Trip Start Oct 23, 2012
3Trip End Feb 08, 2013
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Within one minute of arriving on the harbour we were told there was a big storm on the way, and that nobody would be out on the water for more than 4hrs! So they gave us three (shit) choices:
1) go on the boat for 4hrs, come back, then drive back to Hanoi ($20)
2) go on the boat for 4hrs, come back and sleep in a hotel next to the motorway, then drive back to Hanoi in the morning ($45!)
3) get back on the bus and drive 4hrs back to Hanoi, and you only have to pay for the 8hr bus journey you didn't need (wtf)
We chose option one, obviously, and in no time at all we were sitting on a boat that was literally the exact opposite of the beautiful picture we were shown when booking the tour the day before
When you book Halong Bay trips from anywhere in the country you will be shown pictures of amazing wooden boats with huge red sails. I don't know where these pictures were taken but I can 100% rule out Halong bay. By law every single boat is painted white and is flaked as hell. They are all crammed full of people, leaky, and full of smoke from their huge, stinky engines(not sails). I'm not complaining I'm just saying what it's like. Anyone who says different is probably trying to sell you a tour.
Incredibly, when we reached the islands the sun came out and the rain stopped and it was as amazing as we hoped it would be. We ate a load of seafood, had a row around some caves and stood on a floating village. On the way back to the harbour we stopped to go in a lit cave.
As there was only one bus back to Hanoi half the group got left in Halong and had to pay $45 to stay over, but luckily we made it on the bus. Unluckily the bus took 6hrs to get back but we did get a $25 refund and stopped at a couple of service stations that sold bottles of vodka for $2