9. Session with half of Europe...on a boat

Trip Start Jan 26, 2007
Trip End May 31, 2008

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, March 23, 2007

For our trip to Ha Long Bay we decided to just take a tour from Hanoi. Lucky enough too. There is nothing much in Ha Long City itself. We booked a boat trip for a one night two day tour
of the bay itself. There are so many tourist agencies in Hanoi trying to get you to book their trip and every single one just looks the same. We heard of a few bad stories from a few people along the way who had bad experiences so we were hopeful that we would get a good group.

The start of the trip was at the pier of Ha Long City and from there you can see how much of a tourist draw the Bay is. At the pier you could see what looks like a hundred boats waiting to take people out. We thought then that the trip would be littered with tourist boats and that we wouldn't be able to see anything but it wasn't, they all seem to go to different areas. We had quite a good group it turned out as well, mostly all the same age from Europe.

The Bay itself was amazing. Can't really describe it. It is just like the pictures that you can see of it but it is absolutely huge. There are something like 4000 islands but only 500 have been given names. The boat was traveling quite slow which was good so we could take it all in a bit. They took us to this floating village in the middle of the limestone peaks. We were told that these people are so poor that they cannot buy their own land, so they build these floating houses to live in. There were about 20 to 25 of them in the village we went to. Most of them make a living from fishing or from trying to sell stuff to the tourists. We saw a small school as well that the kids went to. It was lunchtime by the time we got there and the kids were out playing. The thing is, the school was a good hundred yards from the nearest house, so all that the kids had to play on was the 1m wide footpath that was around the school, and they we playing hide and seek!

After that we headed to a place where we went sea kayaking. We threw on the life jackets and headed out in this kayak, Jenny in front and me in the back. It took us a while to get the hang of it (it took us ages to reverse the thing out of where it was parked and to hang a left). But we were soon flying it and it was good fun for the hour or so. We kayaked to a cave through the limestone islands into this small serene enclave of islands that no boats could get to. Arms killing us at this stage (although Jenny was pretending to paddle for the most of it.....). 

We stayed the night on the boat and had dinner there too...then the session started. We all had a few drinks but then the Russians on the boat went professional and got our their bottles of vodka and were knocking them back like it was no tomorrow. They then started buying whiskey....by the bottle....until it was all gone. In the middle of this we were being taught the most boring card game of all time by these two Israeli women....(it was all we could do to get out of it after about 2 hours). There was a commotion then when one of the Russian fellas decided that it would be a great idea to go swimming in the sea which was infested with jelly fish at night. In the middle of all of this, our Vietnamese tour guide (who couldn't drink) and this Swedish fella (who was completely drunk), were having a drinking competition which turned into an arm wrestling match with the Russians, while at the same time, the Swedish fella was trying to chat up the two Israeli women. At this stage (5am) we went to bed. Wasn’t really any point in that really as our bedroom was right beside the engine room for the boat. Holy god the noise from it. Jenny woke up with a fright half way through the night but the room was pitch black. I couldn’t remember where we were (and with the few drinks on me) I ended up in the wardrobe looking for the light switch....we should have stayed up with the Russians.
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