Vietnam – Ha Long Bay

I have just added up the stamps and visas in my passport and count 304.   My passport is just approaching 5 years old.  That’s a lot of travel.

So you would think that having traveled as much as I have – I would be more tolerant of the ‘behavior’ of others.  Or at least be used to it enough that I don’t even notice it?

Wrong.  Each time I travel, I am filled with rage and hatred.  I know you think there must be something wrong with me, and you’d be right.  My problem is I am not a revolting fucking pig.   Believe it or not, (and you should) – I am extremely polite when traveling.  When speaking with airport staff, hotel staff, chauffeurs, Concierges waitresses and chefs. – I am extremely polite and courteous.   You have to be as these people ultimately can ruin your experience.   Just think about that one for a minute.

My travel is more often than not a good experience.  The thing that spoils my experience is other people.  Other people, morons, assholes, tossers, scumbags, pigs, riff-raff and plain smelly bastards.

Which brings me to my trip to Vietnam recently…..

Many people have suggested Vietnam to me, so have wanted to go for a while now.   I contacted the Internet to see what they had to say.   After a few clicks I saw some amazing pictures.  Ha Long Bay.  Wow.    I started searching on a hotel with fantastic views… voila… those people at the Internet provided me with the name of a hotel with a suite overlooking the ‘Bay’ all for about $300 per night.  Very nice I said to myself.  Looking at the pictures, I could even see some little islands from the balcony.  I was excited if I do say so myself.

For a little more confirmation I visited Trip Advisor Liar.  Glowing reports.    Not too shabby for Graham.

When I landed at Hanoi airport – I instantly thought the pilot had landed in the wrong place.  I was sure I was now in Beijing.

I was on holiday – I wasn’t going to let a big crown of flag following people piss me off.  Even if they were pushing past me and shouting at the tops of their voices.   Breathe in… Breath out… it won’t be long until I am in the car and off to my luxury hotel suite.

The 2.5 hour drive from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay has to be one of the most boring drives ever.  Long straight roads.  Nothing to see.  Not much traffic.

When I got to the hotel, my first impression was that my driver took a wrong turning and took me to Shanghai.    The place was packed with Chinese.

Check-in was pleasant enough – and the room I had was on the top floor.  There were not many people on the top floor – as not many people in the hotel were tall enough to reach the top button.  Bearing in mind I am borderline midget.

It was a long day, I just want to sit on the balcony, order up some room service and have a nice drink overlooking the bay.

Note to self… never believe anything the internet tells you.

Nice enough suite – but tiny balcony (no outdoor furniture) and the view of the islands really needed the help of telescope.   Those people at the Internet and Trip Liar have some kind of deal going on with Photoshop.   It’s all one big scam.

Room with a view….

I’ll not give you the full daily itinerary – as that’ll just piss me off even more.  I’ll just note down the main events which you can then take pleasure from my misery.

First of all, let me just point out (as I’ve said previously) I work alongside many Chinese folk. Some fantastic Engineers.  One of my circles of friends is a group of Chinese who I have had many great times with.  My good pal Russ is married to a Chinese girl and we are close enough that I was trusted to teach their 2 year old daughter how to stick her middle finger up at people in restaurants.  O.k… Maybe they didn’t want me to teach her that, but I thought it was funny.

Breakfast – or better described as Feeding time at the Zoo.

The first thing that struck me was many, many of our little Chinese fellow guests were all wearing the Hotel slippers.  I find that odd.  I thought they were wearing when you get out of the shower/bath, so you don’t slip on the marble floor and split your head open.  Resulting in lots of paperwork for the hotel.

But no, they are indeed a fashion accessory and an acceptable item of footwear for walking around the whole hotel whenever you like.  O.k… Understood.

The second thing that struck me – is that my new friends appear to be very hungry in the mornings.   So much so, that they don’t have time to queue at the ‘egg station’.  Oh no, they have to push past you to get their order of 25 eggs in.  They may even eat a couple of them.

As per usual, I was very polite to the young girl at the restaurant reception desk.  She led us to our table for 2.     There were about 3 tables for 2.   There would have been more, but we could see that lots of tables has been pushed together.   Probably to get the full overcrowded prison experience.

Breakfast was mayhem.  Complete chaos.   Our little friends don’t shut up.  They don’t talk, they shout.  They also don’t let eating get in the way of shouting either.  It’s actually quite impressive to see how many croissants they can stuff in their mouths and spray across the table whilst not slowing down in their morning shout.

