We went to Halong Bay with the volunteering group for a two-day one-night adventure. About 20 of us left Hanoi at about 8 am and 3 hours later (and a few car sick Vietnamese) we got on a boat and headed off into the bay.
We didn't have the best weather, but the fog and misty rain added an eerie effect to the spectacular scenery of this UNESCO World Heritage site. There are literally thousands of limestone mountains descending out of the water. For a few hours you are completely surrounded on all sides by these mountains and calm blue waters.
Fishing villages in the bay.
Justin and Cuong.
The never-ending card games!
Khai entertains us with his beautiful voice!
On the way to Cat Ba Island, we made a visit to "Surprise" Cave. Which despite it's quite corny name, did surprise us, as it was massive and beautiful.
After a 4-hour cruise on the 2-story wooden boat, we arrived at Cat Ba Island for the night. We checked into our hotel and it was very nice to have our own room and bathroom for one night after living with about 18 people for a week! We then went out to explore the island, but unfortunately, we only had about an hour before dark. Us Americans got wind of a restaurant with a happy hour special and organic (and no MSG) food, so we spent our free hour before dinner to check it out. We were very pleased with our black bean nachos with real guacamole and sour cream!
We all had dinner together and then tried to decide what we would do for the evening. However, with a group this big, it is very difficult to find something that everyone wants to do, so we eventually split up into 2 groups, and we went to a pub to relax, which turned into a karaoke session. There is not a day that goes by in Asia where you don't see, hear or participate in karaoke (However, this was our first time participating, thankfully). The Vietnamese can really sing, and I think they enjoyed showing off their skills. However, the westerners brought down the house with our ear-piercing rendition of "Sweet Caroline". Neil Diamond would have been proud.
After leaving the pub, we were greeted with pumping sounds of techno music pouring out onto the street. A few of the Vietnamese girls were very eager to check it out, so we said, "Why not?" and went in. It was only 10 pm and the dance floor full of energy. We soon realized that what we were dancing to was a techno version of the anthem "Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh". It was hilarious and we busted some moves in honor of "Uncle Ho".
We retired somewhat early (around 11pm) since we had to get up for the ride home the following day. We would have loved to have more time out on the island, but it was great to get a chance to see it. We got home Sunday and got ready for another week of volunteering.