Today we had to leave the hotel, pack an overnight bag and head down to Ha Long Bay for our cruise. Well, that was the original plan. Unfortunately, the weather patterns for the next 12-24hrs showed us that a cyclone would be traveling from the ocean and hit Ha Long bay at some stage in the night. During these circumstances, the government is very strict about whether boats are allowed in the bay or not and in this case, they weren't. The reason for these strict protocols is due to 2 boats sinking in the bay in recent weeks.
Despite the sad realisation that we weren't going out in the bay today, we still took the 3.5hr drive down to Ha Long bay. The city had an eerie feeling about it. Firstly, there were hardly any people or cars around. Secondly, the dense haze covering the bay was not pollution related but actually from water vapour and made it look quite spooky! It was still a spectacular site to behold but it would have been better to be out amongst the rock formations rather than observing from the shoreline.
James and our local tour guide Quarn, were brilliant at rearranging our schedule. They managed to book a few tables at a restaurant for lunch that was fully catered for. All we needed to buy was the occasional drink. One of the contiki crew, Juliano disliked the restaurant as their air-conditioning was making his throat sore so our napkins went to good use.. Plus it was freezing!
We were given the choice of whether to go the beach (or lack thereof) for the afternoon or retreat to the hotel. Emma and I decided to stay back. The hotel pamphlet stated that they had a pool table on the 3rd floor. On inspection, the 3rd floor was completely vacant. Also in the pamphlet, the 2nd floor stated it had massages. When we went for a look, that too was deserted except for a tiny light up sign with ‘MASSAGE’ above the door. Ended up taking a nap in our room and listening to music.
Dinner was on this island that was made from reclaimed land. It was supposed to be the next up-and-coming villa and resort island. Only until they built a few hotels, a driving range, an outdoor theatre, a harbour and well over 100 houses did they realise that people weren't interested in buying properties due to it being too far out from the city centre. Thus, the majority of the island is a ghost town of finished and half-finished houses. Our restaurant for dinner overlooked the deserted harbour. Nice food though!!
Back at the hotel we all got ready for our pirate party by cutting up clothes we bought in Hanoi and drawing on scars and tattoos. We walked to a karaoke bar James had booked earlier in the day and had organised our own room with BYO alcohol or you could buy drinks are a very cheap price. It was a great, fun night had by all. We eventually put some Western songs on and just danced.