I wasn’t even supposed to be on this trip.
I initially declined because I have no funds, it would eat up my work VL’s, I’d like to go to HK or Singapore with J, etc etc. Pag ayaw, may dahilan; pag gusto, may paraan. CHAROT.
In the end I decided to go because one of my friends is getting married, and we might not have a chance to do this again with the group complete.
Our flight out of NAIA 3 is at 10:30 pm on May 18, Saturday. I was the only person in the group who have yet to go on an international flight. Process was pretty smooth, but I really hate that we have to pay travel tax and the ridiculous terminal fee.
Of course, during the flight everyone fell asleep except me. (This will be an unfortunate trend for the duration of our trip.)
We landed at Hanoi at 1 AM, local time. (Vietnam and the two other countries we visited are one-hour delayed compared to the Philippines.) We were billeted at the Garnet Hotel. This was when our troubles started. They promised that we will have a vehicle for transfer. It didn’t arrive. We were later told that the taxi left because we were ten minutes late. We had to call them for us to learn this. (And Nancy, the woman Ghia had coordinated with, was nowhere to be found.)
Photo-op as usual, while we figure this out.
We haggled with drivers so we could get a taxi to bring us there. When we got there, the hotel was closed. We had to ring the doorbell several times. When the door opened, we were greeted by Lee, one of the hotel employees, who looked as if we had just awakened him. Did he really call us a taxi to pick us up at the airport, or was that a bald-faced lie?
He said our rooms were on the fourth floor. There was no elevator. Vietnamese homes and buildings are constructed favoring vertical length, so the stairwell was really narrow. When we asked if someone could help us with our bags, Lee simply said no. We asked if we could have our breakfast tomorrow. Lee said no again, even though Nancy promised us this. I don’t know if it was because he was sleepy, or the language barrier, but we just got angry with his nonchalance. He didn’t even move from his spot in the middle of the room as we moved with our bags, so we had to walk around him.
Not a good first impression of the hotel, but I liked Hanoi well enough. The drivers at the airport were nice (one even let Ghia borrow his cell phone), and the roads looked like our roads. Only with more scooters! It appears to be the transportation vehicle of choice. Maybe the Philippines should look into that – less cars, more motorcycles, more road space.
May 19, Sunday. So, no free breakfast. We turn to the mighty cup noodle. (I had biscuits and Oreo.)
We waited in the lobby for Indochina Tours to bring us to Halong Bay. We saw Lee behind the desk, freshly bathed and in a smart shirt. I thought he was a different person. Still no sign of Nancy.
The van came, which we shared with three other tourists from Vietnam. A hard task for our tour guide Tu, who had to speak to us in English, and to the three in Vietnamese.
The van stopped by a gift shop with beautiful wares.
Halong Bay! We got to the port and were driven to the cruise ship. (That’s Tu looking at the camera.)
We had to wait an hour before lunch was served. You wouldn’t have guessed our hunger from all our photo-ops on the deck.
Tu explaining the trip to a very very hungry audience.
The room’s pretty nice for a budget cruise ship.
After lunch and a little rest, we went on bamboo boats to be taken to the Vung Vieng, the Fishing Village. You have the choice to kayak, but are you kidding me.
The homes here are surprisingly well-stocked and self-sufficient. I spotted some potted plants and television sets, and even some pets! Tu said the government brings the families fresh water regularly.
Residents live on fishing and seafood farming. They have their own school for their children, who often choose to continue as fishermen instead of finding occupation in the mainland. Each household owns a fish cage and brings its haul to the Chief’s house to bring to the mainland for sale.
It was a relaxing boat ride. We even found the time to tsismis. Nahiya naman ang Halong Bay, ginawa naming tambayan. Taray.
Night life! This was funny, because we – that means, I – expected that there would be a lot of people on the boat. We were already making plans of introducing our single friend to a foreigner. Turned out it would only be us six, and the three Vietnamese.
Cute design from our dinner:
(I think Chad is still dreaming of these deep-fried, bread-covered squid balls.)
They serve good cocktails, I have to say. I think I had a Mojito? We had June’s Skittles and chocolates for pulutan. We talked our heads off until midnight, and then realized that we still have eight days left in this trip.