23.01.2012 - 26.01.2012 18 °C
After waiting 3 hours in Hanoi for our tour pick-up we finally got on to an already full bus and then we picked up another two couples. Since it was Chinese New Year, no other tour buses were running, so some people got moved onto our tour even though they booked another one. The bus had to stop after about half an hour on a busy road because one girl was desperate to go to the toilet. Our tour guide was a lot of fun. He called himself "Lucky" because he brings all of his tour groups good luck. However, an hour into the drive we got a flat tyre. We pulled over and all got out while the driver changed the tyre. After about 3 hours, we arrived in Halong City and boarded a small boat that took us to out to our Halong Party Cruise Boat. It was a nice and fairly big boat with three levels which included a bar, karaoke, sun-baking chairs on the top and nice cabins. We had lunch as soon as we boarded the boat. We got plates of chips first to share around the table. We thought that was it but they kept bringing out more and more plates of different things. It was a good lunch and there was plenty of food. Two Norwegian girls from our Sapa tour sat with us as well as a lovely family of four and a fun Danish couple. We ended up having really good company. After lunch we went kayaking out to one of the caves and a fishing village. There are around 1,969 islands in Halong Bay and we could tell the whole area would be stunning in summer, but at the time it was very cloudy and cold.
After kayaking we got onto the small boat which took us to one of the island beaches. We walked to the top of the island for a great view and then headed back down to the beach for tug-of-war. My team lost. When we got back onto the Party Boat we decided to have a nap before dinner. Dinner was similar to lunch but with different foods - the fried corn was delicious, as were the potatoes and the salad. There was a lot of seafood. After dinner we started drinking although drinks were quite expensive on the boat. Some tipsy people tried to start karaoke but it sounded terrible so luckily it didn't last long! We were also encouraged to try squid fishing, although I declined because it was too cold outside. We got a bit drunk and then went to bed around midnight.
We woke up 7:30 am for breakfast. There were only 4 of us that were on the 2 night tour so everyone else left us after breakfast. It was much colder than the day. We had the option to go kayaking again for another hour and a half but the Danish couple weren't up for it so it was just us and our guide and we only came across another 2 people the whole time. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful. We went under caves and came out into secret lagoons. Our guide was told us we would have to be very lucky to see the monkeys on Cat Ba island, but it was unlikely because of the weather. One minute later we saw about 15 of them in the trees and they were gone within 5 minutes. We got back on the smaller boat for lunch which was amazing. The chef had made a ship out of cucumber and carrot - it looked too good to eat! We then had 2 hours free-time on the boat in which we were just trying to keep warm. Next stop was the pearl village. On our way there we crashed into a fisherman boat - we were the only two boats in the bay and still managed to hit each other, considering the hectic traffic in Hanoi we found this quite hilarious. After visiting the pearl village we returned to the Party Boat whilst the new group of tourists arrived.
The next day we got on another small boat and went to see "Amazing Cave". As soon as we boarded the small boat we saw another boat crash right into our Party Boat! The crash broke windows and put a dent in the wall. The cave was pretty cool, there was a fair bit of graffiti though which was off-putting but other than that it was great to see. There was a rock in the shape of a big turtle and its head was silky smooth because everyone touches it for luck and longevity. After an hour there we went back to our boat for a "cooking class" on making spring rolls. However, all we did was put the mix into the paper and rolled it up. It was delicious though.
Then we grabbed our gear and headed back to for lunch at a restaurant in Halong City and then headed back to Hanoi. On the bus ride back I decided to observe the traffic a bit more and I noticed a few things: If you can go, you go, and if you can't go, you try anyway, and if there is a one way road, you go the wrong way on the footpath instead. Also, if there are two lanes, there are in fact three, one for right hand traffic, one for left hand traffic and the middle of the two for overtaking when there is traffic on both sides coming.
We got back to Hanoi to discover we didn't have anywhere to stay. The lovely staff at The World Hotel directed us down the road to another hotel they recommended (The Old Hotel) so we stayed the night there. I tried to have a hot shower but it was cold so I got straight into bed instead. Bundy went out to organise our train to get us out of Hanoi as soon as possible and fetched me K.F.C. for dinner.
We woke up at 6:00 am to catch a taxi to our train which left at 8:30 am. We had no idea how long it took so we didn't make any plans for when we arrived in Da Nang. We realised we would be arriving at 3:00 am and therefore needed a hotel but we had no way of booking. I was very tired and slept for a lot of the day. Bundy had brought a bottle of vodka and coke for the ride which he ended up drinking entirely by himself. We were with nice local people in our cabin and they helped us buy food and they offered Bundy one of their beers. We went to sleep at around 10:00 pm.