What was more impressive was how much food they stacked on their plate – was left over.  Even after they had filled their handbags and pockets with bread rolls, hams and noodly type things.

They’d then abandon a table which was almost immediately set upon by another gaggle of my new friends who then demanded the poor waitress girls cleaned all the croissant debris immediately.

And what’s with the sneezing over everyone? I remember from being a kid ‘Coughs and sneezes, spreads diseases’! These people were just spraying their mucus all over the place. No covering of the nose.. just point and aim. Revolting.

Now, I don’t have kids, so maybe I am being a little ‘over-pedantic’ here – but is it acceptable to let all your Ferrell bloody monsters to just run around the place, shouting, screaming, fighting, biting, crying, farting and generally pissing me off?     Is this normal?   I would like to point out that I was the only Western person there.  And I am guessing the only person who didn’t have a horrible bloody kid with me also.  This is probably why not one parent asked their little shits to shut the fuck up, sit down and eat the food that the hotel has been preparing for you hours before you had chance to put on your hotel slippers.

The staff were amazing. Demand after demand, the staff carried out all duties with a smile.  I couldn’t do that.  If you were to offer me $10k per month on top of my regular salary, to do that job, I’d tell you to poke it.

Daytime activities

Easy one this.  There are none.   There is nothing to do in Ha Long Bay except get on a boat and go for an overnight cruise.  More on that later.

We walked into the ‘town’.   Which we never found.  The beach opposite was literally a building site.  We found no shops to mooch around in   There was a row of street restaurants and crap bars which had music blaring out at an incredibly loud volume.  Why?  There was no way you could talk or hear anyone there.  Which as bad as that sounds, I think I’d have preferred breakfasts at our hotel to have the same approach.

Hours of searching turned up nothing.   We did spy a Cable car which ran parallel to a massive bridge – it went somewhere.  It must go somewhere interesting as there is a massive queue for it.

We queued.    Eventually we got on board and I was surrounded by people taking selfies with their Huawei phones whilst I stood behind some guy holding a flag.   So this is what it’s like to be in a Chinese Tour group?

They all clapped and cheered when the cable car took off… and once again when the car arrived at its destination.    The destination being some kind of Zen Garden.  Or as I call it ‘a load of shit’.

We spent the next 30 mines looking for an exit.  Trying to avoid falling over little Chinese girls having their photos taken… whilst pulling faces in the background of as many photos as possible.

Couldn’t find the exit.   Back to the cable car to get us the hell out of there.  What a waste of time and money.

Back to the hotel to drown our sorrows at the bar.

We completed the entire drinks menu

Most evenings were spent in the bar.  There was nothing else to do.  Unfortunately, many times we were joined in the bar by the ‘other’ hotel guests.     Now, everyone is different I know that.  But for me, a bar is a place to have a drink and a chat… or maybe even read a few chapters on your kindle and relax.

Oh no….   there are so many other things to do.   For starters, you can take a seat on the sofas… remove your shoes and socks and put your stinky wet sweaty feet all over them.

Then, when you are comfy enough – you can open up your WeeYap app and watch movie clips.  Not before you turn the volume up full on your Huawei that is.    Order a drink?  Noo…..  no need.  You can just drink the water provided by the hotel or one of the juices you’ve stolen from the breakfast bar.

We decided to head for boat cruise.  Overnight.     After a recommendation from a pal – off we headed to book.  We thought we’d actually go to the ‘port’ and have a look round first, as we couldn’t trust anything the Internet had to say.

We used Grab taxi to get us there.  140k dong.  Fine.   Found a Cruise and booked it for the day after the next.   Called up Grab taxi to take us back to the hotel.  Within minutes, a taxi pulled up and in we got.  The App said it was 140k but the driver waved a receipt in our faces saying he was charged 30k to enter the port to come and pick us up.  (it took him 2 mins to reach us – which told us he was already in the port).  Odd, as we never saw anyone getting charged when we came to the Port 30 minutes earlier.  Hmmm.. a scam me things.   Now, 30k might only be a quid so why care?   It’s the principle.  We gave the driver on the way in 200k… which is what we’d have given this guy if he hadn’t tried to scam us.

When we pulled up at the hotel, he asked for the extra 30k.  I asked for the receipt.  As I was paying the charge – then that paper is now mine (and he can’t use that again).  He started talking gibberish and I kept insisting to see the receipt.     As this was going on, the hotel staff saw and opened the door and asked me if I wanted any assistance.  I said I was fine and was just dealing with a scamming little bastard.

