Travel woes in Halong Bay

2 Mar
Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Wow. Why haven’t I updated since Hanoi, Vietnam? I suppose too many things have happened and we’ve been busy bees – but that’s no excuse. I thought I was making a better habit out of writing these posts…. I failed.

Our Halong Bay tour was a bit of a disaster. Stefanie and I ended up stuck in Hue because the bus to Hanoi was sold out. We only realized this after we had already checked out of the guesthouse and one hour before we thought we would board the bus north.

Great, so Stef and I found another guesthouse and spent the whole next day sitting in a cafe, sheltered from the rain for 3 hours. That’s right, I nursed my coffee for that long. There was nothing else to see in Hue – and it wasn’t the best city to be held captive in – especially in the rain.

The bus ride to Hanoi was 12 hours and we arrived just after 7 am. We ended up at a backpackers hostel. Hostels are pretty rare in South East Asia – it’s mostly guesthouses and bungalows. We were looking forward to a backpacker atmosphere again. The hostel had two groups set out for Halong Bay that morning and since we wanted to make up for the wasted day, we asked if there were any spots left leaving that morning. YEP!

I don’t know if any of you heard about the Halong Bay sinking, but about a week earlier a tourist boat sunk and 12 people died. The Vietnamese government banned all companies from allowing tourists to sleep on the boats for a few days while they investigated. SO, before handing over the money to the tour agency woman, I asked her if we were sleeping in the boat cabins and she said YES, everything was approved and back to normal. Perfect… :S

After the 12 hour night bus and paying $70 USD for our 2 day/1 night cruise in Halong Bay, we took a 3 hour bus ride to the dock. We figured we’ll shower when we get there. As soon as we stepped off the bus, the guides told us we were NOT sleeping on the boats and instead taking day boats out and sleeping on an island. Disappointing! Especially, since we had asked before we paid and the whole reason for heading all the way to Hanoi was to sleep on the boats and be surrounded by amazing limestone cliffs and islands.

After that, the whole trip became a lot worse. There wasn’t enough food and we spent the whole first day traveling to this island. We were suppose to kayak, but by the time we got there it was already dark. Then we realized, that our sleeping accommodations were thin mats under a bamboo roof and no walls – 5 mats to a roof and a shortage of mosquito nets. PLUS, it was so cold. Tons of people did not come prepared to sleep outside.

The next day was even worse. Lazy guides not wanting to take us kayaking and so forth…. such a disaster for paying all that money. As soon as we got back to Hanoi, 6 of us complained to the manager and wrote statements about the problems and disappointments we encountered. I really wanted some of my money back – maybe $20, but Stef doubted that we’d even get $10. Thankfully, the hostel and tour agency were great! In the end, Stefanie and I got a FULL refund, two free beers and a BBQ.

The trip to Halong Bay was not what we expected, but we met some really great people and the sun did pop out for a moment or two. That’s traveling for you.

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