Sunday, 2 June 2013

Hanoi and Halong Bay

Upon arrival in Hanoi we got a taxi and we were extremely chuffed that a cabby would let us go on the meter. Unfortunately, within 5 minutes we knew why...the fare was already at a hefty 150,000 dong -a-long (nearly 4 pounds). We finally got to what would become our stopping base camp for the next week, the Funky Monkey Hostel. Within minutes we found ourselves signed up to a Halong Bay tour and a Sapa tour, we were equally excited and buzzing for them both. Alex and Rose rocked up around midday and we spent the day wandering around Hanoi, looking in the shops and finding some spot-on street food.

More interested in the ice cream than the sights

Best street food in Hanoi

That evening, we met two of Alex's friends who have moved to Hanoi, Meg and Cam. They took us to a great little BBQ place to eat before heading to the Old Quarter and squatting on mini stools to enjoy a beer or two.

Cracking BBQ

Bia Hoi

The next day we were off to Halong Bay! After about four hours on a coach, and having consumed our entire snack pack, we arrived at the harbour and boarded our boat, where we were finally given some lunch. Being the fatties that we are, we then proceeded to go around every other table eating their left overs. The first part of the trip was a visit to a big cave that had disco lights everywhere, obviously the natural beauty wasn't enough for the Vietnamese who thought bright flashing lights were far more fun. We couldn't agree more!

Gone in 60 seconds 

Disco disco

We boated around Halong Bay a bit more and were informed that Halong Bay is a collection of 1969 islands. Interestingly, this number corresponds to the year that Ho Chi Minh died. Fact of the day. We pulled up at a little floating village and had the opportunity to do some kayaking. For an extra 60,000 dong you could pay a little old lady to kayak in "her cave", as she apparently owned the cave. Opting out of this extortion, we kayaked around the bay and found a hole in a big rock to kayak through, which we reckoned was way more fun that her stupid cave.

Keen kayaker

Through the hole

Halong Bay

After some more boating, we were dropped off on Cat Ba Island, which was our home for the evening. Unfortunately the bus had broken down, so a two-hour wait was in order before we finally made it to the hotel. A rather tame night on the razz was in order. For us stingey ladies Rose Bar was an absolute winner, as ladies drank for free!

Bright and early the next day, it was time to hike to the top of a mountain. Alex, AKA Jungle Jane, kept us all motivated despite the mosquito attack and we were the first ones to the top. At the top there were lovely views across the island and a rather sketchy watch-tower that you could climb. With knees knocking, we made it to the top and managed to get a few pictures before the fear racked up a level and we all rushed down.

Jungle Jane

The top of the tower


After a spot of lunch back at the hotel, we were one of the lucky few who were picked up for a trip to Monkey Island. Our nagging had obviously paid off as some unlucky sods were left on Cat Ba for the whole day. The monkeys on Monkey Island were really radgey and chased all the tourists out of the bar, so we just hung out on the beach and bobbed in the sea.



That evening was our turn to sleep on the boat. We absolutely scored with our boat as there wasn't a cockroach or rat in sight! Dinner was served, followed by some rather tipsy karaoke. Kat was straight up there and belting out the ballads, but Imy took a little bit more Dutch courage before she finally took to the mike.

Mariah Carey on the mike

The next day, with slightly banging headaches, we headed back to Hanoi having absolutely loved Halong Bay.

Next stop: Sapa

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