Breaking all my rules, guidelines and or suggestions — Last night
I signed up for a tour to Holong Bay. Yes, a tour with a group, you know the deal – Big bus and lots of people being corralled all day, on a schedule doing what they tell you, when they tell, etc. The truth is, I had had my fill of yelling and pointing and in a moment of weakness I signed up for a tour. I thought I would welcome someone to just point out the way and for me not to have to think on my own – I know it was a mistake, but it was $25 for the upgraded tour (and no thinking, no work) vs. $100+ and lots of pointing and yelling. Furthermore, it was my last day and I could not afford to mess up.
It was Thursday February 24th and it was just another morning
with my iPod going off at 6:30AM again. I packed up my backpack which included my computer, and headed out the door down 4 flights of stairs – no elevator, not untypical in a small Asian hotel. Breakfast was in literally a hole in the wall across the street from my hotel. I had something called Bun it was like Pho but with different noodles that I paired with a Vietnamese coffee and bottle of water.
This meal was simple, but filling. It was another day of rain and the hot soup hit the spot! The coffee cup was served in a cup of hot water to keep it warm, which was kind of interesting. I picked up some mini-bananas and a few Vietnamese donuts that had holes with stuff in them, no, not jelly, for the trip. Then I headed off to the tour meeting location and started my journey to Halong Bay.
Like all tours, I waited for 30 minutes for the bus , then even longer for the other tour memebers, but spent the time waiting by taking pictures of the people going by on motor bikes in the rain and thinking who they reminded me of at home (See – previously posted video)
We finally boarded the bus, and I was lucky (well maybe aggressive is a better choice of words) to have the seat next to me open.
I use the bus ride to catch up on my blog posts. We made the required stop to allow the locals to sell us stuff and to use the wash room – They charged 100 dong for number 1 and 200 dong for number 2 (they referred to it as short time or long time not 1 or 2).
The 4 hour bus ride through the small town and rice fields, dumped us off at the port in Halong City, not the best initial impression of the place, but I was sure that would change.
Halong Bay was named a World Heritage site sometime in the early 1990’s and I hoped it lives up to its billing of some 2000 limestone islands rising from the water into the sky or today into
the mist. After some more waiting we boarded a cool old boat and headed off into the Gulf of Tonkin through the fog. The rain had stopped but it was still cool and drizzly. The fog made the visibility low, but added to drama as we approached the limestone shapes in the distance. I am going to let my pictures try and speak for me, as words can only fall short of what I was traveling through.
Next I jumped onto a small boat and then entered a few caves, several people used the kayak, but I opted for the version with a motor. From this we had to go back on the boat and we made our way to a cave and hike up the side of one of the limestone islands and I entered a very large cave. Then we traveled back to the port and the bus to Hanoi