I don’t really need to say much about Halong Bay – the photos I have taken and also the many photos you will find online speak for themselves – but I will anyway as I need something to do before dinner.
I was slightly worried about the Halong Bay overnight cruise as I had read a wide variety of horror stories on the internet about shoddy operators, rats on the ships, overbooking, people sleeping on the floor, food poisoning amongst all of the passengers, various scams to make you pay more money during the process etc etc. This was especially concerning as I had gone for a fairly cheap budget tour with Fantasea Cruises. These concerns were entirely unfounded as the cruise I chose turned out to be close to perfect.
Our cruise guide was highly entertaining and interesting. He was quite bossy and every time we didn’t obey one of his orders he would threaten to drop us off and leave us in China or more alarmingly send us to the “ship prison” or “make clean the toilets”. On the small boat, if we took our life jackets off too soon he would panic and say “I go to prison for 3 years!”. The toilet was called the “Happy Place” and many of the other passengers continued to call it that for the duration of the cruise. Much to the delight of some of the other passengers, he also loved to say “Same, Same but different” at every random opportunity which is a common Vietnamese / South East Asian phrase (I am not really sure what it means but I guess you could say it means “Similar”!)
Oh and he also had a wealth of knowledge about Halong Bay.
The food at all the meals was great – they just kept piling all sorts of different dishes on our tables until we were stuffed and couldn’t eat another thing. They even made efforts to make it look fancy such as this shrimp cocktail.
The room I had was small but very comfortable and I had one of the best sleeps of the trip so far even though we were woken up at 6.50AM for the cave visit. This was my room and the views from it.
The other passengers on the ship included a group of about 9 young Czechs who now lived in Harrogate, UK. As soon as I saw them and they starting ordering in the cocktails and Vodka at lunchtime I knew it was probably going to be a bit of a party.
There was also an Argentinian couple who were on their honeymoon. I ate with the Argentinian couple at all of the meals. They were really nice and the guy, Tomas, gave me his email address in case I ever made it to Argentina. There was also a few other Spanish couples who I didn’t really mingle with as they didn’t seem to speak much English.
I found it a little awkward being the only solo traveller on the cruise and was hoping beforehand that there would be other soloists but soon relaxed into it and got chatting to some people. Before I came travelling, I did have some reservations and worries about travelling solo as it is not something I have ever done before and I didn’t know what to expect, however, as it turns out travellers seem to be an extremely friendly bunch and I have been meeting new people every single day so far.
In the evening, there was Squid Fishing and the Karaoke. Nobody caught a thing during the squid fishing.
After a few beers, I got up and sang with the Czechs a couple of Bob Marley songs on the Karaoke and as I had expected it turned out to be a proper party that night. By the end, me and Tomas were left there alone belting out Rolling Stones songs, we literally cleared the room I think.
After the Karaoke, I went outside and a few of the Czechs were swimming off the back of the boat which prompted the cruise guide to come out of his room. Lets just say he was pretty angry as he had clearly said no swimming in the evening.
During the 2 days, we climbed to a high view top (what a view!), went swimming, kayaking which was the highlight of the two days for me, cruising on the boat and also visited an enormous cave. In the cave, the cruise guide kept pointing his torch at various rocks and saying what animals they looked like i.e rabbit, snake, elephant etc……..even though they looked absolutely nothing like said animals – everyone on the tour found this pretty amusing.
Anyway, here are the rest of the photos and some captions. Halong Bay itself was something else; it is a UNESCO World Heritage site consisting of about 2,000 islets and limestone karsts which has formed over a period of 20 million years (according to our guide). It was like being in the film Avatar or some other space fiction movie, a pretty special part of the world – heavily overrun of course by pesky tourists like myself but definitely still worth seeing nonetheless.
Next stop: Sapa for trekking and a Vietnamese homestay.