Avoid The Real Kangaroo Cafe Halong Bay Tours
28th May, 2013
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Just had a terrible experience with The Real Kangaroo Cafe, Hanoi.
In a nutshell, poor quality boat, poor itinerary, bad guides and when we complained (as the itinerary asked us to) we were told by the owner he is a member of the 1%er motorbike gang and would have people waiting for us when we got back from the tour to hurt us (his exact words were more obscene!). When we did get back we were faced with an irate and irrational owner talking over us with a video camera in our faces.
Please don't trust the promises on their website and shop around when looking for a Halong Bay Tour.
Here is our review that we have sent to trip advisor with more info:
Having done substantial research about boat tours in Halong Bay we were swayed by the information on The Real Kangaroo Cafe website that promised they are the only owner run boats in the bay which are "first class all the way" and their customer service is so good that "We want you to have a great time with us so please try to let your guide know immediately if there's anything you're not happy with (beer's not cold, coffees not hot etc)".
Unfortunately for us upon arriving on the boat we discovered that it was not in any way associated with The Real Kangaroo Cafe (there was not so much as a branded beer mat on the boat) and was actually a Hoa Binh Tourism Boat. We seemed to be the only boat in the bay that did not actually have a company name attached to it. We were moored up to the lovely three star boat also owned by Hoa Binh Tourism, that is shown on the walls of the cafe and were actually on a boat with no classification, this was the start of a very disappointing and upsetting experience. The boat that we were on had a sun deck full of broken wooden sun loungers with just three mattresses to share. The neighbouring boat and the boat advertised in the cafe has stunning wicker curved loungers and the rooms had lovely white linen on the beds.
The Cafe runs two tours to Halong bay, 2 day 1 night and 3 day2 night, both with very different itineries which we were all given a copy of when we paid for the tour. It seemed odd to us that we were advised that both tours would be on the same boat. Seemingly a money saving opportunity forKangaroo Cafe to avoid sending out two boats with only 4 and 5 people on each. If Max was honest about this and created an itinerary to enable this tour to work it would not be a problem. As it was nobody had any idea what we were doing, the guides Frank and Kong were very unclear with their directions to us as to what we were doing and this just lead to disappointment after disappointment for everyone on the group. Frank had very little interaction with the group which we assumed was due to his poor English and whilst Kong made more effort we were still all confused.
We found it highly unusual that when we arrived on the boat we did not receive any safety briefing, also the escape plan in our cabin related to a completely different boat. Kong told us to give our cash to the captain as there have been thefts on the boat, this seemed odd given that the boat,crew and guides were meant to be staff of The Real Kangaroo Cafe.
There are 3 activities on the tour which are meant to be spread over 2 days but by putting the groups together these were fitted into a2 hour slot on the first day, the touring on day 1 started at 4pm, first we went to The "Amazing" cave, then kayaking and then the beach. We were all rushed through the cave with limited opportunities to stop for photos. One member of the group did not even have his shoes on as we were rushed off of the boat so quickly. Then we were told we were going kayaking, not one person was prepared for this and had waterproof cameras or appropriate clothing on. Idid not take part in the kayaking but this was a disappointment with lack of direction and left the people who had kayaked tired and floating around the beach being shouted at by ticket collectors on the beach and the passing tenders not knowing what was going on. We arrived on the beach at 5:30pm, not only had Kong not given us our tickets we were then told that the beach had shut at 5:30pm. Surely the guides know the opening times?!
We returned to the boat at around 6pm hot and frustrated and agreed that a swim off the boat would make us feel a little better. This is where we were advised that it is now illegal to jump off the boat or to even swim in the bay. The Kangaroo cafe website clearly has photos of people jumping and swimming off of the boat and our itinerary states "the captain will drop anchor and then you can go swimming in one of our secluded coves". The guides told us the itinerary was a number of years out of date.
