got on the bus the girls said something in French about how hot he was. After living abroad, I pick up easily what people are saying by the way they talk and body expression. “Damn it!! There goes my shot.”, I thought. The next stop was for an Italian couple, that were total hippies. My type of people for sure. She didn’t speak English, but the guy did, so I was able to have a conversation with them at different parts of the trip.
The bus trip took about four hours to the coast. This is where I got to experience Vietnamese driving for the first time. Here they are driving all over the road trying to pass each other, while also playing chicken with oncoming traffic. It would take awhile to get used to their driving style before I could drive here.
Soon after getting off the bus we got on a small boat that then took us to the boat we would be staying on for the night. After having a little lunch on the main boat, which happened to be the best meal I had eaten in Vietnam up to this point, the three French girls got upset with the tour guide about it being the wrong boat. I was also thinking the same thing, but had read this may happen and I was hoping for the best. The cabins were nice and clean, the water was hot, and the food was good. To me, it was living up to what I over paid. After lunch we set sail into Halong Bay. It got more beautiful the furtherout we went.
Our first stop was The Dragon Cave. It had three main chambers and was pretty cool but heard the other cave that many tours go to are better. The guide showed us all these things that were in the rocks, like Buddha, a dragon, people kissing, etc. It was a bit annoying, so I showed him a big dog in a rock. The thing about rocks, stars, clouds, or a piece of toast is that you can see whatever you want to see..After the cave we went kayaking.
The kayaking ended up being a bit difficult for me because the three French girls were not interested in doing it, leaving me to go solo. It was nice being on the water by myself, but the problem was I didn’t have enough power to go very far. Either way, I made the most of it! I had head there were caves I could kayak in, but I guess this tour didn’t take us there.
Next stop was a beach on an island were we climbed a small mountain to see a the sun setting. There were a lot of people trying to go up and down this small path and I kind of got claustrophobic. Halfway up I did see my monkeys, but they were unfortunately in a cage. When they talked about monkey island I expected wild monkeys. After taking my photos, I headed back down to grab a beer and watch the sun set on the beach.
From here we went back on the boat and relaxed a little before we had dinner. Dinner was pretty good, but by this time I figured out this small group of mine was not into having a little drinking fun, and pretty much stuck to their groups. I stayed up a bit and had a beer and gave a go at fishing before I went to my very cold room. I had to wear my pants and winter jacket to bed just to stay warm. I thought a hot shower would be great, but when I messed with the faucet a bit, I lost the hot water and couldn’t get it back. Shame!! So to bed I went because the WiFi sucked on the boat and nobody wanted to hang out. Hope tomorrow is fun!
We had to get up really early to get breakfast today. The three French girls and I were going to change boats because we were on the three day tour while the others were only on a two. Funny thing is, the boat we then went to was the boat we were told we would be on in the first place. After talking to a couple people on the boat, it sounded like they actually did karaoke and had a bit of a good time. Bummer for me! The boat then headed to a pearl farm. We got to walk around and see how pearls are made. There was a station were a couple guys were cutting open oysters when he offered someone in the group to eat one. Nobody wanted to, so I said I would eat it. I have had raw oysters before, so this wasn’t anything new to me. I have come to really like sea food since living in Korea and am way more open to trying new things or throwing raw fish down my throat.
After the pearl farm we headed to a secluded beach. We spent about 40 minutes just chilling out. There was a Russian girl that joind us that seemed a little off in the head. She had a different outfit for everything we did and was filming everything with a GoPro Camera. None of us went swimming except the Russian girl.. I just walked around looking for some shells. I asked the French girls about the outfit changing, and they said Russians are like that. I know a few Russians and have never seen this behavior before, so I may have to look into it more, out of pure curiosity.
After the beach we headed over to a part of Cat Ba Island. Here we took bicicles into a town on the island and walked a bit into a National Park. I really enjoyed the little bike trip , but there was a Vietnamese couple who had just got married that ended up hiring a driver back. The couple seemed a bittle off. He lives in New York and she is from Vietnam and did not speak English. The French girls and I figured it must be some kind of arranged marriage and the awkwardness I felt between them was just them getting used to eachother. I can’t imagine being in an arranged marrage situation!!!
After our bike trip we headed to the main part of Cat Ba Island were we were dropped off at different hotels. This kind of sucked because I was hoping to hang out with the girls that night, but failed! I was at the hotel by myself and was even brought to an empty restaurant to eat by myself. Oh well, I had heat in my room and pretty fast internet. I was able to catch up on some of my TV shows, drink a beer, and upload photos and post a blog. So, probably more productive than just getting wasted 😉
I had to wake up at 6:30 to get rolling for my pick-up back to the boat. I went to the same restaurant I had dinner at for breakfast and then got picked up by my bus to go to the boat. I found a comfy mat on the upper deck and laid out to watch the scenery and take pictures as we headed to shore. We did end up making one boat transfer and had a nice lunch before getting off the last boat.
Once off the boat, we had to sit around for about a half-hour to wait for our bus. I unfortunately got crammed into the back seat. They do not make these buses for Western people that are over 5 1/2 feet tall 😉
After I got back to Hanoi, I hung out at the place I booked my tour while waiting for the train. I also decided to skip out on a few other places in Vietnam because I don’t have enough time. I ended up booking a $50 train ticket for $85 bucks from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City for Sunday night. A bunch of con artists they are here.
When I got to the train station, I found I got to share a four bed room with a Vietnamese family. There were a bunch of other travelers in my train car too that I ended up chatting with at different points, including a nurse from Holland that had come here to volunteer. He works with a lot of kids with disabilities, especially those that are affected from the aftermath of the U.S. dropping Agent Orange chemicals across Vietnam during the war/ conflict/ occupation/ invasion… etc. Really cool guy.
Well, here I go on my 14 hr train ride! Should be interesting 😉