Just before I left I spent some time reading various blogs and read one account of a boat trip into Halong Bay and thought it would be a personal type of hell. I arrived in Hanoi, booked my tour and re-checked that blog post. You can tell what I did can’t you! Doh!
It all started well!
So, the cruise. It starts off well with a sleepy 4 hour bus journey and piling onto a really nice boat (it’s a complete luxury compared to what I faced in the Galapagos) and the food was delicious! After a short cruise the boat crashes into the sister boat causing a fairly hefty amount of damage and then the party begins.
Point 1 on the blog is true – the guide said “no climbing on the ropes”, “no swimming unless I say it’s ok” and “no drinking out of your right hand, if you do everyone shouts Buffalo and you have to down your drink”. My heart sank.
The first activity was jumping off the top of the boat into the sea. It’s a good 6m drop and given my experience in Somoto I declined the opportunity given I knew I’d be unable to do it. I tried to explain to people, but understandably they weren’t interested in the weirdo not taking part and I felt completely out of place as I was left fully clothed on the boat with everyone else leaping into the water. I could have climbed in from the bottom and gone swimming, but the water wasn’t warm so what was the point?
We then went kayaking which admittedly was brilliant. Travis and I paired up and got ourselves into a nice rhythm and it was nothing like my Lago Atitlan adventure when the kayak sank. This was fun. The end of the kayak trip was to go through a little floating village which to me was a pure tourist trap and not that interesting, but the little kids that flew about on their foam lumps with makeshift oars were great. At one point Travis and I were powering out of the bay and rammed one nearly knocking him in – suffice to say, oops!
Then the drinking games began
Back on the boats we ran out of chairs so I jumped across to the second boat and stole all theirs – they weren’t using them at the time and it would force them to join us if they wanted to sit down. It was actually successful and everyone sat in a huge group chatting away and we started the party game.
It wasn’t like the blog post had described. It was worse.
Cards were laid out and depending on which you picked up meant a different forfeit. They varied quite a bit from innocent “swap clothes with the girl to your left”, “jump on the chair pound the roof and shout Shark”, “jump on your chair and scream F*** Y** to the other table”, “pretend to be a troll under the table”, “be a statue and be fed drinks”… Then they got a little open ended with “choose two people and then an activity”, “make up a new rule” and “confession”. You can see where it went.
I couldn’t have felt more out of place as men tea-bagged each other, men kissed one-another, blokes stripped naked and gave lap dances to unwilling girls, these are the more tame acts as well… It was the most homo-erotic show I’d ever seen and I hated it. I hated every single second.
It was only made worse by my choice of seat as well – the guy beside me got annoyed since I wasn’t drunk and started shouting and swearing at me. He tried to make me go off and do things I really wasn’t prepared to do (kudos to the guide Josh for stopping that one).
I hated it, I hated every single second. I was in the wrong place and I knew it.
But I wasn’t the only one
After the game finished we went back onto the deck and I started chatting to the people and found that the majority of people were in the same boat as me (an unintentional pun, haha!) and it was a small minority of people who went overboard. Its a shame we hadn’t found each other early as the night would have been a very different experience. In the end, it was after the game finished that I befriended a group of nice girls from Glasgow and the rest of the time was sorted.
So, Halong Bay then. That made up for the party cruise right?
Nope. It might have been voted a natural wonder but I couldn’t see why in the mist of the day and just skimming around the outskirts of the islands it just looked like any other formation of rocks in water. I’ve seen videos and other pictures and it looks a little nicer, but not amazing. It seemed to be a common complaint too as everyone else was referring to other rock formations elsewhere which are more impressive or similar.
Bit of a disaster all around to be honest.
The other blog…
For a complete opposite point of view, check out Adventurous Kate’s blog post on the subject.
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