It is impossible for me to describe my time in Halong Bay as anything but the biggest disappointment of my entire trip.
Everything about the day was awful.
It started with a coach trip that was supposed to last for three hours, but in fact took 5 hours. This does not include another hour spent in a really crappy shopping complex. A place which charged ridiculous amounts of money for very cheap things. For example I saw a Toblerone for the equivalent of five dollars. This wasn’t one of the large Toblerones that you would see in airports, this was a small little standard bars that would cost 45p at home. What is worse is that I watched some idiot actually buy one of these.
Some people either have more money than sense, or are really bad at working out exchange rates.
When we reached Hanlong Bay itself, we were herded onto some boats that are clearly seen better days.
The deck of the boat that I was on, flexed alarmingly as people stood on it At one point I went onto the deck upstairs, and the floorboards were so loose that if you stepped on an edge of a plank the other end would get pivot up.
We were served what was undoubtably the worst meal that I have had since leaving home. It consisted of fish balls, fish spring rolls, prawns, and tofu. All of this was freezing cold.
As we pulled out of the harbour, the pilot of the boat rammed into our neighbouring boat. The entire boak shook and people lurched forward and we all looked at each other as if to say ’what the hell are we doing on this boat’.
We were not on the water very long as we merely crossed the straight and went to one of the caves. This was actually very impressive although I wish that they had not lit the place up like a Christmas tree.
Then we were back on the water and sailed to a fishing village. Once there we moored and if we wanted to go any further we have to pay extra money to take smaller boats around some of the rocks.
After that we headed back to shore. In total we were on the water for around three hours and that includes the stops at the Cave and the fishing village.
I perhaps would not have minded the itinerary so much if we actually got to see anything.
Unfortunately, the weather for this trip was awful. It was cold and grey. The sky was so full of mist that it was almost impossible to see anything unless we were nearly on top of it.
My visions of blue water and towering green spires corrupting from that water were nowhere to be seen. Instead I saw a grey sea and the grey sky with the occasional shadow passing by. It did not make for good photographic opportunities as you can see.
Then it was the return journey, a journey which took the same person as before including another stop at another extortionately priced shopping centre.
It was quite late when I returned back to the hotel. All I wanted to do, was grab a another layer of clothing and head back out to get some food. This it seemed was impossible as well. My hotel in their wisdom, had decided to rent out my room to another person. So upon arriving back, I was told that they had “upgraded” me to another hotel that was a couple of minutes walk away.
But they would not just take me there or give any other information, I ended up sitting around for another hour as they fart-arsed around with other stuff. When we got to the new hotel, they asked me to check in. At this point I said that they must be joking that they’d had over 14 hours to sort that out, and to give me the key because I am going upstairs for a shower. I said to the receptionist that the person from the old hotel would do the check-in as they had all my details. When he began to protest I said to him that I have played ball with him and now he could actually do something useful for a change.
At that point I took the key and grab my bag and walked off to my new room leaving the guy from the old hotel shouting furiously that I had to check in.
I came down a little later as I was going to go for food, and spoke to the new receptionist to say that I was not pissed off with this hotel, and I was sorry for the scene earlier but I was fed up with the guy from the other hotel who had been messing me around. He was actually pretty cool about it and laughed saying that he was amused as the other guy had looked really shocked when I walked off and had to go back to his hotel and come back with my check in details.
As it was now so late, it was actually hard to find anywhere that was open.
Eventually I found a place quite literally next door to my old hotel. As I walked past, the receptionist ran out to ask what I had come back. He would not listen when I said that I was going to the restaurant next door, he kept saying about how I have moved hotel and that was where I should go. He only took the hint that I was not even coming to the hotel, when I pushed past and walked into the restaurant.
The food there was actually really nice. They also served ale. I didn’t get one but I was shocked to see a ’liberation ale’ on their annual board. I’ve asked where the liberation ale came from and was told it was British. Excitedly I asked to see a bottle, but then was gutted to see that it was not liberation ale from home but one from a another brewery in England.
I think that I am going to go back there tonight.
So there we go. A Christmas day full of disappointment and frustration. It was a very long day as well and one which I wish I had not happened. I cannot help but be disappointed about Halong Bay. It was a place which I was very much looking forward to from the second that I booked this trip. There is of course nothing that the tour company could do about the weather, but that they were awful in every other regard. I would strongly recommend not using JP Leisure if you ever decide to go to Halong Bay.
I think that if I had not had a decent break in Hoi An I would have cracked yesterday. It was the perfect reminder of why I so desperately wanted to leave this country a couple of weeks ago.
I have two more full days here before I fly out to Australia. Those days will not pass quickly enough if today is anything to go by. But generally I am in high sprits as I have some amazing experiences lined up for the next couple of months.