We decided to book an overnight trip while we were in Hanoi to go see Ha Long Bay. It was supposed to be breathtakingly beautiful and there was the option of sleeping on a boat! I've never slept on a boat before so that was something I wanted to try. We left bright and early in the morning and slowly the minivan filled up with different people on the trip. Everyone was pretty tired and quiet and then we picked up our last two group members...
Being abroad the last few years has given me the skill of identifying certain nationalities pretty quickly. Especially American. As soon as these member opened their mouths I knew they were American. (This isn't necessarily a bad thing.) They were a perfect addition to the group (which also had people from Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Finland, Iceland and Denmark in it) because as soon as they climbed into the bus they got everyone talking and socializing. It was like someone turned a light switch on. Oh and did I mention, these two Americans were the feistiest senior citizens I've ever met! Linda was 64 and informed everyone that she is severely claustrophobic but it doesn't stop her from traveling and Dee was 74 (!) and said that her doctor told her 4 days before the trip that she needs to get a hip replacement when she returns. They were hilarious and have traveled all over the world (over 60 countries). It was really inspiring to talk to them and see them climbing in and out of vans, boats and caves without blinking an eye. The rest of our group was also really cool, especially the Icelandic couple that we met. They had great stories, similar interests and knew a million card games. I think that this random group really helped make the trip.
We arrived at the marina and were amazed at the shear number of boats there. It seems like Ha Long Bay has really turned into a tourist trap and the only way to visit it is to take an organized tour. We found our boat and climbed aboard but had to wait quite some time for the harbor traffic to clear so we could set off. The limestone formations are stunning though- even if when we visited the weather wasn't cooperating.
They took us to the two famous caves and basically our tour guide dropped us off and let us fend for ourselves. I mean, we did take one of the cheaper tours but I just didn't like the guide in general. He was pretty rude and had a bad attitude. That was the thing I didn't like about the trip but you can't really predict that sort of thing. The caves were interesting and afterward we got back on the boat. At this point it starting to rain a little bit.
We stopped over at a floating fishing village. It was really interesting how they had built a dock with netted areas where they could store their fresh, live catch. Matt was amazed at the giant horseshoe crabs and I had a chuckle at the kids rowing around trying to get cash from the tourists.
We had the option to go kayaking around the bay but since it was raining, I wussed out. Matt went on his own and had a lovely time. I learned a few new card games and chatted with Inga and Ace (our Icelandic friends). After dinner we spent a long time playing various card games with then, Eija and Sandra. We taught them how to play Spoons but since we didn't have any spoons at our disposal we had to improvise with keys, pens and other random objects. All was going well until part of the keyring caught onto poor Eija's hand and left her with a nasty cut. It was at that point we decided to call it a night.
Sleeping on the boat was okay, especially after they turned off the noisy motor. Our room was on the main level so it meant we were woken up bright and early by the staff. The rest of day two was spent hanging out with our new friends, bullshitting and playing cards. It was a great trip! The tour company delivered us back to Hanoi and we made plans to have dinner with Ace and Inga that night. To see all the pictures from Ha Long Bay- go here!