Escape from the mainland: The sequel
Trip Start Sep 02, 2009
72Trip End Oct 30, 2010
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Where I stayed
on a boat and on an island
Our tour guide was early so we rushed downstairs straight into a mini bus, which then proceeded at full speed and with little regard for other human lives ( including ours), towards our destination.
Four hours later and the circulation in my legs had gone: most transport and seating is not built for tall people. Luckily we had arrived at a dock where all the other tourists seemed to be. Everyone in our group seemed in high spirits, except for a Slovakian couple who from the start seemed to be miserable
We walked into the boat and saw that the tables had been laid out for dinner. It was a setting fit for a top restaurant and the rooms didn't disappoint either. For the money we paid we assumed we would be slumming it on a broken down smelly boat for 3 days, how wrong we were! As the ship cruised to Halong bay we sat down for lunch and were joined by an Irish couple called Ema and Dave... and everybody knows that two Dave's gets very confusing!
As we waited for our food we enjoyed the spectacular view and swapped traveling stories, although they where only 10 days in ( but they seemed to have squeezed in an awful lot). The food was FRESH literally just caught fresh and they provided a vegetarian option for Amy which they seemed to have put a lot of thought and effort in to. It wasn't always great for her though because, as the food was tapas style, a lot of people seemed to assume the vegetarian option was also there food too. There was seafood mostly: fresh fish which they de-boned at the table and lots of prawns and other equally tasty dishes all beautifully presented. We didn't realise how spoiled we were going to be
Our first stop was a floating village near a cave. The people lived here all there lives, only leaving to go to the hospital in an emergency. Also our tour guide told us there was a floating primary school which the kids had to swim to.
We arrived at the caves which had been sculpted by water and wind erosion over millions of years. It seemed man made but it wasn't. Nature must have a dirty sense of humor as our tour guide gleefully pointed out a penis shaped rock, and a rock that apparently looked like two people having sex... he seemed over the moon with this discovery. It's a fine example of Vietnamese good sense of humor (if a little misguided in some instances). We spent a short time in the cave after which we were ushered back onto the boat to go kayaking for an hour before lunch.
Me and Amy, after working out some steering issues, power-housed our way towards the most interesting looking spots. Halong Bay was such a gargantuan sized area that found ourselves a little intimidated by the sheer size, and not to mention the boats coming toward us captained by obviously crazy drivers!
After kayaking we went back to the boat for some swimming and then dinner. It was only me, Amy and Ema that actually got in the water, and I don't even like sea water! Needless to say everybody else was Chicken!!!
That night we had some beers and me, Amy, Ema and Dave played cards and Jenga.
The next day the boat took us to Cat Ba island. We got on bikes and cycled through the lush vegetation and rural villages for an hour and a half, stopping at a village for a drink and a micro trek through the jungle halfway through . It was great fun and the weather was glorious.
The boat then took us to one of the beaches which apparently housed rabid monkeys which where known to bite people and rob them! We still wanted to find the monkeys so a small group of us trekked up towards the mountain (if you can call it that) where we told they could be found. I guess we were lucky really that we didn't find them. We climbed quite high and witnessed some stunning views worthy of the dangerous climb. After the even more precarious climb down we went for a swim in the sea then boarded the boat where, when told to clean my shoes in the water, I slipped and sliced my toe (but luckily landed safely on my other foot and avoided further laceration)
The boat then set sail for the other side of Cat Ba island where we were going to stay in a 3 star hotel.
We had a few hours to kill before dinner so we decided to look around and walked along the harbor and waited for the sunset in a nearby bar. Whilst having a quiet drink we were subtly engaged in conversation with a Vietnamese man who used the usual sales pitch of 'where are you from?', however our radar must have been down for a few minutes as before I knew it the man had claimed he was a masseur and started to touch me all over. The thought had crossed my mind to stop him... but he was actually doing an amazing job! As he was snapping my neck and clicking my fingers and crunching my skin in a weird twisting motion Amy and I were subtly signaling to each other how much we would pay when he finished. We secretly agreed two dollars and hoped he wasn't a violent man. To our utter surprise after he finished he said thank you then pretty much walked off and didn't ask for any money. We decided to give him 3 dollars. He seemed very pleased and gave us his card.
On our last day we just floated around Halong Bay, sunbathed on the top of the boat, and watched fish jump out of the water. Finally, after our last meal of the tour at a local restaurant, we got back in the mini bus and headed back to Hanoi.
Halong Bay is a very beautiful place and we would recommend it to everyone. We are so glad we decided to take the trip: it has been one of the highlights of our journey so far.