Halong Bay – same same, but different
After more than 12h in a sleeping bus we reached the harbor of Halong Bay. Our first intention was to spend one day in Halong before going on a 2-3 days tour of the bay. But as everyone was boarding on different ships and many guides were chasing us to buy a tour with them, we finally decided to bargain a good price and start the adventure. And so we did!
Initial idea (sold by the guide): board on the boat he showed us, sail around the bay, party, sleep on the boat the first night, go to Cat Ba island next day, trek for few hours, visit cave, spend second night in hotel on Cat Ba…
In the following lines I will explain what we finally got, as the plan was changing every hour under the motto “same same”…
As we were waiting for our boat (showed by the guide) to leave we saw another group getting on board. “Wasn’t that supposed to be ours?”…”Other boat, but same same…” reassured us the guide. So we finally boarded, together with other 20-25 people, had lunch and had to insist to get our promised welcome drink.
In the afternoon we sailed around the bay and went kayaking for 45 minutes. Even though it was cloudy and quite foggy, the landscape was amazing: vertical mountains full of green vegetation get out of the water as though they were guardians of the ocean.
“Same same…” came again to tell us that finally we will spend the first night in Cat Ba, not on the boat as there were no more places left on board. Being already used to changing plans, we happily accepted, the tender took us to the shore and asked us to stay there as someone will pick us up. He did not know our names, we did not know his…and he left. We waited for 40 minutes there before a guy invited us to get on a bus full of Chinese. The bus took us to a hotel where we immediately got a room (I do not get it…no name, no passport, no reservation….but somehow it worked).
That evening we attended a big communist party in the center. Cat ba people were celebrating the day Ho Chi Minh visited the island 35 years ago – with propaganda songs, communist dances…what memories…ha ha!
The following day we visited the cave (not spectacular at all) and we had the “guided” trek: one guy from the bus explained “you go straight ahead, up and come back here at 12” and we guided ourselves to the top . “Same same”, no? We came back to the boat afterwards and got quite bored with a Russian gay couple, 2 American girls and 2 Vietnamese who went to sleep before 9 pm.
So nothing special about these days, not even the landscape as the weather was bad. “Same same…but different”