Had some interesting karma today. Before I left on my trip I booked a trip to Ha Long Bay. Two days and one night on a junk boat. These tours are ten a penny, but I went with STA Travel again for simplicity. As it turns out this hotel does a trip too.
Anyway, the bus was supposed to pick me up between 7:30 and 8, but the hotel got a call amending that to 8-8:30. So come 8 I’m downstairs and waiting.
Come 8:30, the hotel calls up the company who says the bus should be there in a few minutes.
9:10, and there’s another call. Turns out the bus has picked up the wrong person at a hotel and left the city. So my hotel needs to book a taxi, and give them the company’s number so he can call and chase the bus.
An awful lot of hassle, but think the staff at the hostel got more outraged than I did. They were positive nobody had been ‘incorrectly picked up’ and I’d just been forgotten, and warned that if the taxi couldn’t find the bus I’d have to pay the fare myself. Lots of backing and fro-ing and talking with the woman at the company before I finally got into the taxi and headed out of the city. Took about 2 hours before I managed to catch up with the last bus that left Hanoi.
Naturally, since I’d been delayed so much, by the time I got there we were running an hour behind schedule, but I was just relieved to get on the Annam Junk Boat. However there was yet more news – when I was sat in the bar with a welcome drink, the woman who I’d been speaking to on the phone showed up. No clue if she was there just for me or if she greets all the tours, but she came up and apologised for the transfer mistake. And, in order to make it up to me, they were upgrading me to the VIP room…
Which meant instead of staying in this perfectly adequate space:
I was spending the night here:
Full length windows, private balcony, double bed and room big enough to do Taekwondo Patterns (and yes, I actually checked). Made of awesome and win!
So yeah, running late, but I had no bad blood at this point. Headed deep into Ha Long Bay and as we were late, immediately had lunch.
Got to say I was astonished. This was a 2 star tour and did not get 2 star service. Lunch had 8 courses, admittedly small but still! All fresh seafood and all of them were delicious – my only vice was that dessert was tangerines and I was craving something a little more artificially sweet.
While we headed to our first stop, we went out on deck and got to enjoy Ha Long and speak to each other. The only other people on the boat was a family of Vietnamese/Australians, who thankfully spoke English so we could talk to each other. They were here to visit family and were just out to enjoy the Bay like me.
Ha Long Bay is beautiful, although I’d not picked the best time to visit due to the fog. It covers the water and surrounding cliffs so you can’t always see them until they’re pretty close. Kind of like a scene from Jurassic Park in that regard. But sailing through them is pretty spectacular, especially with just how calm the water is.
Our first stop was the Pearl Farm, which was part museum, part workshop. In order to manufacture enough pearls without over fishing, places like this take oysters, open the shell and artificially add a piece of foreign substance and a small pearl (never got it confirmed whether is was an actual pearl or a fake one), before putting in a bag or box for several months, and then putting into deeper boxes further out. We ended up being here for quite some time as the family’s daughter decided to buy a pair of pearl earrings (too rich for my blood), and I spent my time admiring the sunset from the top roof of the building.
When we finally set sail, it was clear were weren’t going to do the kayaking due to lack of time which was a bit disappointing – and when we got to Ti Top Island, the sun was down and it was too cold to swim (though to be honest it had been too cold when it was sunny too) so instead climbed up the hill on the island instead. Only had about 30 minutes here though, and when we were heading down it was getting dangerously dark. Luckily was almost at the foot by then.The boat moored in an area called Hang Lac for the night, and after an hour of free time (blog writing on my balcony!) we had dinner. Another 8 courses and great seafood! Plus some pretty interesting food preparation when I was provided with a vegetable bouquet. Had orchestral music playing while we ate, and couldn’t help but think whoever put the wordless theme to Titanic in the playlist had a sense of humour.
Supposedly there would have been a video to watch in the bar, but it never appeared. Instead we all went down the the lower deck and tried our hand at squid fishing. This is where you take a fishing rod with a weird octopus shaped hook and dip it into the water, before you yank it back up. Seemed simple enough, only we were pretty atrocious at it. As an added bonus, you could SEE the squid in the water thanks to the bright lights put on for that very purpose, and they were actively avoiding the areas with the rods. No clue what we were doing wrong, but not a single squid was caught by the guests.
Ended up going back to my room and doing some more typing (almost caught up now) before exhaustion kicked in. I really wanted to be up in time to see the sunrise, so called it a night and crashed in my awesome room.