18 June 2012

Rock Long, Rock Hard - Halong

Our little island paradise

For my birthday, I wanted to party.  Plain and simple.  Turning 35 amongst all these young 20-somethings that I travel with makes me feel young and want to celebrate more.  Why grow up (whatever that means)?  I love fun!  One is never too old for fun!  And I love drinking and dancing.  Soooo, after some consideration, I flew up to Hanoi from HCMC and went to my favorite hostel, Hanoi Backpackers Hostel, to book the "Rock Long, Rock Hard" tour to Halong Bay.  It’s reputably a party trip so it was just what I was looking for... along with some kayaking, caving, rock climbing, wake boarding, swimming, and more.  Perfect.

The morning we're supposed to depart, we are told that the police/coast guard have said that there's a hurricane warning and that the boats likely are not allowed to go out into the bay until it cleared up.  However, due to some clever operations on the hostels part (i.e., pay off the officials), we loaded on the bus to Halong Bay and got a move on it.

From our kayaking cove

Upon arrival in Halong, we get on a junk boat in the bay and are told the rules of the three days we're to have together... they're pretty much the party rules that are in place to encourage lots of drinking and/or pushups (why not drink and get a workout at the same time?  Brilliant!).  We have lunch and an hour or so later, then go to a cave, and afterwards went kayaking (my first time!  But not that much different than stand-up paddleboarding) into a very cool cove, then went directly to the island that we were supposed to stay on for the second night only but due to the weather reports, were not allowed to stay on the bay overnight, so got two special nights there.  When we got to our private island, there’s another group already there so we ended up being double the amount of people that typically stay on the island... and let’s just say, when drinking games get that big (approx. 45 people and needing two tables), it gets crazy.  In that one night, I’ve seen more nudity and straight up drunkenness than I’ve seen in A LONG TIME.  This puts that Shasta trip in college in second place officially.  It’s right up there with Oktoberfest and Arthur Day in Dublin... but with even more drunkeness and nudity (not on my part).  I learned some new drinking games (that I likely will never do again - at one point I had to act like a troll underneath a table during it and also had to try and straight arm my drink -- which none of it made it into my mouth, but my nose and eyes sure did have a lovely time trying to drink vodka), made some cool, new friends over foosball along with seeing that the locals that live on the island kick ass at foos!, have witnessed someone shotgunning a beer in 3 seconds flat with not one drip of beer left or spilled, watched bartending bottle flip lessons, saw some bioluminescent plankton while swimming at night, got to meet a super cool gal who was my rock climbing instructor, attempted wake boarding several times but was just too weak after rock climbing to even stand up, met a friend who I connected with who was a lover of life and living it to the fullest, and had razor sharp wit, but mostly I just sat back and enjoyed this little piece of paradise.  I had an absolutely great time despite partying a little too long and too hard (and a great way to reality check me on how quickly I can recover - or not recover - officially in my "mid-30's"), but I'd gladly go back in a heartbeat as there's nothing quite like it.

Inside the caves.  It almost looks like the world is upside down here...
On the way to the island
Inside the cave

Kayaking...

Along the bay...
Chilling on the boat...

Our digs... awful view, huh?
The two sinks in the place.
Water comes out on your feet though... best not to vomit here. 
Our luxurious showers and toilets
Drinking game extraordinaire - 14 different rules not including the four other
general drinking rules of the island.

Close up of a tiny seashell

Close up of another tiny seashell
Somewhere in the bay

My foosball buddies!  They rock the foos!
Scenes from cruising in the bay


Epic...

6 Comments:

At June 21, 2012 at 5:34 PM , Blogger Adam said...

Loving the Blog.

You are inspirational . . . . .

 
At June 23, 2012 at 2:50 AM , Blogger April said...

Thanks Adam!! I'm enjoying the journey... the world is simply too beautiful not to report back on.

 
At September 13, 2012 at 11:49 PM , Blogger Kitsie... said...

Hey April!

I've been debating on whether to go on this cruise or not. I like to drink and dance, but not really into getting wasted anymore. :) Is one required to drink and play the drinking games? Or can I just watch everyone else?:D A friend of mine who I haven't seen in a long time is going, so I want to go. Then again, I'm a bit hesitant because of the price. Thank you!

Kitsie

 
At September 14, 2012 at 7:26 PM , Blogger April said...

Hi Kitsie, One is not required to drink, however it is highly encouraged... and to be quite honest, you might feel uncomfortable because of all of the debauchery and not being a part of it. But keep in mind that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Most everything is done as a group with a similar mindset and even if you're having a casual drink, there are drinking rules for the entirety of the trip that apply to everyone (which include push-ups, pounding drinks, etc). For those that didn't want to participate in drinking games, they were very few and would have to hang out by themselves for the most part. It's a very small island, and by island, I mean small beach with not a whole lot to do at night except drink, play ping-pong, fus-bol, or swim with the bioluminescent plankton even though cool, that gets old.. If I were you, I'd probably skip this particular trip and book something with another tour group as you shouldn't miss out on seeing Halong or spend time on Cat Ba which is pretty spectacular too. There are a ton of tour operators that go out to Halong that are a bit more mellow. While I know you want to spend time with your friend, this may not be the best trip for it if you don't want to participate in drinking as so much of it revolves around it. Hope this helps! And I hope you have a great time with whatever you decide.

 
At June 24, 2013 at 9:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was the best blog i've seen about Halong Bay yet! The pictures you took were awesome too. I went on this trip last year and it was the funnest two nights filled with so many shenanigans and a lot of laughter. We were the unfortunate group who got caught in a typhoon though so on the 2nd night we had to barricade ourselves in the huts with mattresses up against the walls and wait it out, whilst drinking copious amounts of alcohol. I wouldn't change anything about our trip though, it was definitely one of a kind and something I will remember forever! Just thought I'd share :)

 
At June 24, 2013 at 12:28 PM , Blogger April said...

That's a great story! And of course copious amounts of alcohol were consumed! :) But then again, isn't that why we all go anyway (besides to see gorgeous Halong)? Thank you for your kind compliments. I really appreciate it!

 

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