After our hike in Sapa, we planned to chill out on a two-day boat cruise in the beautiful Halong Bay. But fate wasn’t on our side…
Off to Halong Bay! Or not?
After we got back with the sleeper bus from Sapa at 5 am, we had a few hours to kill before a shuttle was supposed to pick us up and bring us to our cruise in the Halong Bay.
We had a quick breakfast, another coffee and then desperately tried to stay awake until the shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 8 am. At 8:15 am, we were still happy. At 8:30 am, we were starting to feel a bit worried. At 8:45 am, we called the travel agency – they promised to call the driver and ask. At 9 am, we started to get annoyed. At 9:15 am the shuttle arrived and picked us up. Only to cruise around town for another 30 minutes, picking up even more travelers. The shuttle was cramped with tourists and a tour guide trying desperately to entertain us. Around 10 am, we finally left towards Halong Bay – it is nearly a 4h drive. We tried to stay positive (and awake).
None Shall Stay!
About 15 minutes before we arrived, our tourguide dropped the bomb. He informed us, that our cruise was canceled due to a tropical depression (a kind of thunderstorm). No tourists were allowed to stay on the boats overnight. He gave us two choices: Either we return right away and they would give us a full refund or we switch to a one-day cruise and get around 50% refund. We were given 5 minutes to decide.
I don’t know when the tour guide was informed of the situation, but given the choice of spending 4h in a bus, only to spend another 4h in a bus – right after a night in another bus – didn’t sound like an option to us. And given 5 minutes to decide significantly worsened our mood.
So we decided to do the one-day-cruise. It felt rushed and wasn’t really worth the money. Also, we were scrambling a bit to organize a decent hotel for the night in Hanoi and dealing with the general frustration of the situation.
To cut it short, Halong Bay was still beautiful. Even though the tour was a bit too expensive and we had trouble really enjoying the day. We got back to Hanoi around 22:00, a bit disappointed, super tired and hungry. We checked in to our hotel and then drowned our frustration in some really nice craft beer and an amazing craft cider. A happy ending to a long long day…
Slack time in Hanoi
The next day, life looked a lot brighter. Halong Bay was supposed to be our last highlight in Vietnam before we moved on to Laos. Now we had gained another full day in Hanoi. No need to rush anything, we could just approach Hanoi slow and relaxed.
Somehow we never got into the mood for proper sightseeing in Hanoi, so we ended up just strolling around, finding good coffee, food and beer places. After a good breakfast in our ad-hoc hotel, we moved over to a nice Airbnb apartment.
The apartment was well equipped, so we were able to cook coffee in the morning and had the ability to wash all our clothes without giving them to a shady laundry service – what a luxury way of living. That gave me the opportunity to wear my newly tailored skirt for the first time. It was a weird sensation, to wear something different than I did in the last three month.
Hanoi Daily Life
We managed to find the only boulder gym in Hanoi, which turned out to be pretty well hidden. It was a lot of fun and showed us how pampered we are with the variety of very good boulder gyms in Berlin. Mo had a lot of fun taunting me with the fact that for the first time, my height is not an excuse for failing a boulder problem. I was half a head taller than all the guys climbing there.
On one evening we met our hiking friends (who had just returned from Cat Ba) for a Bia Hoi and some Hotpot. It was a nice feeling to have an appointment with friends for some food in a foreign city.
On another evening we enjoyed our first pizza since we left Berlin… even though the Pizza was super delicious – I really miss our pizza stone and our favorite pizza places in Berlin.
On our last day, we left by plane to Luang Prabang in Laos – but not before buying the biggest piece of cake I’ve ever seen (Mo ate two-thirds of a similar cake in Kuala Lumpur before I had a chance to see it).
Bye Bye Vietnam
Time is running so fast. Our days in Hanoi were a bit turbulent, nonetheless unique and – after all – very pleasant and memorable.
We spent 29 days in Vietnam and it felt like just scratching the surface of this country. We loved the food, coffee, people and nature. However, especially in the touristic areas, we sometimes got the impression that the people are more keen on getting another positive trip advisor review than having a chat with some interested, traveling couple. This didn’t ruin our time, but it left some memories feel more shallow than we previously experienced.