I came to Hanoi in September 2014. When students asked me if I ever been to Halong Bay, the one place people go when in northern Vietnam, I always said “no.” I was always busy with work and never really found the time to go.
Finally, I had an excuse to go. Robb’s parents were in Hanoi, making it the perfect reason to go. So, with an early wake-up call at 6am, we gathered together and boarded a bus, along with the hoards of other tourists and Vietnamese. (We picked a national holiday to go to Halong Bay. Maybe not the best idea…)
I think the crew’s mission is to make us eat so much that we would vomit afterwards. The “family” as we were called, got a private table. Plates of seafood, fried mystery meat, rice, French fries, and other random stuff came like a wave. Since Robb’s parents aren’t exactly seafood-loving people, many of the squids, shrimps and clams were all left to me.
As the boat weaved its way around the limestone rocks, we all relaxed. Basically, that was all we could do. The joys of being stuck on a boat. But the views were spectacular.
Robb and I did some kayaking while the parents stayed behind. Robb steered while I attempted to paddle. It took a while but we got it.
Next stop on the cruise was Sung Sot Cave. Unfortunately, the photos that were taken inside the cave are with the parents. All I had was my phone. The boat people didn’t tell us we were going inside a cave. Oh well…
The cave had a lot of stairs, too much for Appie’s knee. Inside, there were lots of brightly colored neon lights, very typical Vietnamese style. In terms of caves, we both had been to Mulu, so Sung Sot was just a mild “mhhh…”
The night program on the boat consisted of “happy hour” to encourage a lot of bad karaoking. We all decided to forgot the off-key singing and called it an early night. But there was plenty of singing from the surrounding boats.
The next day, we ended up at the Halong Bay Pearl Farm. It was an obligatory trip that all cruise boats seem to go through. It was interesting to see the process of pearl making and manipulating with nature. The price of the pearls were of course, way too high for me.
We left the cruise boat and boarded a private ferry to Cat Ba island. It was a quiet 2 hour ride.
We arrived on the east side of Cat Ba and hopped on some push bikes. It was nice to not be on a boat. And the parents were happy to move around, especially on a bike. We headed to Viet Hai village, a village of 80 households.
It was pretty quiet there, but pretty. Lots of green and clean air. Too bad there are no jobs there!
Back on our private ferry, we continued on to Nam Cat.
Nam Cat was very secluded. We didn’t have Wifi or cell signal! But we did have a beach to ourselves… well, until another ferry of Vietnamese families invaded the resort.
We got bungalows at the end of the beach which was nice because it was away from all the craziness of kids running around.
Dinner at the resort was a BBQ buffet which the parents like more than the seafood. But by the end of dinner, Robb started to not feel so good. He called it a night by 19:30. The parents and I hung out by the patio and drank some Hai Phong beers as we watched a bonfire burn on the beach.
Robb was still feeling sick the next morning. Unfortunately, we had a long day of traveling ahead of us: a 1 hr ferry back to the cruise boat, a 3 hr cruise boat back to the pier, a 1 hr wait for the bus to arrive and ending a 4 hr bus ride back to Hanoi.
At least we had some entertainment on the cruise boat: spring roll rolling!
We left the resort at 08:00. We arrived in Hanoi at around 17:00. Poor Robb took a taxi home while I hung out with the parents. We ate at the Kafe where they ate meat. They were tired but happy.
Halong Bay was beautiful and I’m definitely glad I went. It’s not a place I would go back to again. But now, at least I could check Halong Bay off my list .