Sunday, 3 May 2009

I'm not normally an indecisive person, 1 May 2009

I'm a bish, bash, bosh kinda girl, but as I boarded the bus from Hoi An to Hanoi on Thursday I really didn't know where I was going or what I intended to do.

I had a few options:

1. Get to Hanoi and spend a day/night in Hanoi before heading to Halong Bay on the Saturday
2. Get straight on another bus from Hanoi directly to Halong Bay
3. Get straight on another bus from Hanoi directly to Ninh Binh

As much as I loved the South of Vietnam, I definitely whizzed through it to give me the time to do what I wanted to do in the North (Ninh Binh/Ha Long Bay/Sapa).

All on the bus journey I was contemplating what I was do. I kept flicking through the pages of Lonely Plant unsure.

I knew I wanted to get to Halong Bay, and all I had heard was that it was a $70 trip from Hanoi. That was for two days with a night on a boat that included games and kareoke! I knew that I wasn't going to pay $70 so I would have to do it independently. The French guys in Hoi An had done it themselves and it had worked out better for them.

So as the bus pulled into Hanoi at 7.30am I still didn't know what I was doing. I faffed a bit and then decided on a whim to go straight to Halong Bay.

I figured I would go to Halong Bay stay the night there before heading to Ninh Binh then back to Hanoi.

Woohoo! I had a plan.

I jumped on a bus to Halong Bay and it was nice to be with all the locals trying to make conversation.

Three hours later I was in Halong City and I jumped on a taxi/bike to take me to the marina. We hit a load of traffic.

It was at this point I remembered that it was the Vietnamese National Holiday - Thursday to Sunday. Every Vietnamese person and his dog had come to Halong Bay today and getting to the Marina was impossible. The bike driver weaved through the cars and eventually we made it to the marina.

It was ridiculously busy with people.

I was offered 20 quid for a 4 hour boat ride. 20quid! No thank you! I walked away and asked some people with rucksacks how much they had paid. They were not in good spirits. They had arrived the afternoon before and got the last ferry to Cat Ba Island (in the middle of Ha Long Bay). The only problem was that there were no hotels with vacancies on the island, and because there were no ferries to the mainland till the next morning, they ended up sleeping in a door way! And they told me they weren't the only ones! I had contemplated getting the ferry to Cat Ba and spending the night there rather than in Halong City, but when I heard that I instantly decided that I would stay in Halong City. Then the same people told me that because of the public holiday all the hotels had put up there prices to minimum 30 dollars a night. And that was the cheap places as well!

I couldn't believe I'd picked the busiest day in the world to visit Halong Bay.

Not sure of where I would be spending the night I haggled a 4 hour boat tour down to 16quid and jumped on.

Please remember that trhough all of this I have my big back pack in tow as well!

I fancied a bite to eat, I had only had a bag of crisps, but there was no time for me to get food as I was pushed on to my boat.

I put my bag down nice and safe and got chatting to a Canadian guy who was on a day trip for $35. He affirmed everything I'd heard so far about ridiuclously priced hotels in Halong City. But he was going back to Hanoi that evening on the coach. This put another idea into my head, may be I should go back to Hanoi after the boat trip and try and stoway on his coach! Sorted, there was my plan!

But then I realised that If I went to Hanoi I would miss out on Ninh Binh. I asked the guide on the boat if there was a bus to Ninh Binh from Halong City, he said there was but he wasn't sure on times.

Ninh Binh isn't really a place that attracts locals so it was a good option as the hotels wouldn't be super expensive like they were in Halong City. Once again I had a plan. After my boat tour I would go to the bus station, jump on a bus to Ninh Binh, arrive there at about 10pm and then spend the following day there before going back to explore Hanoi. Sorted.

I tried to get some food on the boat, but because I hadn't prebooked there was no food for the taking. I 'satisfied'my rumbling tummy with a can of 7Up.

(I'll write another post about the boat trip separately!)

So the boat returned to the marina and I darted to the bus stop as quickly as a hungry person could. The kind lady told me that the last bus to Ninh Binh left 5 hours earlier! What! Waht sort of service is that. I panicked, I was stranded in Halong City with nothing but over priced rooms! Arggh! There were still buses in the bus station so I asked where they were going... Hanoi in two minutes! So, I jumped back on the bus to Hanoi without time to even grab something to eat! Three hours later I was back where I started 15 hours before!

I went into the city and found a bed for $3 and a packet of crisps for 5000 dong. I went straight to bed absolutely exhausted.

The moral of this story is "it doesn't pay to be indecsive in Vietnam on a bank holiday weekend when prices are hiked up!"

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