Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vietnam: Ha Long Bay and Typhoon Nari - Part I

Our next Vietnam adventure was a flight to Hanoi and then a 3-hour bus ride to Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is said to be one of the most beautiful spots in all of Vietnam, maybe in the top 10 list for the world, I don't know, but it sounded like something we should not miss.

We arrived and spent the night in Hanoi at a really lovely little hotel with some of the best service we've ever had anywhere. Then up early the next morning to catch our bus to Ha Long Bay. To clarify, "bus" is not a luxury Greyhound, but a conversion van with narrow seats and no leg room ... for 3 hours over sometime questionable quality of road. At least the tour guide didn't ask us to sing songs or play bingo. :)

Got to Ha Long and into the queue for our tickets. Lots of people there and lots of different boats (or junks as they called them). 
We finally got our tickets and headed out to our 'junk' called the Calypso Cruiser. Our tour was an overnight option so we started with check in and dropped our bags in our rooms. Cute little rooms with a very comfortable bed and of course, a great view out the window.
We then went back upstairs and had a fantastic lunch and got our safety briefing for the boat  and then waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.

We were finally told that the ??? government, coast guard ??? whomever decides these things, had decided that the weather was too risky to let the boats out in the Bay. The tours here are completely run by the government. Every tour company and boat has to follow the same route and take their approvals and direction from the government authorities that run the Bay. So we were all stuck!

This decision was the result of Typhoon Nari which had hit the middle section of Vietnam the day before and was causing strong winds and rain in the Ha Long Bay. We were traveling with a couple who had been in Hoi An when it started and barely made their flight to Hanoi.

So off we went to check in to one of the local hotels in Ha Long. Not at all the cozy cabin from our boat and a far cry from how we had planned to spend the afternoon and evening. After the early start and 3-hour bus ride, the news was pretty disappointing.
Our hotel lobby and the worst food of the whole trip.
View of the bay from our room that evening.
View the next morning and our fingers crossed that the weak sun meant we'd be able to continue the tour.
The next morning, we got back on the boat in the hopes that they'd let everyone continue with their tours. Because we had only booked the one night, this was our only chance to see the bay so we had our fingers crossed.

Luckily, we did get the okay to visit "The Amazing Cave" (more on that in another post) and a small part of the bay before heading back to Hanoi in the afternoon. It was better than nothing.

And because we had to wait to see the bay (and because I have a bit of a mean streak) you'll have to wait for Part II to see the photos! :)

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