Wednesday morning we were picked up for the 4 hour road trip to Ha Long Bay. We were the only two guests on the 9 person mini-van. The road from Hanoi is under construction. It is a dusty, dirty trip marked by one stop at a government sponsored shop (Ed. note: think one floor of the old downtown Woodwards) where disabled people hand-make things to sell – anything from leather goods to embroidered pictures. Now, we aren’t saying it is overpriced a tad, but here is an example. In Hanoi I bought four little 4” x 6” bags which you can hang around your neck and carry a passport, credit card etc.. The four cost 100,000 VND or $5 US. In the shop 1 (one) was 189,000 VND or $9.50. But it is for a good (?) cause…
We arrived in Ha Long City and were transferred to the ship – the only two guests on the ship for the afternoon. Lunch was served by some of the 18 staff there to respond to our every wish. After lunch we were taken on a tour of the floating fishing villages (Ed. note: Yes, just the two of us). These villages have been there since the early 19th century. There are about 1000 people living on about 400 “houseboats” in 4 different residential communities. They subsist on fishing, pearl farming, “squidding” and tourist dollars. We were told that the government plans on moving them to land in July because it is too dangerous – they have been there through wars, typhoons and gawd knows what else, but suddenly it is too dangerous. Can anyone else say private tourist attraction coming soon? It is outrageous. No one thinks the villagers will be able to survive on land. Water is their way of life.
After the tour we came back to the boat (Ed. note: joined by 7 other interloping guests) for a cooking demonstration (Fried Spring Rolls), Two for One Happy Hour (Ed. note: Figure out the math – at lunch the glasses of wine cost 150,000VND, at the 2 for one, same wine 220,000VND for 2 glasses. Harumph!). After an okay dinner and some bad guitar playing and singing by one of the staff we were off to bed.
However, before we got to bed, there is a knock at the door and Michael our guide is there. He is so clearly inebriated I don’t know how he was able to stand let alone talk or walk. He wants to give us some packets of coffee and a Mozart CD to listen to. Okay… The next morning we tell him that we didn’t have the coffee but thanks and we are going to keep it. There is a blank look on his face and after a good 20 seconds he says that he does not remember doing that. Small wonder. We refer to him as Tattoo. You figure out why.