Ha Long Bay

We take off for Ha Long Bay early Sunday morning. We decided to book the tour with the Kangaroo Cafe. The tour is more expensive than others, but the company is run by an Australian and boasts that they have the best tour of Ha Long bay. We take a bus to Ha Long City and have lunch. The lunch is one of those meals were you really wonder if this is it- the meal that will send you to the toilet for hours on end. Luckily no one got sick, and after a few beers we forget about lunch. Trent and I also met and enjoyed the company of 3 girls from San Fransisco who just finished taking the bar. We cruise around the bay to a large cave and take a smaller boat to the tourist trap of a cave. The cave is pretty cool, but like everything else, it would be enjoyed more if there weren't masses of people doing the same thing! We get back to the boat and Trent goes for a swim. After watching the sun set on the sundeck, we have an amazing meal.

We get up the next day and the boat takes off for Cat Ba island. Once we get to the island, we venture out to a more remote part of the island and get on another boat to see a cave. In order for the cave to have light our tour guide has to crank a lever to start up the generator- clearly this cave is not as touristy as the cave we visited the previous day. Besides the bats, our group we were the only visitors in the cave. We had another spectacular lunch at the Green Mango on Cat Ba island. Later that afternoon we went to monkey island. Unfortunately, people have been feeding these monkeys so they were quite hungry...so hungry they decided to take matters into their own hands and attack a woman to go through her bag. It was a pretty scary sight, especially since I had a friend at work recently get bit by a monkey- rabies shots don't sound that fun when you are on vacation. Trent helps the couple fend off the rabid monkeys, much to my dismay. After the ambush, we head back to our beautiful hotel room on Cat Ba island.

The boat ride back was really scenic. While drinking beers on the sundeck, we see some amazing limestone outcrops protruding out of the water. We also cruise past a floating village, which is a village built entirely on top of the water. The village is a loosely strung assortment of haphazard decks, cargo nets to farm fish, a zillion dogs, and many boats. It was pretty interesting to see how the people live in such close quarters.

The next morning we are spotted by our guide and he tells us that it is not safe to take the boat back to Ha Long City because of the strong winds from the typhoon. Just a week before a boat sank in Ha Long Bay killing 4 or 5 people (reliable news here is hard to come by since the government restricts news via websites, etc.), so I think our guide was a little weary of the conditions. Instead of a relaxing and beautiful cruise through the limestone outcrops we take a speed boat. This boat was the last means of transportation back to shore as the winds and waves were getting so strong they shut down all transport from the island. As you can imagine, there was a number of people on the boat and the ride back was quite brutal on the portion of the boat that was open to the thrashing waves. Trent positioned himself on the open part of the boat close to the railing "so he could easily jump off if the boat went down," while I tried to huddle inside the covered part of the boat as Vietnamese people pushed me and at one point batted at Trent's bag as it was being passed to me to keep dry.

Travel near the coast of Vietnam seems to be halted while it is being beat up by the typhoon. Luckily we are back in Hanoi at the moment and do not seem to be seeing the impacts of the storm. In all, the tour itself was ok. The boat we were given didn't match that in the pictures. The rooms were nice, but the deck and dinning area were a little lacking. We also weren't aware of how many other tours would be present with us during our first evening's activities. "Secluded" cove means sharing it with 30 other junk boats. One of the highlights was the service by our guide, Thoung, who made every effort to please the crew.

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