Ever since watching the French movie Indochine starring Catherine Deneuve I've wanted to visit Halong
Bay. Before then, I didn't even know it existed. It looked absolutely amazing during the film when they showed a junk sailing in the mist, amongst the numerous limestone islands, which jut vertically out of the tranquil water. The lead male actor escaped capture by hiding with local fishermen in one of the remote lagoons. This is a must see movie for anyone planning to visit this natural wonder.
As expected, all the
travel companies in Hanoi advertise trips to Halong Bay, mostly 1 night, 2 days or 2 nights, 3 days. We booked the latter for 40 pounds each, which included 1 night sleeping onboard and 1 night in a hotel on Cat Ba
Island, all meals, bicycle ride, and kayaking. It's possible to do the same trip for as little as 25 pounds, but don't you usually get what you pay for?
Boats to Halong Bay are berthed in the port of Halong City, a 3 and a half hour drive from the capital. On the same day as we set off, it became compulsary for moto drivers to wear safety helmets.
What a contrast!!! They just don't look the part.
Turns out, we knocked it off, numbers wise, only 11 people in our party. Cannot say the same for the number of boats in the harbour, so many it looked like they were playing dodgems. Hard to imagine finding much solitude, but that's exactly what we found. Soon after boarding our Junk, and checking into our cabin, with large window I may add, we set sail. It wasn't long before the mass of boats began to space out as we meandered south through the maze of islands in the bay.
Sailing quietly through the misty overcast sky amongst the island pinnacles punctuating the silent seascape gives the place a mysterious air. Easy to imagine yourself back in French Colonial times or on the set of a movie. The number of eagles soaring overhead adds to the mystical scenery.
Sat beside two couples during our first meal who we would end up spending a lot of time with on the trip. Mario and Anke from Berlin, Yuri and Julia from the Netherlands who were on their honeymoon, we got on very well with them. also
on the boat were two chaps from Stuttgart, two elderly English gentlemen, who remembered visiting Phuket during the seventies when the beaches were deserted, and there was only one women selling pineapples, GET THIS!!! YOU HAD TO GO TO HER!!!!!! and last but not least was a crazy Spaniard.
The first stop on the trip was a visit to one of the many caves in the bay, judging by the number of boats at anchor, it was a very popular one. We've been in a few caves in different countries, and it is interesting that they all do exactly the same by highlighting shapes in the rock formations, which in their opinion resemble something. these shapes have absolutely no meaning. SO WHAT!! if this looks like the head of a dragon, or that resembles the face of a wizard. Can't we just be impressed with nature unfolding?. It reminds me of the numpties who queue up to worship a croissant which in their opinion resembles the face of Jesus, or a pizza with the image of the Virgin Mary. Why not just, EAT IT, or sell it on E-Bay!!!!
The great thing about our wooden junk was the quiet engine, this helped soak up the atmosphere as we zig zagged between the limestone islets, fishing platforms, and floating homes.
Eventually we anchored in a sheltered lagoon for the evening, where another fine meal was served on board. as the sun set, we sat on the top deck chatting, drinking, and sky gazing. Would you believe that hawkers still appear from nowhere? Along they come in little corracle boats selling food, drink, and souvenirs. After a good nights kip, we set sail again, leaving the hawkers behind, and heading for an island to visit a rural village.
When we arrived at the little pier, mountain bikes were lined up, ready for us to hop on, and cycle inland.
We've enjoyed cycling in South East Asia, and it's usually been amongst traffic, so we were really looking forward to quiet countryside ride amongst some nice scenery.
Couldn't believe it when we set off on our Bicycle Beano, all I heard was the sound of moto bike engines following behind. Typical, better slow down, let them pass, then maybe we can start to enjoy this, but they didn't pass. Starting to get annoyed!!! then one
rides alongside me, saying "MOTO"
Is this EGIT AFF HIS HEID!!! He actually thinks Westerners who organise a bicyle ride would, instead prefer one of the millions of moto bikes in this country.
So after I give him an astonished look, he repeats "MOTO"
One thing we've enjoyed in Asia is the total lack of aggressive behaviour, such a contrast from Glasgow, and the rest of the UK. It looks like the first person to lose his cool here was going to be ME!!!!!!!!!
After he was told to "GO AWAY" more of them arrived. Time for the scunnered GLESGA response, just at the point where I stopped to utter "GET YERSELF TAE F***, They all turned tail and sped off.
Still can't get over it. On a bicycle, and still Hassled by Moto Drivers!!!!
What further annoyed me was the fact that these con men tried to make out the route was very hilly, it was nothing of the sort, one short incline near the beginning, that's all. This was actually the point at which they stopped to turn back.
After this little episode, I finally was able to enjoy the cycle passing alongside a lagoon, bamboo trees,
fields, and villages. Of course, that's if I ignore the fact, that I picked a mountain bike with dodgy gears, and the chain came off, twice.
Back on the boat for another big lunch then we went kayaking to a beautiful enclosed lagoon. The entrance was a little gap in the rock, only big enough for canoes. I've got to face up to it!! I'm no good on water, a poor swimmer, and useless rower. When we paddle, it always seems to veer to the one side with the result that we lose speed everytime we correct our direction. Always at the back, arguing. Great laugh. Still love it on the water.
Our second night was spent in the Holiday View Hotel on Cat Ba Island. It was a nice room on the 7th floor with a view of the harbour, which was a wash with fishing boats, and homes on the water.
All hotels, and guesthouses sell tours, one of which caught our eye. I think it was to a nearby national park. How does this sound?
Have a really relaxing feeling far away from headaches, noisiest, dustiest, also do fishing, sunny bath
or play with roguish monkeys.
Next day we sailed back through the limestone pinnacles, and stopped at an island where we climbed sharp rocks to a viewpoint. One of the crew called it Monkey Island, I'm sure we've already been on 2 Monkey Islands already.
HALONG BAY IS UNMISSABLE.
Source: Travel Blogs