Got up ridiculously to hop on the short bus to the bay. Tried to sleep, but sadly i was in the very back seat; this basically entails being thrown into the air everytime there is a bump. There were a lot of bumps. Eventually we made it to the harbour, which was a madhouse of tourists being shuffled on and off boats. Then it was our turn, and we were whisked away to the Black Pearl (which looks nothing like any of these pictures) to begin our journey.
I must say, organized tour or not, that Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places i have ever seen, hands down.
First stop was "Amazing Cave", which really wasn't all that amazing. Then it was time for some kayaking near Van Chai Floating Village with my cabin mate Djeh, a nice fellow from France. We rowed a bit, then stopped by to hang with some of the boat people. They gave us rice liqour and a bunch of crab. For free. Unheard of. Thank you tattoo and your power over strangers.
Back on the boat it was time for dinner. Tasty seafood. Then time for bonding with my shipmates, folks from Australia, the States, Argentina, China, and Vietnam.
Up early and off to Cat Ba island. Climbed a mountain by noon. Sandals are not good climbing shoes, but still better than my other pair which have no tread left. Made it up and most of the down no problem, only to eat it five steps from the bottom. Bruising ensued, but better than the impalement that i narrowly avoided.
Then off to the hotel for lunch, which also looked nothing like the one in the brochure. Seafood again. Then onto a different boat to Monkey Island for a bit of swimming. And monkeys. Then back to the hotel for dinner. Seafood.
Hit the town with our guide Tu' for some drinks. He bailed after a bit to meet some ladies, but his buddy Hao looked after us. Much rice whiskey later, it was off to Disco Bar, where i met Ines and Alex from Austria. Late noodles and drunkeness followed.
Woke 15 minutes before time to leave with my first, and so far only, Vietnamese hangover. Hopped on the bus bound for Hanoi, where again sleep was not to be had. Had the fold down seat in the aisle this time, but at least our driver wasn't bat shit crazy like the first one.
Shared some farewell beers with Djeh and Tu' back in Hanoi, hit the Night Market with Ines and Alex. Went to bed early.