An early wake up call was a small price to pay for the beauty that is Ha Long Bay. We took a private car four hours from Hanoi to the northeastern shore of Vietnam to sail around the limestone islands for the day.
Most tourists opt to stay overnight on the water. But to be honest, after viewing our ‘luxury cruise’ options online, I decided even a luxury junk boat was not for me (read: Ghost Ship). Regardless, we were able to board one for the day and it was the perfect amount of time (and meals to have eaten at sea) before heading back to the comfort and stellar room service of The Metropole.
The boat trip was about 6 hours long in total. We were able to see all of the floating villages, fishermen and even take a short kayak trip through a cave. We were told some islands are inhabited by monkeys (!), but unfortunately we didn’t spot any despite being on a major monkey hunt the entire time. I imagined them busy in monkey meetings all day discussing the state of their island economy.
Since we weren’t staying overnight, a private boat picked us up to take us back to shore. We stayed on deck the entire 45 minute ride back despite the rather precipitous drop in temperature to take in the beautiful sunset.
The four hour drive back to Hanoi was pretty brutal. Our driver insisted on stopping at a tourist trap rest stop despite our adamant protests. The rest stop consisted of a rather large Vietnamese restaurant, a shop full of Chinese-manufactured Vietnamese tchotchkes and a small grocery store. We couldn’t resist trying chicken feet and krill flavored chips before we convinced the driver to get back on the road. We finally arrived home and instinctively ordered the most American based room service meal possible. Sometimes a girl just needs french fries at the end of a long day.