Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Halong Bay, Vietnam: Two Days on the Halong Ginger

After my day in Hanoi, it was time to get out into the up country of Vietnam. I chose a two day cruise on the Halong Ginger (yet another Steve and Janet pick!) and had a great time.
The Halong Bay is positively the most beautiful marine area I’ve seen, other than the Galapagos Islands. One thing they have in common is they are both starting to get run over by tourists. The main difference is there are a lot more rock formations in Halong, but a lot less wildlife. In fact, the only animals we saw were bats, a couple of birds and a few fish. The pictures really tell the story here.
The service on the Ginger was great. The boat has been operational for 14 months and they are planning to build another one, the Halong Jasmine, with more cabins, more luxury and so on. I met Sonny, the managing director of the Ginger, and he is a sharp guy. You can check out their website at http://www.cruisehalong.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1.
There were two random things about my cruise. The first was actually a big problem which was the 15 year old kid who drove me from Hanoi to Halong. He drove about 90MPH the whole way and enjoyed passing when there was oncoming traffic in the opposite lane. We arrived a full hour early and he tried to dump me at the dock, which I refused. Instead I asked to be taken to an internet café where I emailed the tour company and demanded a different driver for the return. Miraculously on Saturday I had a new driver and a much nicer car.
The other oddball event was that I was the only person staying on the boat for two days. Most people go for one day. This meant that after breakfast the second day, I was shuttled onto a boat that was not exactly as nice as the Ginger. I don’t think the bathrooms have been cleaned any time recently. She was called the Huong Hai Junk, which I later learned is not to be confused with the Hoang Hai Junk or the Hoong Hai Junk. There was no AC on the Hong Hai, but luckily there was the East China Sea. I was to spend the whole day with 4 Vietnamese guys + me, one of whom spoke a very little English. It all turned out OK if a bit long - I got to swim, kayak and even eat a gourmet lunch of crab caught just that morning!
I met some very nice folks on the Ginger and everyone was hospitable to this crazy American girl traveling alone.

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