We went to Halong bay with a company called Eco Friendly Vietnam. They picked us up at the train station in Hanoi and got us all the way to our boat. The type of boat is a junk. It’s not a piece of junk, it’s just some boat name that boat people would understand. We had the entire boat to ourselves. We had a captain, a cook, and an English speaking guide. We spent 2 nights on the boat and the food was very good. March is the off season for visiting Halong bay, so the water was chilly. Most of the time we did not see other tourists. Cold water for more quiet time was a good trade in my opinion. I am no fan of kayaking and there was a lot of kayaking, but by the end of the second day I actually started to enjoy it.
Other moments of our trip included: a bike ride to the village of Viet Hai; a swim from monkey Island to the boat; and the very gay chef slapping my ass. Let’s start from the top. On our second day we were able to stop by the remote village of Viet Hai. We rented bicycles and road about a 1 KM into town. We did a little shopping and then went on a small hike, that included another cave. This was a poor and remote town that figured out the power of the tourist’s dollar. Now, there is a toll to get into town and lots of people pay it. Shacks were replaced with nice stone homes.
On our last day we went to an island called Monkey Island. Our guide told us about a summit we could climb to, but did a poor job describing the difficulty of the climb. It was a lot of shear rock edges, without many foot holds. We did not have gloves and the guide stayed on the beach. Arguably, the guide was irresponsible by sending us up without any preparation. When the hike was over, Samer and I swam from the beach to the boat.
Picture this scene. Me in my speedos, jumping into chilly water near a small taxi boat of senior citizen Chinese tourists. I was freezing and they were laughing and waving at me as I swam away. I was the first to the boat. While I stood on the deck shivering, I put my cold hand on the chef’s neck to give him a chill. I was being playful. He thought this gave him license to then slap me on the ass. It was a bit forward, but all in good fun. Also, it’s a nice reminder my ass looks good in swimwear.
The main town in Ha Long bay is Cat Ba, and outside of the town is a fishing village. There are hundreds of homes that float on the water. People raise fish in the submerged pens for their income. It’s like a normal town. Their are dogs hanging out on the planks that would be equivalent to a yard. There are kids rolling around in bouncy chairs. It was a incredible and quite foreign scene for me.
Ha Long Bay is one of the most breathtaking places in the world and it has a litter problem. It’s not as noticeable when you get away from Cat Ba town, but there is always litter. There are beautiful turquoise lagoons with plastic bags and beers cans floating. Why is there a litter problem? Well here is a story. To get to our boat, we first had to take a high speed boat from the port of Hai Phong to Cat Ba. While we were waiting on the dock, Samer was holding an empty coffee cup. He was waiting to use the trash can on the boat. An old woman walked up to him and offered to take the cup. Before he realized what was happening, she snatched the plastic cup and tossed it into the water. She smiled and carried on with her day. That’s why there is a litter problem.
Next: I love Hanoi.