The train back to Hanoi from Sapa was uneventful. Slept on and off and arrived in Hanoi about 5am. We mistakenly got in a meter cab on our back back to Hotel Serenity and got gouged. What should have been a 30,000 dong cab ride cost us triple that. We got in an argument with the dude. Kind of a funny but paid him anyway. No more meter cabs for us!!
The hotel wasn’t open yet as they lock up for the night but our favourite guy who worked there opened the doors when he heard our voices and even gave us a room to chill out in for a couple hours as we were not meeting my brother until 7am.
It was so great to see Jason! He lives in the Philipines which means we don’t get to see eachother often. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with him. We had some breakfast and then waited for our Halong Bay shuttle to pick us up. We grabbed seats at the back of the bus for the 4 hour drive. What a mistake. Every bump catapolted us off our seats. Thank goodness for seat belts! Felt a little sick by the time we got to Halong Bay and I don’t normally get car sick.
Halong Bay at noon is chaos as people from the overnight boats are leaving to go back to Hanoi and people from Hanoi are arriving for their tours. We were scheduled to go on a 3 day, 2 night trip on the Oriental Sails junk boat. We paid a premium for our tour. Some boats can as cheap as $30 for 2 nights but often that is not the best choice as you will note below.
There was some confusion when we arrived. For some reason we were not allowed to get on our boat. We had heard that they were not giving out slips to leave the harbour but there was no reason given. After waiting about 30 minutes with no real answers, I found our guide and pressed him on the reason. I said that we were not understanding the delay and that he needed to come explain to everyone what the problem was. He came back over and that is when some British man started barking at our guide to tell us the truth of the accident that had happened the night before where people had died. Um what???
We didn’t get that confirmed really until later that day. Our guides continued to tell us it was about a storm coming which seemed fishy since it was clear out. So what did happen?? Apparently a junk boat had sunk the night before and 12 people drowned. How horribly tragic. I feel so badly for the loved ones of those who died. And those poor people. What they thought was going to be a lovely holiday turned into tragedy. Word was that it was an unliscenced boat. So sad.
||A bit shaken from hearing that news, we got into a day boat and started touring Halong Bay. We were told we could go out for the day and that they would give us more information later about what was going to happen next.
Halong Bay is beautiful. And so were the junk boats. Hundreds of them sailing about.
We cruised around for a bit and were served an amazing lunch with complimentary wine for all of our troubles. The food was incredible. So much fresh seafood!
As we approached the dock for our cave tour, Sue decided to help out.
The cave was quite cool to walk through. It had all these crazy rock formations that were unfortunately not naturally lit. All the light make it kind of corny but we still had fun as they pointed out all the different formations.
The view from outside the caves.
We then set sail once again and this is when we really got to see Halong Bay. What an amazing experience!!! Especially to see it when the sun went down. It really was perfection and I can understand why so many people come here every year. Some pictures I took as we sailed along.
After the sun set, we came back down into the dining area and the staff explained that no overnights were being allowed on Halong Bay and that we had the option of staying in the hotel overnight and then going out on another day trip or heading back to Hanoi and getting 50% of our money back. This is where Caley and Kyle stepped in with their awesome negotiation skills! They are fellow Canadians from Toronto and they stood their ground and said that they wanted 75% of their money back which actually was right seeing as we only got 25% of the trip we had paid for. The tour agreed and we took that same option. Still no reason was given as to why no overnights were allowed. Well, they said it was about the storm still but at this point, it had been confirmed to us by other staff that the accident had indeed happened.
So we piled back into the shuttle bus after a beautiful day experience in Halong Bay and headed back to Hanoi. The tour in Halong Bay was supposed to be Susan’s birthday trip and it sucked that it didn’t go as planned. I know that it would have been such a great time but these things happen. They needed to check the saftely of all the boats before letting them stay overnight again and we completely agreed with that decision.