Halong Bay – UNESCO World Pissup Site

I got back from Halong Bay yesterday.  I should probably be clear at the start of this post that it was astoundingly beautiful, an amazing place, and you should definately visit. Just to get that out of the way.

I went with the tour here at the hostel, which was pretty much the most expensive tour available, but i’d also been told in no uncertain terms that it was the best one, and i couldnt fault it to be honest. Certainly the most massively touristy thing i’ve done so far, and nothing like the rest of my trip is likely to be, but definately worth it.

However, as well as all the activities, it was also a 3 day drinking fest with a load of twentysomethings, and the Hostel’s biggest trip of the year (42 of us doing the 3 day tour), and i was still pretty ill, so i couldnt really keep up when it came to the alcohol side. But then i came to see Halong Bay, not the inside of a bar, and while they were hungover, i was enjoying the scenery, so i dont feel like i missed out, and there were a good mix of interesting people in amongst the gap year crowd.

Also, i took 40 photos in Sapa, and it was hard cutting them down. When i got back from Halong Bay, i realised i’d taken 132. I’ve had to be brutal with the editing. So if you want me to bore you shitless with photos when i get back, i can totally sort you out.

Arriving in Halong Bay ferry port after the 4 hour bus ride from the Hostel. They gave us all these ridiculous hats so they could find us in the crowds, so we basically ended up looking like a trippy wizards convention. This is only a small portion of the convention obviously.

Our first view of the bay, and not a promising one to be honest, the port was just packed from end to end with boats of every size and shape. The transfer boat pilots were mental too. In the UK they’d be handbrake turning Saxo’s and stuff, but they do their best driving these little boats packed full of tourists one-handed instead.

Obligatory unflattering “hows the beard coming along” shot, taken once we got on board the big boat, the “Jolly Roger”. All the boats have a Viet name, which never changes, and a western name, which they seem to change every 5 minutes to keep up with current trends, usually off film posters. I saw one called the “Black Pearl”, which was fair enough, but there was another one called “Inception”. Thats just random.

A temple sacred to the local boat people atop one of the islands. So sacred, tourists arent even allowed to set foot on the island. But not so sacred that it can’t have a massive mobile phone mast it seems.

Halong Bay is the laziest photography destination in the world, i swear.  Even i can manage to take a decent pic. Point your camera more or less any direction, press the button, voila, beautiful photo.

This woman was like some kind of boat-borne sales ninja. You wouldn’t see her for ages, then you’d look around and wham, she’s right there, offering to sell you slightly rusty cans of coke, and tubes of dodgy pringles with extra salt. Respect.

Once the Jolly Roger dropped anchor for the night, we spent half an hour jumping off the top deck into the water and completely failing to perfect our backflip technique. Then we all took to kayaks and went round one of the islands to land on the beach the other side, closely followed by a small old woman with a heart full of commerce. The boat you can see in the background looks pretty much identical to the Jolly Roger, but isnt. Just in case you were thinking we kayaked about 200 metres.

From the beach we walked up the mountain to watch the sunset, which was actually a bit hazy to be honest, hence no photo, though i took a couple. There was also nothing actually at the top other than a nice view, not even a big place to stand, which is why we’re all just standing strung out down the path.

Then we kayaked back in the dark, which was an interesting experience, since the islands are a total maze with no real landmarks, and all the kayaks looked the same so no-one knew which one the guide was in. Cue 45 minutes of confusion and inter-kayak collisions. Then the drinking games really started in earnest (everyone had been on the beer all day anyway).  My photos of this chaotic event were haphazard to say the least, but we’ll just say everyone got very drunk, and ended up either wearing someone elses clothing, or none at all. And licking the armpit and/or feet of the person next to them. Fun, especially as the only armpit i licked was the rather attractive Norwegian girl next to me. The Swedish guy on my other side, he didnt get so lucky.

Everyone else then stayed up partying till stupid’o’clock, but i sensibly decided being ill and having another biblical hangover wasn’t a good idea and went to bed. Which is why i was up in time for the boat to start moving and spot this, though i missed the sunrise.

How cool is this boat. I’ll need a project when i get back, maybe i’ll build one in the garden like an orientally-inspired Noah.

Another beautiful pic, chosen at random. Note incredibly hungover wizards utterly failing to notice the scenery in foreground.

Floating houses of the local boat people. They also designate areas off limits for tourists, which is fair enough, but loads of them are really beautiful, you just get a glimpse of something amazing past the no entry sign.

The best pic i got of the beach where we stayed for the second day and night, sadly with someone’s elbow in shot. It was really beautiful, but (like a fair few places in the bay), there was quite a bit of rubbish in the water. I think we’re getting to the point now, where simply not dropping rubbish isnt enough. It’ll just lead to people rushing to the fewer and fewer pristine places till there arent any. If we want to live in, and see, beautiful places, i think we’re going to need to start picking rubbish up and making them beautiful again.

View of the accomodation with Verena, one of the German girls enjoying a relaxing beer.

Spot the rock climber.

View from the beach. A couple of hours later, this shot would have been spoiled by the sight of everyone on my banana boat cartwheeling through the air on the way to the water. It was brutal, everyone got bruises. I lost my watch. One guy almost lost a testicle. And Verena had to be dragged onto the speedboat to recover after i slammed into her twice at high speed.

This, i have to tell you, is the life. The wakeboard instructors live here for 7 days at a time. The. Bastards.  Actually, i say that, but i spoke to one of them and he was having to leave because his liver was pushing out one side of his abdomen from all the drinking.

Cheesy sunset shot. Looks like i stole it off a postcard, but actually this one is all my own work. Go me.

I missed the start of the drinking games on the second night because i was talking to one of the Vietnamese guides for an hour, but it was probably for the best. Had a drink with some of the more prosaic people on the tour instead, started one of my trademark controversial conversations and sat back to enjoy the fireworks. Then feeling pretty ill i buggered off the bed. It was the right thing to do, but at about 3 in the morning, everyone went nightswimming and the only thing regret on the trip was not getting up and going. Theres plankton in the water, and at night, when you splash the water, they light up and the water sparkles all around you. I’m gutted i missed that. This, in case you were wondering, is just a shot of us leaving in the morning.

More beautiful scenery on the way back.

Randomly, on the way back in the bus they stopped for a rest in this weird ceramics and stonecarving superstore. And amongst (the sometimes very beautiful) sculptures outside, there were some of those little weeing boys that people seem to find amusing. I wouldn’t have included a shot of them (despite the fact that these have, for no reason, a football under one arm), except for one thing. The hole where you would insert a pipe to make it pee, was in the middle of its bum, making it appear, should you have one in your garden, that the boy was peeing while recieving a simlutaneous colonic. Only in Vietnam.


~ by zendog888 on 10/11/2010.

4 Responses to “Halong Bay – UNESCO World Pissup Site”

  1. Hywel – it looks fabulous, what a beautiful place.
    Glad you are feelin better, thats the trouble with the twenty somethings??!!

  2. hi son, lovin the blog GREAT photos too. can’t wait for the biki’n part of the adventure to begin.

  3. Epic hats are epic. Loving the contrast of colours between beard and swede. I like the irony of the boat named ‘Poseidon’. The kayak pic is easily the best I’ve seen so far; it just seems to capture the complete sense of adventure. Hmm you claim to have attractive Norwegian females with you but all I see is male asses.

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