Monday, 18 February 2013

Caves, Kayaking, and a bit of Halong Bay Shithead!

18th Feb

Woke early and Lorna, Iris and I went down for breakie. Then Iris and I headed to the Vietnam Travel shop to wait for our pickup. Eventually at 8.30am our tour rep showed up and we went to our mini coach. It took us 3 hours, with a short stop off (as in Vietnam, the max speeds are around 50kmh even on the highways) to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi, via a semi-scenic route. It was nice to see all the people working in the fields. And strange to see graves just plonked in the middle of all the rice paddies! The houses here are strange, really tall, narrow, grey buildings that look like they’ve just been plonked down and they are all different sizes, so you’ll have a tiny one plonked between two huge houses...with a massive gap between them or something!

We arrived at Halong Bay town around 12.30pm and dropped off one group who were doing the day tour, then went along to our pier. We ended up being half an hour late. As we were walking to our boat we walked past some pretty ugly ones, hoping that they weren’t ours, but when we got to ours it was actually pretty damn nice! 3 decks, the lower deck were the rooms, then the dining room, then the top deck with deck chairs and rooftop bar and an awesome viewpoint. When we arrived (us, 3 german couples and two Chinese dudes), we were introduced to the other group joining us who were already seated  - two couples, Elise (Norway) and Greg (UK), and Nicola and her bf (both UK), then Ashley an American girl who was teaching in Korea and was on a little holiday.

We checked into our rooms which were amazing, we had a twin room, with our own bathroom and hammer (?!), we only assumed it was either for breaking the windows...or for bashing rats! Then lunch was served – it really was a feast, the entire time we were on the boat, we pretty much just ate and ate! We had  - all delicious. Then after a short cruise into Halong Bay – which even though it was overcast and a little misty – already looked enchanting, we arrived at our first activity for the day which was visiting Sangan Cave, a massive cave overlooking a cute bay. Our guide took way too much pleasure in pointing out all the stalagmites that looked like things (including an elephant, camel, face, boob oh and a penis!).

So Iris and I had much fun pointing out our own Stalag-alikes, which included a crocodile, cupcake, monster, mushroom, bear etc. We passed the security guard’s desk, where for some reason people were laughing while taking pictures, so we had to check out why – it was because the poor dude loved his job so much, he was sound asleep! And there must have been around 20 people flashing pictures of him and laughing hysterically-  even his co-workers were in fits of laughter.  So then we went back to the boat, ready for the amazing trip through the islets towards the floating fishing village where we were to kayak.

We sailed for around an hour through all the little islets, it was amazing – so beautiful and mystical, all the mist made it look like something from Pirates of the Caribbean. We all sat on deck chatting for a while and then we took the smaller boat to the dock at the floating fishing village.

Apparently as it’s so small the village has only around 100 people living there and there is a lot of in-breeding; brothers marrying sisters and the like. Two to a kayak, me and Iris had one together and we had 40mins where we could kayak around the coves and villages. So we set out, we were crap at paddling and decided to go through a tiny arch in the rock – big mistake, we ended up crashing into it and making several attempts to get out before we could lol. We also established we were crap at turning the kayak around and it was damn hard work! So after going through a few caves into some coves, we then just bided the time paddling (or letting the water just drift us), through the floating village until it was time to get out, as we started to get very cold and wet.

It was then back onto the big boat where we were to continue on to the resting place where we would anchor down for the night. We had showers, watched the scenery, took way too many photo’s and everyone got to know each other a little more before dinner was served at 6.30pm. There was even more food! Fried chicken, rice, roast pork, stir fried veg, we made our own spring rolls, fish baked in coconut milk, fresh fruit and probably more that I can’t remember! Then we all sat around drinking, getting to know each other and playing some awesome card games – ‘Halong Bay Shithead’ was a favourite and Spoons. And then we went to bed around midnight as we had to get up early for breakfast and checkout.

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