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Friday, November 27, 2009

Welcome to the Hidden Charm of Halong Bay...

The first day: Everything seemed okay with Pinta Gold Junk.

What I have experienced with Pinta Gold Junk from 19 to 21 november 2009, you cannot really imagine. May be I was the first and last guest with this special treatment...
I had booked a 3 days/2 nights trip. The first day everything started in a good way, nice bus from Hanoi to Halong, comfortable Checkin, good first lunch on the boat and nice cabin, where everything worked well (air condition, hot water for the shower). And very nice guides who really took care of the passengers. It was not their fault, that I fell ill on the boat, I had caught a cold before. So the next day I decided to stay in the room. And again the guides took much care of me, organized tea and food to my room. The other guests in the morning went from boat for a dinner at a small beach and a bike tour on Cat Ba Island. Meanwhile the Pinte Gold returned to Halong port to take some new guests.

After noon suddendly one of the guides banged on my door. He told me, that I had to leave the room for an hour. He said, some maintenance works had to be done, if I unterstood him right. He would offer me a room on another boat for sleeping, before we would return to Pinta Gold. Me, sweating my illness away in the cabin, went out to that other boat. And the guides took very good care of me there. But it took around two hours, before we could return to Pinta Gold. I was just going back to my cabin, when the guide came and told me, that they were all very sorry but we had to leave the boat in half an hour. So I proceeded to my Check Out... And I saw, how everything was closed, no new guest came on board.

Now followed a night, that I will never forget, never in my life. I was told, that all the guests from the excursion were brought to a hotel in Cat Ba to stay there the next night and that I should join them with their baggage. All that was put to the tender boat - where the guides had even prepared a mattress with linen and cushion for me...

With ths kind of tender boat we had to cross Halong Bay...

I felt already better. So I enjoyed it to cross all Halong Bay with this tender boat: we were quite alone there, not many other boats to see now, when the night was breaking. So just the driver of the tender boat, another man with a lamp, helping him to find the way and a guide.

Beautiful: Halong Bay Islands in the fading light.

So we drove and drove, tender boats are not very fast, as you might know. And the night fell. And we were definitely alone - just us and the baggage... And the sea was a bit moved, so when it began to splash water onto the boat, I went to the bed and covered myself...

On the tender boat: the sea was a bit moved.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere suddenly a small motorboat arrived. I was told, that I and the baggage would go to the motorboat. So we changed without falling into Halong Bay. Now I was even more alone: only the guy beside me, who drove the motorboat. I trusted him, when he drove in the dark night around this island and then around that island. And this many dozens of times. Sometimes we saw a light from a ship or fishermens huts. I had of course no idea, where we were now, but we had to leave Halong Bay and get to Lan Ha Bay to arrive at Cat Ba.

Where are we now? Let's hope the boat-driver knows.

It was quite cold now - not so good for my cold. And we drove and drove in the dark night with clouds and no stars. But I didn't get wet, so this was okay. And of course they had given me a life west... Suddenly the motor of the motorboat stopped... The driver had to repair something, we alone somewhere in the nowhere... But he could fix it and we went on. Finally, after hours, we arrived at the very dark port at Cat Ba, where the driver took two guides into the ship to help him to find the place to get on land. Finally they found some steps up to the mole. As soon as we were on land, a bus arrived, the Tour Operators had arranged. On his back this message: "Welcome to the hidden charm of Vietnam".

In Cat Ba the Tour Operators had booked fine rooms in one of the beat hotels, Sunrise Resort. So everybody was glad having his baggage back and may be also me...
The guide, who had lead the other guests to the trip on Cat Ba did his best to manage the situation.

Very nice morning in Sunrise Resort on Cat Ba Island

The next day we went back to Hanoi by a ferry from Cat Ba to Haiphong and a very small bus. In Hanoi we were brought to the tour operator, Columbus Adventure Travel, where the argument began about how much of the price of the tour they should return to the guests, because theyx had lost time on the boat. Finally they offered 30 percent, what was considered as fair.

Also here I had the idea, that fine people were at work. The manager explained personally to every guest, what had happened: Since there have been accidents with ships on Halong Bay, there are sudden inspections on the ships. And if for example the kitchen isn't clean enough, they take the ship out of traffic. Pinta Gold had been inspected and stopped... The manager said, he didn't get information from the inspectors why.

So my impression about all this: May be Columbus Travel has ignored some problems with Pinta Gold described in several forums already. But out of the situation they treated their guests respectfully and with care. May be it was not the best idea of sending a still half ill passenger on the tender boat and a small motorboat for hours across the multiplication of nowhere, but all the people working for this tour were very helpful and caring. So after all for me Colombus Travel has gained reputation. And I will remember this night alone on Halong and Lan Ha Bay forever.

Read also:
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