The boat that we were put on had 2 significantly superior rooms with balconies overlooking the back of the boat and shower cubicles, the rooms below deck are darker, smaller and have just wet rooms for bathrooms. The quality of the rooms was average and we had two single beds pushed together. If there was an opportunity to pay for a superior room we would have taken it, sadly it is pot luck as to who the guides choose to give them to. The diagram of the boat shows the superior rooms very clearly on the top deck. The duvet on the bed had no cover or sheet,when we were leaving the boat the same duvets had been straightened and the beds made so it was obvious these are not washed for each new guest arriving.
We asked the guides to assist us in contacting the cafe to advise that we as a group were all disappointed with the tour. The itinerary states "Also you can ring us in Ha Noi too. You can contact us from 7.30 AM till 9.30 PM every day as all our guides have mobile phones that you can use. We really do want to help but will consider it most unfair of you if you won't bother to contact us & wait until you get back to Ha Noi to tell us". We asked the guides for 2 hours for them to contact the cafe for us, they were obstructive and refused to assist us in making a phone call despite both guides being on the phone none stop themselves.
Eventually we were given a phone to speak to Max and received nothing but a barrage of abuse and threats, advising us that he was "a member of the 1%ers motorbike gang, and would have a group waiting to meet us to hurt us and that was a guarantee not a threat". We were barely able to get a word in edgeways over his rant and felt threatened and uncomfortable on the boat with the staff behaving very oddly. The guides began to take photos of each person in the group which made us feel very uncomfortable and inflamed the situation more. Later in the evening our guideFrank went missing and Kong actually asked us and a number of the crew if they knew where he was.
In order to enjoy a stop at the beach it was agreed that we would go at 7:30am when the beach opened and if we were not on deck they would assume that we did not want to go. I went to the beach and my husband decided not to but Frank our guide knocked and entered our room and woke him up regardless.
We tried to maintain a good relationship with the guides but it was very apparent that they did not have any regard for us and indeed where happy to tell us the truth about the boats not being owned by the Cafe and Kong advised he was a freelance guide who had been on this tour once in the last month, but backtracked when in front of Max and accused us of bullying them. It is difficult to say whether the guides were being two faced or if they are afraid of the consequences with Max if they were to take the guests side.
We were due to stay on Cat Ba island for our second night and decided to cut our tour short as we felt so uncomfortable with our guides and had no desire to experience any more of the "first class service" offered by The Real Kangaroo Cafe.
We sent Max an email with our concerns and asked for his response which he did not respond to and again sent a follow up email which he chose to ignore.
Upon our arrival at that Cafe we were met by Max who had a video camera in our faces and despite being in the middle of his cafe with paying customers eating their dinner he grilled us and ranted at us picking out insignificant details that his guides had reported back to him and ignored everything we had asked him to clarify. He was threatening, rude, offensive and I personally left the cafe shaking and crying from the confrontational situation that Max had orchestrated.
Max claimed that the two people who had stayed on the tour had spoken to him and advised that we had ruined the tour and they were glad to see the back of us, but in the next breath advised us that we had ruined the tour for them by pulling out of the second day?!
I am fully aware that Max will do his upmost to deny this review is real and will claim that we were trouble makers looking to ruin the tour. Having paid between $95 and $145 per person we were not looking to have an experience that left us being video recorded and threatened by an irate and irrational owner. Why any company would try to imitate the Kangaroo Cafe is beyond me, I only wish that I had been misled and booked with an imitator as I have no doubt that the experience would have been more pleasant.
We were accused of complaining in order to get a refund, but at no time did we ever request this, all we wanted was an apology for the two tours being thrown together with no workable itinerary and for the guides andMax to realise that the tour had fallen far short of what was promised. Max seems so intent on ensuring that he never parts with a single dollar that he cannot take on board any criticism when it is constructive or otherwise.
Please take heed of this review and look at some of the other reputable companies to avoid losing as much money as we did and having to receive a barrage of abuse from Max Hart.
#1 Posted: 28/5/2013 - 23:35
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