What we were looking for was a Ha Long Bay tour with people our own age, where we could enjoy a few drinks and have a bit of a party in paradise. So we were happy to have met a tour guide from the famous Hanoi Backpackers Hostel who told us about their tour. We booked it the next day.
We were picked up from the hostel at 7.30am and were taken to Ha Long Bay by minibus, which took approximately four hours including a stop at a pottery barn, where we were able to purchase some noodles and crisps. The bus was small and cramped and the up-right chairs which didn’t recline didn’t help much in the area of comfort.
On arrival at the pier, we are taken by boat, to the main boat AKA The Jolly Roger. This would be our home for the night. Our tour group was quite a large one and we were therefore split onto two boats, though thankfully we remained on the JR. When looking out onto Ha Long Bay, it’s absolutely gorgeous! The water is decorated with so many brown wooden junk boats, which looked so charming and very Vietnamese. There are almost 2,000 rock formations around Ha Long Bay, and they add a great deal of beauty to the surroundings. We were very grateful for the good weather this day as we were able to sit on the deck, and sunbathe among these incredible views.
Obviously, as this trip is considered a party tour, there are a number of drinking rules which were given by our tour guide, Gareth.
Rule: #1 No drinking with your right hand. If someone catches you doing so, they shout “BUFFALO!” which means that you have to then down your drink. Great stuff.
Lunch on the JR was really nice – a wide selection of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and rice. We then spend a few hours kayaking around Ha Long Bay, which is a lot more tiring than I had originally thought, but a great workout! A couple of the kayaks did sink and there were a few stranded swimmers which had to be picked up, but overall an awesome experience which enabled us to explore the huge mountainous rock formations and caves. At 7pm dinner and drinking games commenced.
Feeling rough the next day, we woke up with a headache on Laura’s birthday. We changed boats and met a different tour guide who took us to Castaway Island – a privately leased island that only the hostel company can use. It’s stunning obviously and wonderfully secluded, but unfortunately needs a big clear-up as both the beach and the sea are polluted with litter and God knows what else! We arrive at our huts which are made up of a few bamboo sticks which act as pillars, floor and roof, and six mosquito nets in each hut. It’s hot. The great thing about the island is that there are a number of activities you can participate in, including kayaking, tubing (a different type of tubing to Laos), wakeboarding and rock-climbing.
The evening was filled with lots of drunken swimming obviously, with many naked people running around, or people smoking tuc lao. When swimming in the sea, it was amazing to see the plankton glow a dazzling array of colours as we touched them. If you’ve ever seen Life Of Pi, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
As you would imagine, waking up early the next day, was tough and the weather was changing in front of our very eyes. We were warned of an incoming typhoon which meant we had to get off the island and back onto the boat which would take us back to the Jolly Roger. The four hour bus journey back to Hanoi was a little tough too.