Halong Bay

Halong Bay…that sounds like the vacation within the vacation that we–despite “only” two weeks on the road so far–believed we deserved already. In the pursuit of seeing as much as possible our schedules are sometimes a bit cramped and time for relaxation scarce. So we opted for a comparably highly priced version of this two-days-one-night trip to Halong Bay, that you can buy at any other street corner in Hanoi. The boat itself kept its promises. But unfortunately the service did not live up to the same standards.

First: You are picked up from your hotel. Depending on how early they pick you you get a free city/hotel tour through Hanoi. We were picked up first. Then it’s a three hour drive with a stop-over at a snack restaurant before you reach the harbour. Our boat was so large that it was not actually at the quai. A dingey picked us up here and brought us to the junk waiting outside the immediate harbour. A really big and comfortable junk with all comforts of electricity like air condition and warm water. There were even showers in each cabin, which means it also carried quite a fresh water supply. A bit of luxury 😉

Second: That’s what you see when reaching the actual limestone hills during/after lunch, which is served on the boat. The lunch was so lala OK.

We also visited the cave I had seen the last time. But no photos this year (see two years ago for some) as we went straight ahead for kayaking, where I didn’t want to carry a camera with me. While the guide was pretty good and offered a lot of explanation (though he was a bit slow) he didn’t manage the kayaking organization. We went here and there on that swimming kayak quai before could finally enter our kayaks. Moreover, the guide himself did not actually guide our kayaks anywhere but we were left to ourselves. What a pitty…with some guidance there are nice places to see where only a kayak can go, like small caves. We just paddled along and luckily found one of these nice places: A “hidden” lagune, to be reached only via a small tunnel. Other guided tours where certainly also there, but noone of our group.

The third photo then shows me diving from the boat into the bay after we arrived back there, waiting for dinner time.

The dinner then was pretty good. They served a surprisingly large number of different dishes, of which most of them we liked very much. Also, our group around our table was quite talkative, which made dinner the more enjoyable. But then the crew really offered what they kept talking about all day already and all of us hoped would not happen: karaoke! Should be added that there were no less than eight Koreans aboard. But they had left the scene even before karaoke started. We left when it started…one of the crew members sang a song (and he did it good, that I admit!), but nobody wanted to try. Only later on the upper deck I overhead a conversation that two American women really wanted to try, but there was no song available they actually could sing. In the meanwhile we just lay on the deck chairs on the upper deck and watched the incredibly bright stars.

First: Sunset over Halong Bay.

Second: One of the hawkers rowing from junk to junk trying to sell their assorted supermarket goods. Should be added that there was a one dollar “service charge” (I’d call it “fine” or “tax”) rule on our boat for any drink bought elsewhere and brought aboard.

Third: Sunset over Halong Bay…as you might have guessed 😉

First: On the next morning we just slowly made our way back to the harbour, enjoying the seascape along the way. That’s what a look along the upper deck looked like.

Second: Yea…well…kind of stuff you see on the way.

When we arrived back at the harbour we walked to a huge eating place (I wouldn’t call it a restaurant) with the group for lunch. That was really disappointing given the price we had paid. Two years ago, when I had paid a lot less, I was driven to a nice restaurant at a beach somewhere with fantastic vistas over Halong Bay. I had hoped for something like that or better…but it came the place where basically everybody on any boat, no matter what class, came to eat.

The worst was then, that our pick up van had a huge delay and we were the last ones to be taken away from that place for Hanoi. As said…the ship was great, but all the service not worth it. A pitty, as it spoiled the experience quite a bit.

Today’s Lesson: High price does not guarantee high quality service.

Categories: AsiaHalong Bay

Originally Created: 09/02/2009 01:12:59 PM

Last Edited: 09/02/2009