After a quick breakfast at the hostel, I left to meet my boat tour group in town. I signed up for the Full Moon Party boat tour, which takes you from Cat Ba Island through Lan Ha Bay & Ha Long Bay and back.
We got on a mini bus and everyone was in groups or pairs. I got a little intimidated– I felt like I was the only one going solo.
By now I shouldn’t be bothered by groups since I know most people are friendly and open to meeting new people, but it still intimidates me when I’m alone and I’m with a bunch of groups of friends.
I immediately noticed the amount of Spanish-speakers. They talk so fast!! Spanish sounds so different when native people speak it… it’s so musical and pretty. I swear they don’t breathe in between words. They can say paragraphs in one breath.
Our guide, Ryan, was Vietnamese and spoke with a cross between an Australian and Vietnamese accent. The way he said “no” and “guys” and “alright” was very Aussie, but he also had quite a strong Vietnamese accent that made him a bit hard to understand at times.
We got to the harbor and transferred to our boat.
The boat had about 6 big tables. We all started sitting down at different tables, and once again I got all flustered. I didn’t know which one to sit at; I wanted to meet people but also not intrude on their groups. I was definitely overthinking it.
I chose one of the empty tables and then 3 Spanish guys sat with me. They were speaking Spanish so I had no way to contribute to the conversation.
Ryan gave a little overview of what we’re doing on the tour: see the floating fishing village, hike up Monkey Island, kayak, have lunch, then swim in the bay.
We got up on the sun deck to see the floating fishing village. It was really cool to see– there were dozens of floating houses and people going on about their day as fishermen. We even saw dogs on the platforms. I really can’t imagine living in the water like that. It must be so isolating.
I started talking to a girl named Maria. She was from Spain and really easy to chat with.
We got off the boat at Monkey Island and started hiking to the view point. I met Maria’s friend Rebecca along the hike. They are both doctors who just graduated medical school. And it was Rebeca’s birthday!
The climb was ridiculous. There was no path, just rocks, and you basically just hope that you won’t fall off the cliff and die. It was fun for me, but I could tell others were hating it. At one point I dropped my phone on one of the rocks and my screen cracked. Thankfully, it was just my screen protector and not my actual screen that cracked.
I met some more people as we continued to climb: a few were American, plus one Brazilian.
The viewpoint was cool but a bit too small to fit us all (there were about 15 of us).
We all managed to get back down to the beach safely. I was hungry so I bought an apple from the beach cafe. I was really afraid the the monkeys would come attack me because I had just witnessed them steal Oreos from one of the guys.
But I realized that the monkeys won’t know I have food if they don’t see the food, so I just hid it in my jacket and it was fine.
Next up was kayaking through Ha Long Bay. I needed a partner, so I paired up with a Dutch guy who was also solo traveling.
We kayaked to a couple caves and little coves in the bay. It was nice and even a bit challenging.
We got back to the big boat for lunch. There was a surprising number of vegetarian/vegan options: tofu, rice, stir-fried cabbage, and spring rolls. But they DIDN’T HAVE ANY HOT SAUCE. ON THE WHOLE BOAT. WTF. I was a leeeeetle bit annoyed. I mean, how did the boat staff not even have hot sauce??!? I could not comprehend.
We took the boat out to Van Boi Beach, where we were allowed to swim around and snorkel if we wanted. The water was FREEZING, though. Some people started jumping off the deck, but I was terrified because I hate cold water.
After about 10 minutes of internal debate, I decided to just go for it.
I was freezing just standing in my bikini, but I jumped in before I could let myself think about it too much.
OMG it was so cold. Like, it was the coldest water I’ve been in recent memory, if not my whole life. I immediately got back on the boat as soon as I jumped in.
Some others stayed in the water and swam, and some even snorkeled. I really don’t understand how anyone could have snorkeled in that freezing water. I also saw a girl who didn’t even dunk her head in the water and didn’t look cold at all; she was just chilling and wading in the water. Crazy people.
We all dried off and had a little dance party on the deck with Ryan. He is insane and such a good dancer. He was like the energizer bunny– he just kept going and going. I don’t know how he has so much energy day after day. It was like he was on coke or something.
We got back to the harbor around 4 pm.
I walked back to my hostel, showered, and then went back into town to meet Maria and Rebeca for drinks at their hostel.
We ended up sitting with a bunch of the people from the tour since they were all staying at the same hostel. I met the 2 Italian guys named Marco and Gianmarco. Marco was really cute and had those dark & handsome looks (so close to the trifecta of tall dark and handsome… but he wasn’t very tall). His friend was so stereotypically Italian: he had a very Italian mustache and very Italian accent.
We had happy hour beers until 8, by which time we were starving. We went to get food at Mona. It had a nice rooftop area and the food was super cheap. I got veggie pho for 25k ($1) and beer for 20k ($0.90).
We walked back to their hostel and chilled for a bit longer. I got a ride back to my hostel from a girl who, like me, was staying a bit out of town. I really didn’t want to walk 30 minutes in the dark alone so I was really happy that she agreed to take me.