Our second day in Hanoi was Ha Long Bay day! We weren’t too excited about this because related literature told us that Ha Long Bay is not 100% enjoyable during the winter months. We were expecting low visibility due to the fog and an overall gray day due to the winter gloom. Just the same, we went ahead with the Ha Long Bay cruise because 1.) it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site 2.) we were already there in Hanoi and 3.) we had nothing better/planned to do. However, we restricted ourselves to the day tour instead of the recommended overnight cruise, which is really best during the summer.
In preparation for the trip, we bought breakfast at the nearby Joma Bakery Café. I had a multi-grain bagel with cream cheese (50,000 VND) and some regular macchiato con panna (35,000 VND). Note that Joma Bakery Café serves Lao Arabica coffee so I was able to enjoy two types of coffee in Vietnam. Anyway, I opted for a heavy breakfast because I knew we were in for a long ride to Ha Long Bay – about 3.5 hours long. I also bought some chocolate croissant (35,000 VND) to serve as a snack during the trip.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t very clear when I ordered. My idea was that only the croissant was to be for take out but I received all my order all wrapped up and ready to go. So, we ended up eating our breakfast at the hotel lobby where the tour guide found us at 8:00 for our day trip at Ha Long Bay. We were the first to be picked up and it was a very lucky thing, too because we got to choose our seats. Apparently, lots of people were part of our tour group and a number of them had to sit on the jump seats, which of course was even more uncomfortable in a 3.5-hour trip. After all the joiners were collected from their hotels, our coaster fuelled up first then off we went to Ha Long Bay.
Our tour guide started orienting us about the long ride and Ha Long Bay. He was very optimistic that the day would be clear, better than the previous day’s rain and mist. But during the ride, I couldn’t see anything out my window.
We had a stopover after a couple of hours where everyone got to use the restrooms and buy some food and souvenirs. During the stopover, we were able to see the coasters being washed of the lahar-like mud that covered them. After that, I was able to see out my window.
We arrived at the dock by 12:42pm where I heard some of the tourists complain to the tour guide that they were promised a completely different experience, consisting primarily of non-cramped seats in a coaster. I didn’t really hear what the tour guide replied to that. I just remembered that it was possible, too, that all of us were charged differently for the tour.
Anyway, we boarded our junk 30 minutes later where we discovered that we would have to share a table with four other tourists. Jacq and I were sandwiched between a German couple and two Italians whom I nicknamed the Mario brothers.
At 1:30pm, lunch was finally served. It was a really good thing that I had a croissant in between our early breakfast and super late lunch because if not, it was possible that I would’ve gone all The Hulk.
The previous night, Jacq commented that our Ha Long Bay cruise was cheaper than what her friends had. Thus, we were wondering what the catch would be. And aboard the junk, we found out what it was: lunch was not much and drinks were not included. It was a really good thing then, that we bought water with us.
On our way to our next stop, the tour guide pointed out the various rock formations on the islands that we passed by. Everyone had a hard time looking for what the tour guide was describing.
Our first stop after lunch was the fishing village. There, we had to pay 120,000 VND each (60,000 VND to see the cave + 60,000 VND for a local to row the boat for us) for a 40-minute tour of the fishing village and a couple of caves with shallow water.
After the short tour, we went back aboard the junk and looked at the symbol of Ha Long Bay: the Kissing Cocks. Jacq and I had a riot the previous day about it because, WHY would they name it as such? Apparently, as our tour guide explained, it started out as a man and a woman kissing. Then this somehow evolved into male chicken who were still kissing. Oh, well.
Our next stop was the Thien Cung Grotto. We had to climb up 97 steps to a cave that was lit up with different colored lights, nicely highlighting the stalactites and stalagmites inside. After another round of “do you see what I see”, it was time to leave the cave and go back home.
We had another stopover on the ride home where I bought some cookies because my stomach was already complaining. Then, Jacq and I had to switch coasters for reasons that we never found out and it was fairly confusing. Then, when we got to the Hoan Kiem Lake, everyone started getting off the coaster! We were supposed to be dropped off to the hotel but when I saw the pretty Turtle Temple outside the window, I also convinced Jacq to get off the coaster.
After walking around the lake, trying to capture a good shot of the Turtle Temple with our not-so-high-tech devices, we headed back to our hotel, wanting to have a taste of the famous Bun Cha at the equally famous Duc Kim Bun Cha. Unfortunately, it was already closed when we got there. Our plan B to eat at Pho 10 was also foiled because they were no longer accepting customers. So, we ended up eating dinner at Mon Ngon where I had summer rolls and some apple juice.
Thus the day ended and we headed back to the hotel to recharge.
Read the last part of my Hanoi chronicles here.
Want to find out what we did on our first day in Hanoi? Read it here.