Next was a bus ride to Halong City at 8.30am; sardines in a tin springs to mind – I think they forget everyone will have luggage, so although the bus holds 15 people it shouldn’t hold 15 people plus luggage. Then there is the boat; it’s actually quite nice – there are hundreds of boats (they call them Junks) in Halong. Out room is fine accept we are above the engine. We are only in there to sleep so fingers crossed no repeats of Battambang boat thank you.
So we set off from the harbour into the bay where our first stop is the caves. They are huge, it is so so busy though which is shame but you can make loads of animals or objects out of the stalactites/mites – passed half an hour anyway. We carried on cruising round the bay seeing crazy rock formations on the top deck sun loungers where there was a nice breeze. Had our seafood lunch on the boat, which actually transpired to be a few prawns, and then went swimming in the bay, diving off the top deck which was really high . One of the guys got stung by a jelly which put a speedy end to that. Dinner again on the boat was followed by in house entertainment in the form of karaoke, OMG I hate it. However I stood my ground and just clapped and whooped at the required moments without participating myself. K and I knew the boat would be expensive so came prepared with a bottle of wine and vodka which we put into water bottles to mix with the still extortionately priced cans. There were signs everywhere saying about corkage, but we got away with it ;o) Little mobile shops on boats come up all the time to the junk as well, which are still over priced but not so bad. To put it in perspective, a bottle of water was 7 or 8 thousand on the mainland, on the cruise boat it was 20 and off the little boats it was 15.
We escaped from karaoke and headed to the top deck with a pack of cards, ipod and speakers, along with the smuggled drink, to enjoy the rest of the evening. Our days on the train learning lots of new card games should have meant we had a head start against everyone, especially as we were teaching them, however I somehow seem to get royally stitched up, drinking the majority of forfeit shots. We had a few other boats pull up near who also had karaoke on and we could hear the abysmal singing still over the ipod- too funny!! The bed and shower were really nice considering it was on a boat anyway.
So we carried on cruising round the bay to Catba Island, its national park, but not quite sure why – don’t get me wrong it was nice but not that nice, and if they call national, protected, then I hate to think what they do to the rest of it . They dump anything at any time in the bay, it’s so bad, they just don’t seem to care.
We got bikes and rode to the cave hospital which was used in the war. From the outside it looks nothing, but go in through the door, and a whole little underground world opens up!! There is a cinema and a pool for about 200 people who convalesced there. Escape routes and hoists, it seems to have everything covered-most impressed.
Next stop Monkey Island. There is only 1 resort which has thatched bungalows on. They are quite small but have AC and are quite cute. There is nothing else there – lovely!! We wind away the afternoon in the water with a floating bar and a rubber ring. We pass, on the trek around the island, as my Sapa experience has left with me blisters still! Dinner time which is an ok BBQ and then card games and a bottle of vino on the beach with the cards again. We are joined by a resident cockroach who picked out K who proceeded to scream, spear the guy opposite as she threw her fork, and ran screaming, staff running round to see what had happened and then hysterical laughter as they realised it was just a cockroach!! Oh and a few dodgy karaoke viewings with the last straggling Vietnamese, and us of course, after a bottle of wine. Hotel California will never be the same again after it was murdered on more than one occasion by the Canadian guys !
With guess what, another early start to get the boat back to Cat Ba Island and then to Halong City. Our day is mainly travelling. It is scorching hot, but sat on the top deck on a sun lounger makes quite a pleasant journey. K got crispy burnt with wicked short lines! Got a slightly better bus back to Hanoi leaving one of our bags on there, but managed to get it back before heading out to try and replace K’s broken rucksack and me a new book. Found a few shopping centres and supermarkets but to no avail!! How annoying. We walked for 2 hours so thought we deserved a nice dinner. Friends we had met previously recommended Fannies Ice Cream Parlour, which is a buffet of sweet things!! After all that walking we tried young rice, peanut and corn ice cream(all individual) which were so so creamy and surprisingly yummy. Waffle baskets and cones, pancakes and fruit were all included, accompanied by the scrummiest, tangiest sorbets and usual flavours. They had all the toppings and it was a bit of a free for all as well but a feast was had!!
Then we headed off to the water puppet show. We had to book so far in advance for this but it was worth it! Not watched anything like it ever, and despite not being able to understand it, as it was mainly in Vietnamese, we watched these crazy puppets re-enact different aspects of their lives to traditional folk music.
The show was only an hour long, so we headed off to the streets and night market after. No purchases surprisingly as our next flight has a 20kg luggage limit (hmm let’s just hope it’s a nice check-in person!) It is a massive market with all different areas, so, with nothing except for the required bags and books, we head back.
Lbc (From United Kingdom)