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Celebrating New Years on Halong Bay, Vietnam, with Hanoi Backpackers

Halong Bay New Year’s Eve – Welcome to the Jolly Roger

Taking a Halong Bay New Year's Eve cruise in Vietnam, with Hanoi Backpackers.

It’s 2011. And that means it is either the year I turn 30 and do the most awesome thing I’ve ever done or that it’s the year I turn 30 and chicken out and be lame.

Those were the first words I wrote here in 2011.

This year, as the year changed from 2011 to 2012, I was on a Halong Bay New Year’s Eve cruise, standing on the edge of a boat to little fanfare. There was a group of people dancing in the cabin. There was a group of people who climbed to the top of the canopy. I had promised a boy a midnight kiss, but he was no where to be found. But I broke away and found a spot to be alone.

There was no real countdown. No nothing. Just boats lining the water. Silent. Still.


Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

Earlier in the day I had been regretting my decision to go on this three-day New Year’s Eve Halong Bay tour. Despite being talked into being on the “Jolly Roger,” a “party boat,” with the Halong Bay Castaway Tour, celebrating New Year’s on Halong Bay would be quiet, maybe too quiet with only around 30 people on board.

And there was no real organization and our guide spent most of the night plastered and running around naked.

And it was cold, not freezing, but just chilly enough that the thought of stripping down to my bikini was far from my mind.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

And I’d been in my head the whole day, thinking too much, unable to stop, which really interfered with me connecting with anyone on the boat.

During the course of the day, Edward, a guy I’d met briefly in Nha Trang who had somehow remembered my name weeks later, and I got lost on a kayak.

Everyone was going kayaking around the bay to see this cavern. Edward and I shared a kayak and, apparently horrible at rowing, kept getting behind and losing the rest of the group.

At the end of the trip it was getting dark. Very dark. And cold. Very cold. And my arms were tired from rowing. And, all of a sudden it was just us, alone, in a kayak, in the middle of Halong Bay. We were the only kayak in a sea of boats that all looked the same and we couldn’t tell which could possibly was ours, if any of them. We had no idea where we were. What to do.

And I was scared.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

But, at the same time, I wasn’t panicking. I knew that everything would work out. That it had to. That I wasn’t going to be lost forever in Vietnam or die out there in the bay. I would be OK.

Somehow, everything would work out.

Eventually, a woman who sold snacks from a raft, a mobile 7-11 if you will, saw us, lent me her coat and towed us back to the right place.

And then demanded money. Of course.


For the moments before midnight I was a bit sad that I wasn’t someplace more lively. Huddled someplace with groups of people. In a place where New Year’s was actually a thing to celebrate. And I was a bit sad that my streak of not kissing anyone at midnight since 2003 would still be in tact.

But in the last few moments of 2011, looking out over the water, I realized that I was OK being alone. That I was making huge strides towards being completely independent. That, for the first time in my life, I didn’t hope for change. I just wanted everything to keep going exactly as was.

It was perfect.

After midnight, I joined the others dancing, I found my crazy boy to kiss, I drank a little more…

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

The next day we headed to Halong Bay Backpackers “Castaway Island” to spend New Year’s Day on the beach, relaxing and drinking.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

At 1pm I sat on the edge of the beach and celebrated the turning of the New Year in Chicago. Nick, the Brit who I’d met a couple of days earlier at the bar, kissed me at my “midnight.”

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

And then our host got naked and ran around. Again….

(I might be getting too old for this backpacking thing…)

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

And then, while others partied the night away, I ended up crashing way too early from lack of sleep and from drinking all day.

(I might be getting too old for this backpacking thing…)

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

In the morning we said goodbye to our island and to Halong Bay, boarded a boat and then took a bus back to Hanoi, all a little tired, all a little hungover.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

 

p.s. Yanny Depp over here kept asking why I kept taking his photo. Ummm…

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Island.

Halong Bay New Year's Eve Tour in Vietnam - Halong Bay Castaway Tour with Hanoi Backpackers on the Jolly Roger and Castaways Is.

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1 Comment
  • Kathryn Reale
    October 2, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Hey Val! I love this post, it sounds like so much fun. What was the name of the tour/boat excursion you did? I will be visiting the same time as you! this coming December/January and would love to book it.Thanks!

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