Tourist traps are the curse of travellers who seek some solitary inspiration. Often, destinations like Ha Long Bay, that have been massively talked up, create a great deal of anticipation and can’t survive the hype. Leaving you disappointed and with the feeling that you wasted valuable time and an unreasonable amount of money.
But then again, these sort of places are famous for a reason and there is always a little bit of truth in all stereotypes. What is more, the curiosity of the true traveller cannot be easily defeated with what could be mere assumptions. We were no exception.
The beauty of modern times is that the internet means you can bypass all the profit hungry travel agents, and once you do your homework you can find the beast deal available. Or at least, what resembles the idea you had in mind, while discovering fresh opinions from other travellers that could benefit you, namely, what you should avoid.
Guide books, travel agencies, and throngs of tourists discouraged us from visiting this wonderful place. The cost seemed to be way higher than what we were willing to pay and the idea of sharing a boat with unknown individuals seemed less than appealing. For a moment we thought of not going anywhere near Ha Long Bay.
What we learned from other blogs is; Unless you spend four digit sums, you will have to share your boat. Drinks will be overpriced. Food will be scarce in boats that charge under USD$80/passenger/night. Activities will be imposed on you, or at least your guide will try.
There are very few places in the world that resemble Ha Long Bay. Nothing I say can possibly do it justice, so I will let Kris’s pictures speak for me. However, some pointers that might help you enjoy a visit are:
- Pay a little more than you initially planned. It will make a difference.
- Do sneak a bottle of Scotch (or two) on the boat and have sneaky sips in between. Drinks on board are 200% compared to land price costs.
- Give fellow travellers a chance. I hate socialising, but then the people we met ended up being all cool and nice and I had to swallow my pride, leave the book aside, and give them the best you can.
- Disregard the over-enthusiastic guide when he orders you to have fun. Just sit back and enjoy the view. Even if the weather is shitty it still has it’s charms.
It’s a beautiful place that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Vietnam. After all it’s Ha Long Bay!