When we realised that the hostel we were staying in was going to charge $200 for a trip around Halong Bay we decided to look elsewhere. Sure enough, we walked 5 mins down the road and came across an agency that books on your behalf. When we were quoted $40 each for a full day including pick-up, collection, lunch and an English-speaking tour guide we signed up.
Unfortunately, the weather was rubbish. It was wet and misty when we arrived and the whole tour things was just badly organized – essentially some people paid $200 and had the same experience as us so we’re glad we found somewhere cheaper at least.
The tour was supposed to be approx four hours sailing around the bay with the opportunity for kayaking, lunch and then to see inside a cave.
We didn’t opt for the kayaking and we soon realised that this was supposedly the main event we spent about 45 mins watching tourists hand over $5 a head to go round in a circle beside our boat, meanwhile there was nothing for us to do except enjoy the view.
Thankfully, the cave was pretty cool. You can walk all the way up, through and back down again in just under 40 mins. It was lit up with coloured lights to give it a disco feel we didn’t think it needed but it was cool seeing all of the rock formations.
All in all Halong Bay is one of those places you “must see” and if the weather had been good it would have been better, but I’m not sure the tours that are on offer are worth the money that some people were paying.
After Halong Bay we still hadn’t heard any news from the school so we decided to get out of the city and so we took a train south to a place called Vinh – which according to wiki travel is a drab and uninteresting place, but we took a taxi to the coast and stayed at Cua Lo resort – where we were told lots of tourists flock to the beach there from Hanoi in summer but we were at the end of the low season so there weren’t many people around.
Our first night in Cua Lo we actually spent inside a hotel different to the one I had booked as both the taxi driver and the hotel receptionist said that we were in the right hotel but we weren’t – I found this out after using google maps on my Kindle at 9pm.
However the staff didn’t speak a word of English and we appeared to be the only guests, they were very smiley and giggled every time they saw us as they weren’t sure what to say.
After we found our actual hotel we realised that the receptionist spoke very good English and after having explained what happened he didn’t charge us for the previous night. He was a nice man and he took us around Vinh and Cua Lo in the company car acting as a personal guide. Basically we were again the only guests at this quite large hotel and so the staff would let us know when they were going to get food because they’d be locking up the hotel, lol.
The beach at Cua Lo reminded me a lot of Dawlish Warren – same colour sand, quite a long, wide beach and because it was low season there weren’t a lot of people about.
Our guide from the hotel took us to see a few of the features around Vinh including the Uncle Ho fatherland and motherland, also to a temple that looks down on the city and to various coffee houses where the coffee is incredibly strong and it has a layer of condensed milk and sugar at the bottom that you mix in to make it sweeter.
Cua Lo was a nice relaxing escape from Hanoi and HCMC and the locals were really friendly wanting to have their photo taken with us and saying hello in the street, but it’s not really set up for western tourists (at least not yet) and you’d need transport to see the things we did, so we were lucky that our hotel offered this service. Still, it was nice to just sit by the sea and catch up on reading for a week.
After we left Cua Lo by train again to Hanoi and then flew out to Bangkok as we’d heard that the school documents would be ready for delivery. After a week of waiting in Bangkok we were finally able to get on a plane to Kunming.