Sat 27th – Tue 30th Oct
The plan for Hanoi was to take it easy for a few days before exploring the city and moving on. However, on messaging a few people who were in town, I meet up with Lottie who I met in Luang Prabang and as she wants to leave the next day for Halong Bay, I decide to go with her instead and come back to Hanoi. My original plan was go to Sapa but as I can’t hike due to my broken toe. So a few days on a boat sounds just the ticket.
We hook up to choose a company. The guy in my hostel is pushing the ones for older people. The reviews are good but seems small numbers and mainly couples. There’s a big party one called Castaway but others I’ve met said to avoid. Lottie found one called Oasis Bay and it seems a mixture of everything so we go for that one….3D2N.
It’s then a mad dash to start packing everything ready for an early pick up in the morning.
On the bus is a lovely Irish couple Shaun and Aishling. For a while we think it’s just us but we soon pick up a bus full of around 20 and it appears we have a good group – including Chris and Faye, Susie and Ben.
After an hour and a half we make a stop where u can buy souvenirs and snacks etc…this place however is extortionate. Most people are now armed with beer and it’s a fun hour and half on to the ferry port with most people chatting.
From the port it’s a little boat to our big boat and considering it’s meant to be a party boat, it looks bloody impressive.
Halong Bay is a place of extreme natural beauty with 1000s of islands and islets popping up out of crystal clear blue waters. So beautiful in fact that UNESCO recognised it as a world heritage site in 1994.
The legend of Halong Bay has a great story behind it. It goes that not long after the original Vietnamese settled in the country, raiders began approaching the shores of the bay. In response, the Jade Emperor called on a fleet of powerful dragons from the sky to support the people’s resistance. Unlike traditional fire-breathing dragons, these spat out a shower of pearls, which upon impact with the ocean, transformed into thousands of rocky islands. The fresh rock formations proved to be a solid defence, as the raiders crashed into these and one by one perished. This is probably why shaking got its name as shaking in Vietnamese means where the dragon descended into the sea.
Scientists obviously provide a much different explanation to this tale, suggesting that 500 million years of strong erosive forces have moulded the rocks into a variety of fascinating shapes.
On board, we’re assigned a room key which also acts as a charge card so u don’t have to carry or worry about money. After a quick reckkie at our room which is lovely
and dumping our stuff, it’s time for lunch which is good and plentiful and the drinks are a flowing nicely.
It’s time for the first activity and we get a little boat out to get in our kayaks. Using the oar isn’t the easiest thing to do with a bust thumb but it’s fun.
The water is so shallow in some spots our oats get stuck in the mud and u can feel ur selves drag across the bottom. The scenery is beautiful, the company great and there’s even a cool box of beer!
Back in the boat and they’ve set up a temporary bar outside and music. It’s time for those brave enough to jump off the side of the boat from scarily high heights….bugger that! There’s a trampoline too but I can’t use again due to my toe.
Armed with a GnT, I make use of the giant hot tub.
After getting ready, it’s time for dinner more drinks and partying where I learn how to shot gun a can (new party trick)!
With my toe in agony I decide to call it a night at I’ve no idea what time!
The alarm the next morning is not at all welcome and I think we all pretty much drag our arses out of bed. We have to be ready for 0800! There are a few worse for wear faces at breakfast!
We say goodbye to those only doing the 2 day option and jump on the little boat to our next destination and home for tonight – Freedom Island. The journey is only about 2 hours but feels like an eternity! Once here, I find me a sun bed and sleep until lunch. I’ve said it once and I’m sure I’ll say it again but I’m getting too old for this!
The island is stunning, like a mini paradise in the middle of Halong Bay.
There’s a another island opposite you can kayak too, go off swimming, there’s volleyball or u can just simply kick back and relax. It’s a bloody hot day and with the mother of all hangovers and a broken toe, I’m happy staring out at paradise with my kindle!
It’s now beer o clock again, people including myself are starting to come round and feel better. The staff are trying out a new karaoke machine so we all take a turn singing a number or 2 on this whilst sat overlooking the beach and watching a beautiful sunset.
Following dinner, there’s beer pong and music but still a much quieter affair than last night.
It’s a good laugh but following suit of many before me, I bail and it’s goodnight!
It’s another early start – no rest for the wicked here and we have to make our way back to the main boat. All feeling slightly more chirpy this morning we chill in the sun and listen to some tunes.
Back on board the Oasis Bay boat, there’s a spring roll cooking class which is fun n fills an hour. I think it’s more of a filler for those doing the 2 day cruise thou tbh.
On the top deck, it’s one final look out to these magnificent views
With lunch done, it’s time to head back to the port but due to an accident, our bus is delayed. Cue – more beers and more beers on the bus when it does arrive and more at the mid way stopping point. With various people in the group moving on, we decide to have one last night together and a big part of the group head out again!
We venture to many different bars from the normal with a pool table to the down right crazy party hostels to another with dodgy blokes hanging around the ladies loos.
All in all an eventful fun filled night but now I really really need to sleep!
I loved Halong Bay, the whole experience and the people I met but on going back, I will now do something more cultural and sightseeing having done the party side of it.
Disclaimer: having set up a Facebook group to share photos, I have used many that aren’t my own in this post