11.04.2012 - 14.06.2014
After coming from Indonesia we actually found Hanoi quite quiet, small and relaxed. Many people had warned us that Hanoi was thick with mopeds and it's crazy. We found people drove slower here and it was safer to cross the street compared to Java. It was a nice change of pace. We spent a day walking around the main attractions like the Old Quarter and HCM's Mausoleum (which was closed, go early). and enjoying the cheap beer prices after Indonesia.
After that we decided to take a Halong bay tour. We got a tour for 3days and 2 nights for $67. The cheapest we found after was $53 so shop around. The cheap tour doesn't follow the same exact itinerary as the more expensive ones, the tour guide was a bit rubbish, and you have a lot of free time. But if you just wanna see the sights, do a little hike and don't care about being left to your own devices, then this option is fine. If you want everything planned perfectly and more activities you will have to pay more. The cheap option was fine for us.
The tour started really well, we were cruising through all the little islands, we got to see a cave and the people on the boat were all really nice. However, when we had to wait 40mins for the kayaks and then only had 20mins on them, i knew what kind of tour we were on Some people on the boat had payed more than us so I felt a bit sorry for them.
The first night we stayed in a hotel on Catba island which was nice. There was a festival with fireworks and celebrations happening in the town, but unfortunately we never made it out to them. We had a few drinks in the hotel and ended up just staying there.
The next day we did our hike / trek which was easy but really nice. it had some great views from the top and a questionable tower at the top, which thankfully you weren't allowed climb. The rest of the day was "free-time" until we got a on a different boat at about 7pm. There were new people on this boat who were cool. We slept out on the water this night which was grand. The boat is basically just anchored off the dock and spins in slow circles throughout the night.
The final day we went back to Halong along the same route we came in on, had lunch and went back to Hanoi. Overall i was glad we didn't pay more for the tour but it was a great experience. We were very lucky with the people on the boat.