After a whirlwind 24 hours in Hanoi (a story for another time – that place is just a crazy world of its own!) we took another journey by bus, boat, and bus again to Cat Ba Island. Slightly quieter than Halong City, this was recommended as the best spot to embark on seeing Halong bay.
There are countless numbers of tours offered from Cat Ba to see Halong bay, and it’s tricky to try and establish which ones are legitimate, and aren’t going to cram you onto a boat with 100 other people. Lonely planet recommends Cat Ba Ventures – and after our day, so do we! We booked the night before for a day trip, at $29 each including transfers, the cruise, kayaking, lunch and snorkelling. Definitely sounded like a great deal.
As is typical in Vietnam, the trip didn’t depart on time, but shortly after we were on our way to a nearby port to catch our boat for the day. As we arrived and saw a large group of people transferring from one boat to another, there was a worry that we would be herded on with them too and fighting for seats. But no! It turned out the boat they had departed was ours for the day – a total of 4 of us on board.
We set off cruising through the largest of the floating villages into la Han bay, which is slightly smaller than Halong bay, where the views became more and more breathtaking. Our tour guide for the day shared with us a lot of interesting facts about the area, as well as Vietnam itself.
We stopped in the bay for some swimming time – although there is a breeze on the boat, and areas to sit under shade, we were definitely ready to cool off. It is however a bit of a shock when jumping off the boat that the water is surprisingly warm! There were a few sandy beaches to swim to, which we were told would all have disappeared under the tide in the afternoon, which it turns out was very much true!
After setting off we cruised into Halong bay, where the spectacular limestone islets appear to be endless, and with every turn lies a new incredible view to behold.
Lunch was served on the boat, with a delicious spread of spring rolls, fresh fish, prawns (not quite to my taste!), rice, vegetables and potatoes, with slices of dragon fruit for desert. Incredible to say it was all prepared on the boat, and was far nicer than anything we ate in cat ba town.
Feeling full and refreshed, we were to embark on our kayaking venture, with tandem kayaks brought over from a nearby boat. Far from the particularly detailed lesson we were given on the previous kayak adventure, this was very much climb down from the boat and go! Our guide took us through bat caves into hidden lagoons, and despite my continued hope of spotting some monkeys, we only encountered the odd jellyfish. Kayaking in the heat is not such an easy task, so it seemed not rude not to enjoy a cold beer as we began the cruise back (at very reasonably priced 25,000 dong, so it was nice not to be ripped off on the boat!)
We had another swim stop on route back (with an unfortunate jellyfish sting for the other guy on board – which was fine after the guide rubbed tomato and lime on it!), but otherwise laid back and took in the last of the incredible scenery around us.
We definitely made a brilliant choice with our tour, it’s presumably unlikely to be on a boat with so few people but we were extremely lucky and would thoroughly recommend booking through Cat Ba Ventures to see this amazing part of Vietnam!
With kindest regards,