23.04.2008 - 23.04.2008 87 °F
We signed up for the bay tour before I injured my toe, Hanh's Green Hat Boat Tour, 100,000VND for the day. I was going even if I had to limp and wear my tennis shoes. I did not want to get my toe wet that day, or stepped on. Many other operators besides Green Hat to pick from, all run the same tour, same price as well. They all pick you up from your hotel around 8:00am and take you to the docks. Then you run the usual gauntlet of vendors selling: hats, water, snacks, cigarettes, etc. We did buy straw hats for 5,000VND. Very cheap way to avoid too much sun on your head/face. If you are hair challenged as I am, you need to wear something on your head all the time you are in the sun. I brought a baseball cap, but this straw hat provided more protection. Your lunch is included, but you will be charged for drinks on the boat. A bottle of cold water is not a bad purchase at the docks. Or bring one with you on the van. Both will be cheaper than what they charge on your tour.
Once we fight off the vendors, everyone gets on their assigned boat. Just follow your guide or fellow passengers. It is a bit of a rugby scrum at the dock, coming and going. Dozens of boats all load and unload at roughly the same time. Keep your guide in sight. On the boat and off we go. These bay tours can have the feel of a cattle boat. They are pretty crowded and they herd you on/off many times during the day. One option if you want fewer people is to go out with the scuba divers. They will take non divers out for the day, $15 includes lunch. You will get more snorkelling time with the dive boats, not any time on the several islands the tour boats stop at. Most choose the tour/cattle boat option since it is only 100,000VND, includes lunch, all the cheap wine you want to drink and has a party atmosphere. Our boat had mostly VN people on it, probably 2/3. The rest a mix of western countries and few Japanese. The tour guides rattle off their set spiel, first in VN, then English. You are out of luck if you don't speak one or the other. I think one of the guides could of spoke French if needed, but he was not asked to. First stop is usually the snorkel stop, Mun Island. We had a nice sunny day, so many hop into the water and start swimming/snorkelling. With my injured toe, I stay on board and take photos. You do have a another option. A guy comes by in a glass-bottom basket boat. Several of the VN ladies get in and off they go. This way you can watch the fish w/o getting wet.
We motor to another area and the staff get out the microphone and keep us entertained. Karaoke is encouraged from all that think they can sing. I know I can't, so keep a low profile. Over to Mot Island and more swimming/snorkelling. Then the 'floating bar' makes its appearance. Get a life jacket and swim over to the 'bar' and have all the sweet, cheap red wine you can handle. Every guide has the: "Don't say no, say YO!" yell down pat. They want everyone 'happy' and being drunk helps that along. "V" & "R" get out there and say "YO". "H" and I stay on the boat. After everyone gets back on board, lunch is served. They put out a real spread, even a veggie like me has plenty of choices. This is like a Vegas buffet, eat all you want. If you leave hungry, it is your own fault.
Now we head to Tam Island for beach time & water sports. You have to pay a fee, 10,000VND for entrance. National Park, protected area or another way to make a bit of money, I am not sure. Everybody pays and you try to pick a spot. Sand is free but you have to pay to use the chairs or lounges. We opt for the seawall and stay out of the sun. Most hit the water again or go parasailing, jet skiing, banana boat, something. A very pleasant hour, weather permitting. Last time I was in NT it was Feb. and not many got in the water. Raining and cool. Today was perfect. There are 4 or 5 boats all tied together and you have to walk across several boats to find yours. Not for the old and stiff, like me. I manage but it is an adventure. Most are younger than I am and have fun jumping boat to boat. With my injured toe and battered back, I am last to arrive onboard our boat. In Asia, the old are venerated because of their experience and wisdom. I keep this in mind as I hobble on/off the boat. I am not sure the smiles and shaking of their heads at my display is exactly reverence, but I am going to go with that theory until proven false.
A large display of fruit is waiting for us when back onboard. You won't go hungry today. After we stuff ourselves with a variety of fruit, we motor over to Mieu Island for the aquarium. I have seen it before on a previous trip and don't need a repeat viewing of a second class aquarium. 25,000VND if you do go. I read my book in the shade and held down the fort. You really can use the tour for your BF & lunch. Won't need much dinner either. I recommend a light BF, maybe toast/tea and hold out until they serve lunch. This way the tour is basically free. You can spend 100,000VND on BF & lunch in many NT restaurants. Back to the docks and the van ride to your hotel. We got back about 4:15pm. All in all, a decent day out on the water.