Ha Long Bay Castaways Tour, Vietnam

After eventually getting to my Hanoi hostel I waded through the hoards of partiers in the foyer, packed my small bag for the trip to Ha Long bay, updated my Nha Trang blog, and crashed into bed. The noise from downstairs was still wafting up loud and clear to the room, until at 11pm it suddenly stopped completely. It turns out there is a curfew at 11, at which point people go to the bar across the road.

I woke up bright and early at 7am to board the bus of 40 or so people heading to Ha Long bay on the three day Castaways tour. Only six were from my hostel: the others were all staying at the original hostel, and 15 of them were a Dutch group travelling after their study tour. The bus trip was four hours, halfway during which we stopped for 25 minutes at a pottery place for food and snacks. I napped pretty much this whole bus trip with two seats to myself.

When we finally boarded the boat, we were served a large and filling Vietnamese buffet for lunch. We then proceeded to cruise in Ha Long bay for about four hours, hanging out on the deck and listening to music. We reached the privately owned Castaways island (the only section of which is inhabited is the beach part we stay on) at about 5pm, and were greeted by the group before us who made us do a crazy initiation. The rest of the evening proceeded in general partying: I particularly enjoyed the company of the previous group which included a friendly Australian and some Torontonians. We slept in basic huts with mosquito nets over the mattresses, and I was the only one who had brought a pillow because I had been tipped off in Nha Trang.

The next day was basically spent hanging on the beach. We were able to kayak any time we wanted, but I never got around to it. I did try tubing straight away though: everyone else loved this but it was a high speed, dangerous water sport where you are pulled along by a speedboat at great speeds, holding on to a floating device superman-style while they try to through you off. We didn’t actually realise they are trying to throw you off, so the four of us were holding on for dear life. I was seriously afraid of injury as we got flung around and into each other until we were finally tossed off. At this point I refused to continue and they had to let me come onto the motor boat. Apparently they don’t usually allow this! After that I didn’t participate in the rock climbing, wakeboarding (apparently too hard if you haven’t done it before) but just sat on the sand with most others.

The next group arrived at about 5pm – but they were only a group of five We made them do a silly initiation involving kayaking to a pontoon and running to a hole in the beach before we all had dinner (far too long after lunch!). That night the plankton were luminescent when you pushed the water – I’m sure they hadn’t been the night before. I wasn’t really in much of a mood to party this night though, despite the friendly Dutch and Brazilians: I think this trip had been hyped up too much by others I had met on the way who had done it and I was not having the time of my life as promised. The next day I did some awesome power sleeping for basically the entire eight hour boat and bus trip back to Hanoi.

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