Ha Long Bay Cruise
Trip Start Jun 29, 2009
105Trip End Jun 30, 2010
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The bus was supposed to pick me up at 8:00 but came at 8:50 am, one thing I learned that Vietnamese are very relaxed about time. It was a beautiful day, sunny and hot. Today the forecast is for 34C (around 95F) so it's going to be a good day to be at sea.
We left the chaos and madness of Hanoi. Traffic was quite busy. there were thousands of motorbikes on the street, all beeping their horns. Outside of town we passed green rice fields, where the villagers worked, knee-deep in water, with their typical conical straw hats. Everything was very lush and green. Around 10:30 am we stopped for a break in some souvenir shop. Some people started drinking beer - I can tell I am not on the "party backpackers trail".
We reached Ha Long City around 12:30 pm. The port was very busy, there were hundreds of junk boats loading and unloading tourists. Organization skills weren't the strong side of the tour leaders. We spent an hour and a half waiting in several different places until we finally boarded the boat. By now everybody was starving. The lunch was quite good, seafood, vegetables and rice. Now we could truly enjoy the view. It was amazing, we were surrounded by limestone islands which were popping out of the water everywhere around us. They had all different shapes and were covered in thick vegetation. It is hard to describe the beauty of the place, even photos can't do it. You have to go and see it with your eyes.
The first stop was in a cave. It was really huge and lit up with different color lights. It was like you are in a fairy tale. Then we continued sailing (well actually motoring- none of the tourist junk boats had sails, which was a pity).
Back on the boat we were faced with a rule that you couldn't bring your own drinks,but you have to buy them on the boat. They were selling a can of beer at the exorbitant price of $1.50 (which was three times the normal price). Also, there was a sign that if you bring a bottle of beer from outside and drink it, you need to pay 5,000 dong (about 30 cents) and if you bring a bottle of wine you need to pay $5. Well, the sign said nothing about whiskey, so up at the top deck I brought out the bottle I had picked up in the port and passed it around. Everybody cheered! In the next minute the captain and one crew member rushed to the top deck and shoved the sign with "the rule" in my face. I smiled at them and told them that I have read it, but since it doesn't say anything about whiskey, I am not breaking any of their rules, and asked them to please leave me alone. Everybody laughed, they grumbled for a while then went away.
There was an amazing sunset - one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life. The mood was great, the group of people on the boat, too. The party was on! After we anchored, although it was after the sunset, everybody started jumping from the top deck into the water. There was a lot of laughing, screaming, and genuine fun! Dinner was also delicious. After that we went on the top deck, had some more drinks looking at the bright stars. Ha Long turned out to be what I had expected - a magical experience!