He promptly gave us our change from the 200k note and off he went.    I gave the change to the door staff as I walked by.

Weather – Crap.

It was cloudy and overcast.    The hotel staff kept telling us that it’s not normal for this time of year.  It should be sunny and clear.  But oh no.. it was dark and wet.  I guess that’s global warming for you?

Boat Trip

Luckily when we turned up for the boat trip – the sky was blue and bright. Sun was shining.   The other passengers on the boat seemed to all know each other.  I guess they all stay in the same retirement home back in New Zealand.  Pleasant enough people – not that we spoke with any of the old bastards.

According to my pal, the Chinese prefer day trips only on boats and no overnights.  This is because they have paid for their hotels in their package tour.  They’re not about to pay for another hotel (boat) and not use their already paid for hotel.

My pal was right.     There were however a couple of Middle Eastern lads (not sure where they were from?) but the amount of food they put away, I guess they came from, or are going to a Concentration camp.  Filling yourself with that much food surely can’t be good for you?

We went kayaking… we went to some poxy cave (which was rammed with Chinese day-trippers).   Single line walk through of a cave with these little fellas and gals barging past.  I managed to get some elbow digs in, stood on a few feet and even managed trip one person up.    The thing is, this is nothing to an Asian.  They are so use to it – they take it in their stride.

Some poxy cave.

Back on the boat – it was happy hour.  Two for one drinks! What we found odd – was that Happy Hour was for an hour?!    We made light work of that.   Long into the night we kept drinking.   This was the 1st day that was enjoyable of the week.   We were looking forward to the next day – where we visit some beach and go swimming.

Next day… rain.  Lots of it.  Swimming was cancelled due to the rain.  Didn’t want people getting wet now.   We couldn’t stand out on deck – as it was pissing down.   The boat went back to shore but had to ‘park up’ for a few hours as it was unsafe to dock.  So we sat – in misery.  In the rain.  On a boat.  Shite.

Shite weather…again.

When we got back to the hotel – we went straight to the bar.    We did laugh when the barman asked where we’d been the previous night – as we were usually there.

Well, we were there now.   Drink in one hand, iPad in the other.  We had a few days to go but screw this.  I searched for a new flight back to Bangkok.  Thai Airways to the rescue.   Flight the next morning.  Done.

I asked the reception for a driver in the morning. 5am. No problem sir.    Great.    Upstairs, pack our shit, lick our wounds and put this down as a shite holiday – and never to return.

04:30 we checked out.  The receptionist was a little confused as it was a few days early – I just said we have stuff to do.   The driver set off at 5am as requested.    Normally, I’d fall asleep.  But I thought at least one person in the car should stay awake.    The driver was a nightmare.  Yawning, slapping himself in the face, putting his window down… swerving all over the (empty) road.    At one point I was going to ask him if I should drive.

Luckily we made it to the airport without crashing and dying.

Checked in at the airport….  A cheeky Burger King for lunch… (sick of hotel food) and off we went to get on board the plane.    Thinking everything was now fine, I heard that familiar sound of someone clearing a load of phlegm in their throat – and then hoiking out a big ‘greeny’ onto the carpet in the airport.  Sure enough, you can guess what nationality they were?   Revolting fucking pig.

Back to BKK (Beijing)… I had to queue for an hour to get through Immigration but was soon on my way back to HH.

This didn’t even make me mad!

We hit the town that night to reflect back on our week.   We should have still been in Vietnam… watching shite TV in the hotel.   We had made the right choice in abandoning the hotel and flights – and paying for our early return.

The only things I will take away from that whole experience is that the hotel staff, whatever it is they get paid – it’s not enough.

As for the driving – I can only liken the driving to kids/adults Ice-Skating for the very first time.  They kinda have an idea how it’s meant to be done – but have no clue how to actually drive correctly.  If you just go with the theory that every day there is the 1st day these people have ever driven, then you’ll be more understanding.

Vietnam?   Shit.

4 thoughts on “Vietnam – Ha Long Bay”

  1. Fucking “new middle class” Chinese are like locusts. I would buy that hotel just so I could ban Chinese tour groups and their snot hocking fuckheads. I have been to Saigon (HCMC) – not the beach but some decent things to do. Also uncharacteristically decent coffee.

  2. Graham, Always love the blog posts. Great writing style.

    I may just have to go out tonight to Hooters on Soi 4 and see if it is still as bad as indicated.

    Brian

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