Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Halong Bay- Same Same but Different

So as mentioned in the last blog, we opted to travel back up to Halong Bay and chance the weather. The first part of the day was Déjà Vu. Same 8am pick-up, same bus, same guide (hi again Tim Tam) and same tacky pottery shop (why we have now been to this shop so many times and taken on photos I'm not sure). Once again, we reached Halong Harbour and had a nervous wait to see if we could get on the boat. We got high fives and copious handshakes from Tim Tam when the news arrived that the boat was ready to go. Embarking, we breathed a sigh of relief. 

We checked into our cabins, had some lunch and sailed around the bay, passing by some amazing scenery. Halong Bay has over 1760 individual islands which emerge from the water.

After relaxing on the top deck and cruising for a while, we went to our first stop, Surprising Cave. 

Similar to the cave we visited in Yangshuo (except larger) it had some cool rock formations, one of which could be interpreted as a pointing finger or potentially as something else....

After the caves, we visited Titop Beach which was alright although packed and very touristy. 

I lazed on the sand and in the sea, while Rob enjoyed a few games of football with the locals and some of the other guys from the tour. After an hour or so spent here, we headed back to the boat. Tim Tam was very concerned that we didn't bring any sand back to the point that he started to wash my legs for me which was quite an odd experience. After finally being clean enough, we headed back to the boat and prepared for the evenings activities.

We had fruit and red wine on the top deck and then we went down for dinner which was really good. After this, we indulged in a few beers and some cocktails with the group which went down a treat.

We rose early the next morning (although we still managed to miss breakfast) and made our way to the smaller boat which would transfer us to a private island off one of the larger Islands, Càt Bá. Mid point in this journey the boat anchored and we were given the opportunity to jump from the top deck which was really fun! Rob isn't a very strong swimmer (he couldn't swim at all but had a few lessons before Asia) so he sat this one out.

After making the jump a few times (the hardest part was getting back onto the boat and I can't say I did this very gracefully) we continued the journey to the island and upon approach were amazed at the tranquility and appearance of the island which was tiny and housed only about 10 small beach bungalows, our home for the evening.

There was a social area on the island with a restaurant and games facilities so after a quick lunch, we settled into our bungalows and of course hit the beach for a swim (and a bit of a practice for Rob).

After lunch, we rather stupidly decided to try kayaking to one of the small completely isolated beaches a short distance away from our island, and it all went a bit pear-shaped. It was going well until the wake of a boat tipped us from our kayak into the deep water, thankfully we had been smart enough to put on life jackets. To top it off, the kayak had a small hole in the base so started to sink when water came into it. We were unable to get back into the boat and had to wait for assistance which thankfully came in the form of Gael, one of the guys in our group. He dragged Rob on the back of his kayak to a nearby rock (reaching the rock he soon realised it was purely made out of sharp shells which have left Rob with a few war wounds) to sit it out, while I stayed in the water, and then went and got a speed boat to come and rescue us both. Rather dramatic all in all but thankfully my phone was in its waterproof case so I could capture the events unfolding.....

The beginning of the kayak ride- still in good spirits

Rob on the rock waiting to be rescued

After the ordeal

Gael 'The Rescuer'

When we finally made it back to the beach, we barely had chance to catch our breath before being told we were to take part in a beach tournament with a large party of local people who were there to celebrate the end of the summer season. We participated in the tug of war event which got insanely competitive and I ended up flat on my face in the sand...

We also witnessed a very good game of Volleyball (during which Tim Tam was going mental on a pair of cymbals) and a kayak race (of course, we didn't participate in that). We had a few games of pool and table tennis with the same group (got absolutely rinsed mostly) before preparing for dinner. I also got to play the craziest drum...

We were pleasantly surprised that we were invited to have dinner and drinks with the Vietnamese people and it was really nice to have the opportunity to be a part of their party and enjoy their amazing hospitality. Firstly, we watched their prize giving ceremony which was hosted by the chairperson of the company they all worked for. Strangely they were awarded flowers and huge wrapped boxes which they then had to give back so they could then be presented to the next group of award winners.


After the ceremony, there was an amazingly presented buffet with all types of meats, fish, salads, spring rolls, bread, pastries and fruit. We ate like Kings and were given free bia hoi (draft beer). Couldn't really have asked for more...

After dinner, the party really kicked in and the music started blasting. There were some party games which were somewhat interesting. In the first, the girls wore an apple around their neck and the guys had to eat it without touching it (according to Tim Tam, the fun is that is is 'NEAR THEIR BREASTS'). I. The second, Rob was invited to play and he had to tie an aubergine around his waist and do squats to put a candle out with it....

It was hilarious but he was terrible and came well behind the local seasoned pros. He did still get some flowers though (to give back later of course). At this point, we decided to call it a night (can't keep up with the Vietnamese party animals) and bidding farewell to our new friends, headed to the peace of our bungalow.

The next morning, we sadly said goodbye to our island paradise, and got back onto the boat to bring us back to Halong Harbour. Another four-hour bus ride and a stop at the pottery shop later, we reached Hanoi. Tim Tam seemed most disappointed we were going...

We had last night in Hanoi and we're currently on the plane to Saigon due to land in about an hours time. Halong Bay was definitely worth the effort it took to get there, and we actually hit really lucky as Typhoon Usagi is on its way to the area so boats have been suspended again. 

That's all up to date now so we'll update again in a few days to let you know how we get on in Ho Chi Minh City. 

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