Social Whisper

Hanoi and Halong Bay

Posted on: April 29, 2009

If it’s possible Hanoi is actually more mental than Saigon. On arrival its almost too much and makes you want to get out of there as soon as possible. If you’re arriving as a backpacker the city can be pretty hard work in terms of navigating your self around and finding cheap places to stay and eat compared to other cites we’ve stayed at.

There’s also a lot of people always trying to have one over on you so you also ways have to be on the ball which can be hard work and tiring after a while, especially after a long journey. Safely to say that on arrival we quickly booked our tour out of there to Halong that left the next day.

One thing you notice as you travel round is that the lonely planet lies a lot. Its quite useful for general information about an area but some of the maps dont quite match up and the prices are always wrong so you have to take it with a pinch of salt.

For example when booking our Halong Bay tour it recommends a number of tour operators as there are quite a few dodgy ones and scams going about because of its popularity. The problem is that as soon as it appears in the lonely planet everyone else seems to change their name to jump on the bandwagon (similar thing in hotels). We used a tour company called Sinh cafe which was fine but we later found out that there are over 100 Sinh cafes in Hanoi so had no chance of knowing if we used the one suggested – incidentally it was fine and we had no problems.

Our trip to Halong Bay left the next morning, with one night staying on a traditional junk ship and another on Cat Ba Island. Once we left the mainland and went out into the bay the views were breathtaking – believe the hype as words and pictures wont be able to get across how amazing this place is.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay at Sunset

During the day we also stopped off at some caves which were pretty amazing but were lit up with all these different coloured lights so it felt a bit like you were in Disney land – but amazing all the same.

Halong Caves

The rest of the group on our boat were really nice and had some great stories. I love people who have a story, in fact I might start vetting people I meet on the story they have to tell.

The one thing that had been worrying me about this trip was that it meant dealing with an annoying fear I had of drowning in confined spaces such as a sinking plane, or trapped in a boat while a sleep as it sunk. Luckily nothing happened although one of the guys on the trip cheerfully informed me that people did wake up to their boat sinking last year which was helpful.

The next day when we reached Cat Ba island we had a trek up one of the jungle covered mountains, which was pretty hard going – even more so because we were in flip flops which made it even harder not to fall off, but 2 hours later we made it!

Cat Ba Mountain

In the afternoon we had free time but as the weather had turned miserable and there wasn’t much to do we decided to go down the pub and play drinking games all afternoon with some bottles of cheap vodka. It was all going well with me and Nikki kicking Chris’s arse until after dinner when we invited this Aussie guy to join us (he turned out to be a bit weird and didn’t really get the English sense of humor) and he took Chris’s side and every time we lost made me down the vodka.

drinking games in Cat Ba

Luckily being English we still managed to win with him breaking first. The next day back to the mainland the weather was really foggy which made it hard to see much and gave the bay and errie affect, but also made us glad we’d had some sunny weather on our first day.

Back in Hanoi it was time for us to part ways as my visa ran out the next day and so I was headng down to the Thai islands and the guys were going up to Sapa for some trecking before heading down to Cambodia.

It was pretty emotional but we may potentially be meet up again in Thailand so we’ll see, it just means I will have to start being nice to random people and making friends again – which to be honest I’m quite looking forward to altough it wont be the same as my Vietnam group, but we’ll see!

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