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Halong Bay - The day that wasn't

Ha Long, Vietnam

Somethings are just not meant to be and I think we were destined not to see Halong Bay. We booked a day trip on Friday, even got up early, to be told that our trip had been cancelled because of bad weather. We re-booked for the following day hopeful that we would get to see the mighty limestone peaks rising from the sea.
We were up early again and were told by hotel reception the trip was on, we got excited! The bus journey was bumpy, its strange that the road to a Unesco World Heritage Site is so bad. An obligatory stop was made, conveniently at a large shop selling various tourist tat, we bought a coffee but it was awful (not a good sign).
After 4 and a half hours we arrived at Halong Bay to be told that no boats were currently leaving the harbour due to potential bad weather. However, all was not lost, as we could have lunch and hopefully after lunch, good luck permitting, boats would be able to go out. So, our seafood banquet on a boat became one prawn, some rubbery squid and a spoonful of rice.
Lunch was followed by more hanging around by the restaurant, the tour guide announced that there would be another announcement in 15 minutes. The news came that we could go and we were hearded back on the bus for the short drive to the harbour. The harbour itself was packed, stadium rock concert packed. We waited right on the quay, the boats were so near we could touch them and smell their fumes.

We waited for an hour while the tour guide made numerous calls, presumably to his mother to ask what was for dinner as we didn’t appear to be going anywhere fast. Then there was another announcement, that we would wait another 15 minutes to see if we could go. Needless to say, we didn’t. We went back to the bus and as we left Halong Bay, the tour guide said “wave bye bye to Halong Bay”, I could have punched him.
We are still not sure why no boats were allowed to leave the harbour, we think that it was the harbour authority. However, what we really don’t understand at all is why we had to go all the way up there to find this out. Being cynical, we wondered whether the tour company took everyone up there knowing that they could at least fleece us of some money for the bus ride and a dodgy lunch. Or perhaps it was a government ploy to ensure you had to come back again? The conspiracy theories continue even as I type!
To cap it all off, we got stuck in a traffic jam on the way back to Hanoi. In all, the trip or non trip took 13 and a half hours and cost 22 dollars. This, without doubt was the most frustrating day of our trip since leaving London on the 7th February.

permalink written by  Tim and Em on July 24, 2010 from Ha Long, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Round half the world!
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