2014.1.12 Hanoi Day 4 Halong Bay
Halong Bay is definitely a must-see in any Vietnam trip, the natural sights are amazing. However, don’t put too much on the cruise trips. The mini-bus ride was almost a 3-hour torture. Having opted for a cheaper alternative, they filled the mini-bus to the brim, all the aisle seats (yep, fold down seats ON the aisle) were filled, not to mention all the temporary seats miraculously secured (barely) onto any floor space available. And it was getting drizzly.
A side stop was made at an outlet selling various vietnam goods. One very tempting product was a stitch-by-stitch handmade pictures of various scenes. I almost would have bought one if it had a more iconic image, too bad. Prices at the outlet are fair, premium is expected but not overly priced.
After another two hour minibus ride, we arrive at Halong Bay! Yay! And, the sun decided to come out, despite all the cloudy forecasts from weather.com. Double yay! Surroundings are very tourist catered, with multistorey luxury hotels and jacked up prices.
We board our vessel, Ha Binh 38, with around 4~50 passengers and set sail. A simple meal is served.
The caves were mid hills and a long staircase until we got to the entrance. Inside, although beautiful, appeared very man-made excavation projects with neon lights. The stories they made, of the lion(?) inviting all animals for dinner, and the various animals they were able to identify, was imaginative and interesting, sort of. Most importantly was, it was overloaded with tours, 8~10 vessels-worth of passengers were inside the caves at various sections, and if you lagged behind to take a quick snapshot, you’re bound to find yourself stuck in midst of the next tour group. I could only pick up bits and pieces of our tourguide’s stories (heh, that explains why they don’t make sense).
Next, we stopped at a floating village, where some tourists can opt to go kayaking. Young girls and women sail little row boats filled with vibrant fruits and veggies will start pleading you to buy something. You can only access the small portion of floating boards that are connected, so with nothing much to do, chillaxing on the upper deck of the boat was a much nicer option (since most the passengers are now on kayaks soaking their butts, teehee)
Back on the boat, got a lil sleepy and dozed off. When I woke up, I found out our last stop was cancelled and was now heading back to our destination. And after gathering everyone, we once again cramp back onto our tiny minibus. This time, at our little sidestop, we got hungry and bought a noodle and a bun. Not bad, for a fast food joint.