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For those of you who don’t know, Castaways Island is a private island owned by Vietnam Backpacker Hostels (VBH).
I booked it back in February, 3 months before my trip for 2 reasons:
- I’d heard good reviews about it
- I was so fed up of work and normal routine that three days letting loose and partying sounded like the best idea – this was my downfall I think (more to come on this)
VBH own the Downtown Hostel in Hanoi. I stayed here for my first two nights in Hanoi. I booked this knowing full well it was a party hostel, again probably because I was so sick of routine and early mornings etc. a party sounded like a great idea.
The thing was, since leaving work and subsequently the country, that desire to just go out and party and drink loads wasn’t really there.
I was content just having a chill and exploring places, so when I checked into the Downtown hostel and the reception was essentially a night club, negative butterflies hit me like a ton of bricks. And they didn’t really seem to go away!
It was at this point I realised that I really am NOT at all a party girl, and I could see that just by looking at all the other people staying at the hostel. I just didn’t feel like I could fit in, and it all made me really uncomfortable.
As I’d already booked Castaways 3 months previously, the money for that was long gone. I had booked on for the 3 days, 2 night tour, which was 225 USD / approx. £175. This is INCREDIBLY expensive. The island is found in Ha Long Bay, a place I would 100% recommend you visit when you’re in Vietnam. However I’d encourage you to book it through another provider because you will see a lot more of the actual place, and it will be better value for money.
For £175 you get, your transport to the island (a five hour journey from Hanoi consisting of 2 bus journeys and 2 ferry journeys), accommodation on a private island, food for all meal times whilst you’re there, activities such as kayaking and rock climbing, a booze cruise boat party and a DJ in the evening.
I had a sick feeling about the entire thing from the moment I left Hanoi, and on arrival my first thought was: LOVE ISLAND. After having a couple of drinks and chatting to a few people I felt a bit more settled. Ha Long Bay is a lovely place and I was content to swim in the sea for a bit, however when the group who had arrived the previous day arrived back from their boat party my anxieties about the entire thing returned.
There were some very big ‘party’ personalities, people who seemed to want just get really drunk and have sex. This sort of vibe makes me uncomfortable, especially because I just feel awkward that I can’t compete.
At this point I was getting myself in a state that I had to stay there and just spend loads of money on alcohol for the next two days.
There is barely any mobile signal on the island, and there wasn’t any WIFI so trying to contact anyone from home just as a sort of comfort wasn’t an option either.
Fortunately (THANK GOD!!), a couple of girls I’d met the day before felt the same, and we were able just to stay together and do our own thing, away from all the drinking and sex related games. (It was all a bit of fun and everyone else was loving it, it just really wasn’t my scene!)
Another thing was, that because the air was so humid, the beds were all damp, so it wasn’t exactly a nice place you could go to chill out and relax. The concept is probably that you will get so drunk that you won’t care / notice if your bed is rather moist.
And after a very wet and sandy nights sleep, me and a couple of other girls decided to ditch the boat party, and the island and leave early after one night.
It was a massive relief to me to go home that day. We spent the morning kayaking together which was nice as we actually got to see some of Ha Long bay, and weren’t being forced to drink whilst doing so.
For me, I was really proud of myself for going with my gut and just leaving early. I often just go with what other people do, or try and adapt to suit a mould for others, but in this situation I could just see I wasn’t happy and opted to leave.
I didn’t even care that I didn’t get any sort of refund, because I was just happy to be going back to Hanoi to feel more relaxed and comfortable – was there for a good time not HA LONG time.
The majority of reviews on Trip Advisor are positive and other people I spoke to who had done it said they really enjoyed it, and I can see why! If you want to drink for the best part of two days and just party then you’ll probably love it! Or if you’re with a group of your best mates or something and are just having a laugh it would be fun I’m sure.
But I was essentially there as a solo traveller, and am definitely not a raging party animal, nor would I feel comfortable trying to make myself have fun in that scenario. I also felt better just going back to the hostel, getting my 2 million VND (approx. £70) back that I was going to use for drinks, and putting it to better use for other things in Vietnam!