Thursday, October 9, 2008

Halong Bay part.II

Our trip back to Hanoi from Cat Ba was much better than our way there since we got smarter and booked a charter ticket that would take us door to door. Oh, we haven't told of our travel there? Ha, it was about as backpacker-ish as you can get. Sat in a small train station with the local folk for a few hours (1pm train was full) until the Soviet-style train lumbered in. We think there was assigned seating on the train, but not sure. Either way a straight-backed wooden bench awaited us for the 2.5hr journey to Haiphong. Since we got the later train we missed the last ferry boat to Cat Ba Island. We found a decent hotel (US$18) and caught the noon ferry. Comparing the boat to the train made the train look great. The rusting old boat was stuffed with people and packages as much as space would allow with seemingly little regard for buoyancy. But the big 12 cylinder diesel below us chugged our way to the sea providing a welcome breeze. We were quite relieved when we saw another [white] couple get on board showing we weren't the only crazies to try this. We got to know Cliff & Lucy, sharing adventures in Halong Bay with them. (You can see their blog here: So that was the cheap way (20.000 for train, 40.000 for ferry) in 5 hours and a night. The better way is a 4hr jaunt in an air-con coach but far pricier at 150.000 VND. The most excitement here was catching the coach: our ferry shuttle bus pulled out in front of it on the road, waved to stop, motioned us to get out, grabbed our bags, made the transfer and hopped aboard before the honks got too loud. Fun!
Anyhow as mentioned in the previous post - the boat tour of the Bay did not look promising as we awoke to rain, but the skies cleared and the islands, cliffs and caves appeared out of the mist creating a very interesting landscape. When the guides pulled into our first bay for a swim/kayak, only the hung-over Austrians took the plunge to refresh themselves while the rest of us stayed dry in the kayaks. Our lunch spot was most scenic: pulled into a quiet bay, surrounded by lush green hills and rising cliffs just when the sun was burning away the mist. Everyone took the opportunity to jump into the water from the top of the boat. Funny thing about the lunch - our tour group numbered about 10ppl (the Brit couple, 2 Quebecois filles, us and the Austrians) so the crew made a lot of food (clams, fish, good soup, pork, vegetables, rice) - but in the end it was Julie & I eating with everyone else sitting around us in a terribly awkward silence. Seems to be a common occurrence - us eating last - either because we're slow eaters or because I'm cleaning up all the dishes. :)
On the way back to town we had one of our memorable moments - sitting on the bow of the boat, beer in hand, feet occasionally brushing the water as the boat dipped in the waves with the hot sun and cool breeze on our faces. Pretty nice I tell ya!

No comments: