Day 15: The morning started off like most others. Wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, pack bags and check out of the hotel. Our itinerary said we were due to be picked up between 08:00 and 08:30 by a shuttle bus for our 4 hour trip to Ha Long Bay for an overnight boat cruise.
There were four other Australians waiting for the bus and traveling with the same company and on the same boat. But alas when the tour guide arrived to collect us he checked the names of the other four people, ignored us and promptly left. We waited another 10 minutes and then asked the hotel to call the tour company. They advised us that it would be 15 minutes for another bus to collect us.
Well to our amazement the same bus came back with the same guide and the four Australians that left 20 minutes before. The guide told us a second bus was supposed to pick us up even though our names were on his list. I call bullshit!
With a bad start behind us we embarked on the 4 hour bus ride along Vietnam’s finest rural highways. They were rough and bumpy; but a second class drive is better than a first class walk any day.
We arrived at Ha Long, boarded the boat and quickly checked into our cabin before enjoying lunch.
After lunch we got on the little boat and walked through Bo Nau Cave “the most beautiful cave in all of Asia”. A bit of stretch considering we have been through some fairly impressive cave systems in Australia without 800 other people; but with some good old fashioned framing in a photo you can avoid others spoiling your shot.
Later in the afternoon we went to Soi Sim Island; an area where the beach is man-made and the monkeys are kept in a cage. We walked up the steep hill to enjoy the “panoramic view”; but instead found a tiny area with enough room for two people to look through the trees. After working up a fairly heavy sweat walking up and down the dirt tracks we were keen to jump in the water at the beach. But alas swimming in absolute filth and garbage wasn’t high in our list so we waited on the beach while some others swam with the poo.
After we got back to the boat we had some time to ourselves for a shower and lounging around on the upper deck with some fruit and cocktails. We watched an amazing sunset over the bay before enjoying a huge Vietnamese banquet for dinner.
The highlight of the night was when the crew brought out a cake for “a special couple on their honeymoon”. Everyone was looking around the room for us so I joined in and speculated about who it could be. The cruise manager then pointed at us and brought out a delicious cake for us and the other guests to share.
After dinner we sat around and chatted while others tried to fish for squid. At around 22:30 when the bay went quiet we headed off to bed.
Day 16: We awoke to the sound of the diesel engine of the boat starting up which scared the living shite out of me.
After a quick breakfast we headed out to Sung Sot Cave for an hour of kayaking through the cave and around the cove.
Afterwards we returned to the boat to shower and change before checking out of the room. The morning went very quickly with lounging on the upper deck and a short cooking class on how to make spring rolls. We sat down to a huge lunch before boarding the smaller boat back to the harbor and the 4 hour return drive to Ha Noi.
Our last night in Vietnam was spent having a relatively quiet dinner in the old quarter before heading to bed before the long flight back to Australia.