If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
If someone had told me five years ago that I would be in Vietnam right now- in the middle of World Famous Halong Bay– cruising on a beautiful boat with the love of my life- I probably would have smiled and said “Yeah right, that sounds too good to be true!” Well, here I am and it is in fact happening. I love thinking about life like that. These precious moments that you never would have predicted, are suddenly occurring in an absolute bliss. In this moment, your only worry and stress is Time itself. Lets face it, time always goes by too fast in the moments we need it most. My resolution for that is photos- of course. What better way to relive a moment and make it truly last forever- then a “Kodak” moment? Sometimes I think (and I know Patrick does) I take too many photos, but then again you can’t have too many memories can you?
After checking out of our rooms and saying our goodbyes to the boat crew, we hopped aboard the small boat from yesterday. Eventually we docked at Cát Bà Island where we were welcomed by the local purveyors selling water and cold drinks. It continues to blow my mind how much clothing the locals wear on a daily basis. Hats, long sleeves, jackets, gloves, socks, pants, face masks…. anything to cover up every inch of their skin. I also found it fascinatingly crazy that they didn’t break a sweat because they are simply used to it. Until now that is. As one of the women selling beverages continued to entice us with her cold water bottles, I couldn’t help but sneak a peek down her face mask when I got the chance. This woman covered from head to toe in clothing, was literally drenched in sweat (that sounds like such an obvious statement, I know) but honestly this is the first local I have witnessed breaking a sweat. THAT is how bloody hot it was. I’m convinced it got hotter as each day passed.
Now the reason I call this an “expedition” to Monkey Island is simply because it was an ass backwards journey that made zero sense to anyone. So the journey officially began on our overnight ship to the middle of Halong Bay. We then took a small boat to Cát Bà Island where we boarded a giant old bus, drove to the other side of the island, where we boarded another boat to take us to Monkey Island. Three boats to get to the island? Weird…. Very weird. I, along with everyone else, naturally assumed our “Monkey Island ship” would be delivering us to Monkey Island itself. Guess we were all very wrong! The final boat taking us to the island was like a roller coaster that made me incredibly sea sick. Once I puked my guts out, we checked into our lovely bungalow cabin for the night at Monkey Island Resort! This truly authentic little cabin was absolutely incredible. The doors were like giant swinging barn doors. You can padlock them on the outside, or lock the inside by placing a giant stick across the doors. The bed had a giant mosquito net, a tiny little bathroom, and of course a giant old fan- because of course the air conditioner only works past 9- yet again! Welcome to the “rustic” island life!
After everyone checked into their “rooms”, we enjoyed another buffet lunch (it’s kind of a good thing food doesn’t stay in my stomach. I would come back as a whale at this point!) Patrick and I finally had a table to ourselves. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty relieved to have some space from the group. Neither one of us can handle that much oestrogen in small spaces. As Patty and I were enjoying our lunch, everyone started pointing and running near a staircase. Low and behold, a wild monkey was trying to steal one of the guys souvenirs. Eventually he dropped it and then scurried over to OUR table of food. Instead of helping himself to this gourmet lunch, he grabbed my can of sprite and scampered away. Perched near another table, he poured this drink into his tiny mouth as though it were the most sacred wine anyone could buy. He was so excited while pouring it that half the can spilled, but that didn’t stop him. He licked that delicacy up until nothing was left. It was hilarious!! One of the employees scared him off, so he swung away. Even thought these monkeys are incredibly cute and adorable, apparently they are extremely dangerous. One bite from them and it can kill you. Yikes! When I asked the bartender (while still laughing) if I could have a new sprite, she didn’t find it funny at all, but she gave me a new sprite. haha. When everyone finished their lunch, our fat asses were still going. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the monkey had returned to the dining area, and then quickly disappeared again. I was very cautious because I assumed he would be dying for another sprite. Next thing I know, I look down and he is literally sitting right next to my leg, smiling up at me very mischievously. I instantly jumped out of my chair squealing “Holy shit!!!!” and grabbed the sprite. Another employee ran over and chased him away. Lucky for him, we were done with our lunch now. HAHA. Quite an eventful lunch!
When I say this island is small, I mean it is SMALL. You can literally walk/climb to the other side of it in about 10 minutes. We did just that with the help of our tour guide. There isn’t much to the other side except for a little shack to buy drinks and a beach for swimming. Quite a few tourist boats were here for a pit stop. We came here with the intent of finding more monkeys to photograph. Low and behold, the monkeys were hanging around the outdoor bathrooms. Apparently you are meant to pay for these bathrooms, but I waltzed right through and started taking pictures. The man collecting the money was pissed at me, but whatever. These precious monkeys were so adorable!
