Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Halong Bay

Some stalls offering tourist gifts, women in 'basket boats' as i like to call them, selling refreshments, make sure you barter with them.

Take warm clothes during December.

We booked a 3 day trip called 'Party Cruise' through the Elizabeth Hotel to Halong Bay, where we would depart on Christmas day. Our lovely tour operator 'Bow' AKA 'Cheesemouse' gave us discount and we ended up paying £75 each. This included 2 nights on board the boat, 3 meals a day, activities and a bus to and from Halong Bay.

Bring your own alcohol as the drinks can end up being quite expensive. We took some rum and coke and asked the staff for ice and lime. Also take some water as the small bottles of water on board cost 20,000d each!

We departed the hotel at 08:30am and arrived in Halong City at 12:00pm. We were then greeted by a tall friendly guide called 'Qwaun' who directed us to a small boat, which then took us to the larger boat called 'Halong Party'.

Once everyone was on board we were led to the restaurant area, we all thought it looked incredible and really posh, with every table set out neatly and 2 bottles of wine placed on each.
I was in the Christmas spirit and cracked open one of the bottles that had been left out on the table within 5 minutes of being seated. I wondered why none of the other tourists had done the same, until we saw the menu stating that the wine was in fact $39 per bottle! By this point the others had already poured themselves a
glass so the bill split between us wasn't quite so bad.

The food to follow was fantastic, a 3 course meal with fish and chicken, followed by fruit for desert. Even though we didn't have a traditional Christmas dinner we were all feeling Christmassy and enjoyed a couple of cocktails with our meal instead of the usual mulled wine. These worked out at 80,000d each

Keep a note of the drinks you buy as the billing system at the end of the trip is not logged very well, with no breakdown of what you have bought.

Tasty Dragon Fruit for desert

Once we had finished eating lunch we were given the key to our room. The six of us were located on the lower deck along with four young men from Sweden, with each of us having a cabin between two. The cabins were cosy and neatly decorated with an en-suite bathroom. There was a larger open top deck above the restaurant with sun loungers, and a games room area at the back that had a roof covering, a smaller open deck area was then above this.

 Our cabin

 The upper deck area

Our 'Junk'
At 3pm we were all asked to go kayaking and boarded a smaller boat where we docked at a floating kayak rental centre. I wore jeans and a jumper as although sunny it was quite chilly.

Don't forget to take a camera and shoes as you won't be returning to the boat until after 5pm.

We kayaked around the bay and took in the breathtaking views of the limestone carsks dotted in between the vast sea area.

 A floating village

A few of the locals fishing around the bay

Once we were back on board the smaller boat we headed towards a little beach where Qwaun convinced everyone to participate in a game of tug-a-war. 

 We were blessed with a sunset

Tug a war!

Afterwards most people relaxed on the beach, although it was too cold to sunbathe, so Jason, Ian and I decided to climb to the view point and appreciate the views from up there.

We boarded the main boat just after sunset and went back for a shower before being seated for our evening meal. Once again the food did not disappoint and the six of us sneaked cheeky rum and cokes from our room and ordered the odd cocktail in between.

The restaurant during the evening

Mai Thai cocktail

The rest of the tourists retired to bed at 9:30pm, however we were in the mood to enjoy the rest of Christmas, so after a few more drinks Qwaun got out the karaoke and we proceeded to sing (if you can call it that) until 1am. We left the restaurant area and played a game of darts and table football until we were suddenly told to keep the noise down by a gentleman that seemed to appear from nowhere. We didn't actually realise that there was a cabin located right next to the games room, so we decided to call it a night and go to bed.

We apologised to the family that we had woken up but were met with the response of 'I think we have different interests'. I agree that we were being noisy but the only reason we booked to stay on this boat was because it was called 'Party Cruise', it was Christmas day and we were told that there would be music, karaoke and a party scene, so i have no idea why a family would have booked to stay here!

Luckily the other guests were only staying the one night, so after a frosty breakfast, the six of us and the four Swedish men were taken on a smaller boat for a day trip of kayaking and sightseeing, whilst the other guests headed to a cave and were then taken back to Halong City.

Ian kayaking

For lunch we sailed to a quieter spot where we spent the next few hours lazing around on the top deck of the boat.

 Aaron, Luke, Josh and I

The impressive view

Ian jumping from the boat

Some of the local children in a 'basket' boat

We then headed to a pearl oyster farm, where we had a tour guide explain, in detail, the fascinating process of how the pearls are farmed with two workers demonstrating this for us. I learnt so much here.

 The fascinating pearl farming process

The end result

We arrived back to the boat at 4:00pm and got ready for the dinner ahead. We saw Qwaun beforehand and told him how we had all had a really nice day out, only for him to explain to us that he was sad because some guests had stolen his iPad. Qwaun is not the owner of the boat, he manages it to support his family, and he 
always allows guests to use his personal iPad to check their emails. This is at his own expense because there is no wifi on board and so he pays for the network usage. 

We were all incredibly shocked to learn that four western guests from the previous night, who were in their 50s/60s, had been the culprits. Luckily Qwaun had installed a tracker app and located the iPad to the bus which was departing for Hanoi. The Police were called in to search the tourists but Qwaun refused to press charges against the thieves. This just goes to show his good nature and how disgusting it is that someone could take advantage of him like that.

Later on we met up with the new guests on board. This time they were all around the same age as us and were keen to join in with the party later on. 

The 3 course dinner went down a treat and before long everyone on board took part in the karaoke and dancing including Qwaun. The night ended on a high for everyone with most people crashing out at 1-2am.

The next day we remembered that some of the other guests had told us that the smaller boat that had been used to take us to and from the larger boat had actually sunk whilst they had been out kayaking! Because of this we had to use a different boat and were told by Qwaun that our time in the cave would unfortunately be shorter than usual.

One of the other junks in Halong

The cave we visited had been discovered by two French explorers over 100 years ago and had now been made very safe for tourists to enter. There was a man-made pathway with steps leading inside the huge cave and even lighting. Although it wasn't a challenging cave to look around it was nice to see and the shorter time here did not make a difference.

A local selling food to the tourists outside of the cave

Once we all boarded the Halong Party boat, Qwaun taught us how to make spring rolls and after this we had our final lunch on board the boat.

We made our way back to Halong City and reached dry land at 1:30pm. We said our goodbyes to Qwaun and thanked him for being such a brilliant host and for making our stay on board so fun and interesting.

We reached Hanoi at 5:30pm and checked back into the 'Elizabeth Hotel'. This time we had a double room for $5 each a night.

No comments:

Post a Comment