Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One Day Tour to Halong Bay

16 May 2014 (Friday)

The track was from my Garmin eTrex 20
I woke up at 3 a.m., because my alarm was set at 6 a.m., PNG time, or 3 a.m. Vietnam time. I could not fall back to sleep again.

At about 5:40 a.m., I went out to Hoan Kiem Lake, hoping to capture some photographs of Hanoians doing their early morning exercise. I could not find the way to the lake and decided to return but could not find my way back. With all the shops still closed, except for food stalls which were just opening, the street scene during the quiet morning was totally different from the chaotic scene of day time. I could not recognise the shops and the streets and was lost. I walked North and South, East and West and only after 15 minutes, I finally found the street to Camellia Hotel 6. I had Pho Bo close to the hostel.

As it was still early, I wanted to go to Hoan Kiem Lake. This time, I committed the signboards and streets to memory, so that I would be able to return to the hostel quickly. I took some photos of Hoan Kiem Lake and decided to return. Again, I could not find my way back. I found the correct lane of my hostel only after many false turns.

As it turned out, my Garmin GPS was useless this morning. It could not locate the satellite signals. A USAid staff on holiday, who was a guest of Camellia Hotel 6 and waiting for pick up at the front of the hostel to Halong Bay told me the reason was due to the heavy cloud.

The tour guide from Khanh Sinh arrived at 8:00 a.m. Umm! Khanh Sinh, not Sinh Cafe. Seeing him coming, and he seeing me waiting for someone, we greeted each other. He asked me whether I was so and so and when I replied I was, he asked me to follow him to the waiting bus on the main road. After picking me up, the bus proceeded to another hostel to pick up three guys before we left for Halong Bay.

Our first stop was at a floating pontoon at a floating village. The price of the tour did not include the kayaking/ rowing boat rental. I could not remember the rental cost but it was the same for both the kayak and row boats. The row boats would only leave after it has been filled up.

After the kayaking/ rowing boats at the floating village, we proceeded to Thien Chung grotto. The entrance fee to the cave has been included in the price of the tour. I had a whirlwind visit of the cave before exiting as I had seen enough caves already and was quite bored. I just waited at the wharf for others to complete their sight-seeing.

On the way back, we were told that the bus would not be dropping us off from where we were picked up, particularly those who were staying at the old quarters. The place would be very crowded as the week-end market would be opened from Friday till Sunday and today, being a Friday.

The boat travelled only a short distant out into the bay, making a turn around a small island, Dau Go Island, where we visited Thien Cung grotto before returning to Bai Chay Wharf. Forty minutes were spent kayaking/ rowing boat at the floating village and fifty-five minutes at Thien Cung grotto, making a total of 95 minutes at these two stops. The whole tour took 210 minutes, and subtracting 95 minutes from the total time, we were cruising only for 115 minutes, or just about two hours. If I were to do another Halong Bay cruise, I would be taking a 2D/ 1N tour with a night at Cat Ba Island.

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