Cruising through Halong Bay

Warning: the photographs in this post will in no way do justice to the magnificence that is Halong Bay. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself one day.

A four hour drive from Hanoi lies this group of over 1,600 islands rising from the sea. What makes this a natural wonder of the world is the sheer number of islands jutting out in front of you and all the way to the horizon.

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We visited Halong Bay out of peak season so we weren’t lucky enough to get blue skies and sparkling turquoise waters, which would have been magical. We were however, really lucky that it didn’t rain and wasn’t too misty.

After dropping our bags off in our cabin, which wasn’t too shabby at all, we ate an enormous lunch aboard our junk boat. We then visited a huge cave which took me back to my childhood holidays in Margaret River. To work off lunch we also walked to the top of another island for a beautiful view of the surrounding area.

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Then, after chilling out on the top deck watching the islands go by for a while, it was time for some kayaking. These did look shabby. I held my breath as I lowered myself into the old yellow kayak. We hadn’t started yet and my butt was drenched. But I soon forgot about it as we paddled our way through the waters to a cave where we got out to explore for a few minutes. Our lack of kayaking experience showed as we constantly banged into our new friends trying to leave the island again.

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That night we had a go at squidding. We weren’t too optimistic about our chances of catching any squid though as the line on the fishing rods was pretty short. It didn’t take long for us to give up and opt for a few rounds of cards instead.

The following morning we said goodbye to a few people who were heading back to Hanoi and switched boats to join another group. It was here we realised how lucky we had been with our own group. I suppose statistically our luck had to run out sometime.

We were about to be assulted with the worst case of verbal diahorea we’ve come across on our travels. The only time that comes close was a dude talking about love and such in Kampot, but at least he was just trying to get laid. And this time there was no escaping the constant noise.

This couple were the most annoying people, ever. In fact, the whole boat bonded over the torture of being in their company. Some people moved their chairs down the other end of the deck in an attempt to distance themselves from the noise. They were so self-absorbed I don’t think they noticed. Plus they had supposedly been drinking vodka since 9 am because they were sooooo hungover. It got to the point where we started making mental notes of their dribble. It’s not that we were eavesdropping, you literally could not not hear them. So here are a couple of our favourites:

Boy: “the two best foods in the world are buffalo heart and seal” which he later contradicted by saying Indian food was the best in the world
Boy: “I’m from a fishing village, so all our income comes from fishing, that’s how we make all our money” was that further explanation really necessary?

Girl: “you know how some people have the voice of an angel? I have the voice of a devil”. Yes you do, shut the F up.

And courtesy of our gorgeous English friends Anna and Emily,  who recorded this one while we were upstairs getting a few minutes of peace:

Boy: “It’s all about mother nature, we are all just take, take, taking, nobody gives anything, except I do a bit” followed by “as a Canadian native I’m allowed to hunt seals”

As time for lunch approached we thought we might get a few moments of silence. No such luck. They just kept talking! Boy literally ate a few mouthfuls and that was it. Gah!

I’m nearly done with my rant, bear with me just a little longer. I think what pissed me off most about this couple is that they might as well have not gone to Halong Bay. They didn’t get off the boat to learn about pearl farming, they didn’t cycle through Cat Ba island and they barely looked away from the person they were talking at to appreciate the stunning surrounds.

Speaking of the pearl farm, fun fact: It takes 36 months for the oyster to be ready for opening. Even then there’s only a 30 percent chance it will have a pearl inside and only 10 percent will be perfectly shaped.

Cycling through Cat Ba was also wonderful. Niall always thinks I’m exaggerating when I point out how rickety my bikes are but this time I was right. Both ends of my chain fell off riding back to the dock after visiting a village.

While the ride was fun and picturesque, the village itself wasn’t all that interesting. But entering the village we noticed how healthy the dogs looked. We later found out that’s because the poor things will be dinner one day.

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Our second night was spent on Cat Ba island, which was much larger and developed than we had expected. On the way back from an afternoon beer down the road we heard Boy but he was nowhere to be seen. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’ Niall exclaimed spotting him on the balcony of a fourth floor room. Luckily for us they were staying on Cat Ba for another night or two so our cruise back to the harbour the following day was delightful.

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