Halong Bay take 2
It's a 30 minute walk from the hotel to the bus station at Leung yun, south of the old quarter, I checked that out yesterday. In the absence of any kind of time table, it's probably a fair assumption there will be a bus on the hour, or thereabouts. Scoffing down eggs and coffee at lightning speed, I should be able to make the station a bit before 8 - time to get a ticket and find the bus hopefully.
7.45 and the bus for Halong City is the first in the line up, and the engine is running. Ticket is purchased on board the desk staff tell me, and the price is 90,000 about 4 1/2 dollars. Finally get going at 9.15 after about 45 minutes of pickups. Soon evident that the bus is at capacity, and still more passengers are picked up. 3 to a seat for 2 in some cases and stools all the way along the isle to the front door. Just when there couldn't be room for anymore, the bus stops and on jumps a few more locals.
A pit stop as usual, and convinced my seat might be hijacked I kept a watchful eye on the comings and goings whilst others were having their noodles. Back on the bus and in my original seat. Another 2 hours and should be in Halong. The weather is overcast, misty but not as bad as the first attempt. It's warm at least and there is a breeze so I'm more hopeful of a successful trip around the bay, with better visibility this time.
Bus drops opposite a station just approaching the main town. 3 of us disembark and are quizzed by taxi drivers. We all are heading to the tourist quay so agree to share a taxi. 10 minutes and the trip costs 38,000, about £1.65. The place is busy, full of tourists mostly groups on organised tours. Boats are constantly loading and unloading passengers. From last experience here, I know that a 4$ ticket is required before anything else. I'm told this is an entrance ticket which gets access onto the quayside and also into a cave. Next, a boat ticket and soon I'm approached by a few touts as I'm obviously looking lost! According to a price guide on the office wall, a boat should cost $15 per hour, upto 4 hours. 1 settle on 15 us$, but not before a chap tried to sell me a ticket for 39 us$!
The boat is quite decent, better than last time with cushions for added comfort. Only five of us tourists on board as the boat sets sail, just after 1.10pm. Me and a Korean family settle down and wait for some scenery to appear through the mist. Scenery did emerge, and quite spectacularly as a shadowy outline soon became a mountainous island. We're getting off here, 40 minutes to explore and clamber up the hillside. Actually there are steps leading to what can only be described as something amazing. A huge cave, takes about 20 minutes to get around taking in the awesome structure.
Back on the boat and it's 3 hours of sailing in between giant rocks protruding vertically, island mountains and various smaller structures. It's a sight to behold, as the boat meanders around Halong bay.
Back on land at 4pm. Before getting transport to the out of town bus station, might be worth asking if any buses are going from here. Yes, there is a seat on a tour bus for 6 us$ getting back directly to the old quarter. It's a long day as the bus pulls up at the lake 9pm, but well worth the effort.
Pictures will tell a better story, so as soon as I have strong enough wifi, I will upload a few to this blog. Or if you cant wait, Google Halong bay and see others photos.