We spent the remainder of the day laying out on beach lounges. Honestly there wasn’t much else to do! Right before sunset, we climbed this giant staircase that takes you to a tower at the top of the island. Picture perfect place for a sunset…. and everyone else thought so too. This tiny tower already had 10 of us inside, with more people making their way up. It was crowded and a bit nerve-wracking because I kept visualising the whole tower toppling down to the rocky ocean below, but BESIDES that…… it was an incredible sunset! 🙂
Another buffet dinner consisting of lots of seafood (including fresh grilled oysters) which I could NOT be bothered eating. I am truly a sucker for oysters…. I LOVE them, but imagining them coming from that nasty dirty water we swam in yesterday, completely made my stomach churn. Everyone else was filling their plates and devouring them. UGH. I never thought I would say this, but I think my tummy is buffet’d out now. After dinner we waddled our very full selves to the beach where we laid under the stars with the cool ocean breeze to cool down our burning skin. The stars were absolutely surreal out here. I didn’t want this moment to end. Just like Phong Nha, I tried so hard to stay awake and make every single last minute count, but my eyes were burning with exhaustion. I couldn’t fight it any longer…. and either could my sweet snoring prince lying next to me. 🙂
Buffet breakfast, bags packed, checked out of our cute little cabin, and patiently waited for our tour guide. We were the only ones leaving today because the rest of our group had one more day here. I was completely ok with that! By 7:30 our guide walked us to the dock and said he was staying behind. We were a bit confused.. “You’re our guide, how are we supposed to get back?” “Oh you be fine. This man help you! Bye!” Wow, ok. Another DONG we have here. This day in particular would consist of nothing but TRAVEL. We were completely dreading it, but it had to be done. We needed to get back to Hanoi, catch a taxi to the airport and catch a flight to Da Nang. Our “new” guide was very helpful compared to the guy that just ditched us. When we told him our plan, he said “Why don’t you fly out of the airport here?” Wait, what? there’s an airport HERE?? Of course Patrick was SO keen for this idea, so he tried persuading the guy to call the airport and switch our tickets around, but he said it was too late. We should have had our other guide help us yesterday. Well, that would have been good to know!! This day was such a crazy transportation adventure. The roller-coaster boat ride back to Cát Bà Island, hopped in a van full of random and very chatty girls to the other side of the island, climbed into a speedboat that delivered us to the main ship, ate our last buffet lunch on the ship where we originally slept on 2 days ago, boarded a 2.5 hour bus back to Hanoi, got dropped off in the middle of nowhere, hopped in a sketchy taxi to the airport, boarded another bus to the airplane and eventually made it on the plane and THEN caught another taxi to our guesthouse for the night. Geeze… I’m tired just typing that out! We made it to the airport 5 hours early in hope to get an earlier flight, but that was a no go. They delayed our flight 4 different times, which was confusing because no one would tell us what was going on. Nothing was in English, children were running like wild chickens every which way, one screen said our flight was boarding while the actual gate continued to say “Delayed” as each hour passed. We were so fed up at this point. The staff were so rude and refused to try and help us. We FINALLY made it on the plane at midnight, arrived to Da Nang after 1, and landed at the guesthouse after 2 a.m. where the sweet hostess patiently was waiting to greet us. Bless her heart!! She showed us to our room and we completely died on the bed. I needed a shower so badly, but I had no energy left in me. We had literally be in “transit” for the past 18 hours. I have never taken so many different types of transportation in one day! Safe to say we crashed into sleep very, very hard. Only to awake at 6:30 for another adventurous day ahead of us.
Three more days….. only three more days…. Ah I was truly depressed just thinking about it. On the other hand, I was ridiculously ecstatic for our next and final destination: Hoi An! I have heard nothing but AMAZING things about this place. Not only that, but this is where the full moon lantern festival will be taking place- the main reason we decided on Vietnam over anywhere else. Get ready for a breathtaking place with so much to offer.
Overall, would I recommend Halong Bay? Of course I do! It’s extremely touristy and overpriced, but it is a great experience. I would probably recommend sticking to a 1 or 2 night tour on a better boat. Pay a little more and get a little more. As for Monkey Island, I am very happy we came here. It was a great experience but I probably wouldn’t do it again. The island and resort itself has a lot of potential, but right now it’s like the red headed step child. It just needs some love and attention to offer its full potential. It’s been a bit neglected, staff are not very pleasant, it’s extremely dirty, and there’s not much to do here.
Thanks for reading!