From Hanoi there are two side trips most everyone does: Halong Bay and Sapa. We didn’t want to let the weather stop us from seeing these highly touted sights, so we booked a 2 day 1 night tour of the islands. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate, but we had an interesting trip none the less.
On the bus ride over we met another couple from Canada that would be our company for the next 2 days. The rest of the travelers consisted of 2 groups. One was a group of crazy college girls and 1 guy from England. They spent the entire trip being loud and obnoxious and trying to get thoroughly drunk. The other group consisted of older, soft spoken Euros who spent the whole time glaring at the crazies.
Our boat was pretty nice once we finally got on it, after a while of waiting on the pier for undisclosed reasons. They welcomed us with a cup of tea and a lunch of bland, unappetizing Vietnamese food. We were pretty full already from all the $5 packs of oreos and crackers we’d eaten anyways, starving on the pier.
That day we sailed to our first destination – the Amazing Caves. The caves actually were pretty amazing, with 3 huge caverns that went on and on. Of course it was made into a tourist attraction with everything lit up in neon lights and guides pointing out the “lions” and “buddhas” and “fingers” manifested in the rocks. Can imagine it would have been quite terrifying though to have been a pirate hiding out in the endless black abyss though.
After making our way through we got back on the boat to sail to our next island. The only one that a “temple” had been built on the top as a lookout. We set off to climb to the top for the view, but the increasingly bad weather hindered our plans. All day it had been cold and immensely foggy so it was pretty hard to see the hundreds of magnificent limestone karsts that were supposed to be unfolding before us. So we climbed up for about 10 minutes and when all we could see was cloud around us we gave up and went back.
That night back on the boat dinner was another unexciting meal, but there were promises of entertainment after that. While our new friends taught us Cribbage, the Euros started off the karaoke. Ten minutes of calm singing later, the college Brits stroll out and take over, obviously hammered from the forbidden alcohol they’d brought.
That Euros just accepted their time was up as the Brits belted out song after song, getting on the nerves of our guide while they taunted and insulted him. We’d seen enough after an hour and called it a night.
The next morning at breakfast, half the rambunctious crew were still in bed as rumors floated around they’d stolen 2 bottles of wine. Oh the drama. We left them to sort it out and went to sit on the deck and sight see before we were brought back to the city.
The fog had cleared up a bit so we had better views of the amazing watery world we were promised. Old fashioned junks sailed past with their dragon sails, the cloak of light fog still lending an other-worldly air. We enjoyed the scenery while we could and then were shipped back on a bus to Hanoi.