Mat: Ha Long Bay is a must do in northern Vietnam. If Sapa is the Queenstown of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is the Milford Sound. So we obligingly booked a 3-day tour of the place. One of the best US$50 I have spent.
We were transported in a Mercedes van to Ha Long city, and boarded our boat. This first boat ended up being the only glitch of the trip as 40 minutes into our trip we stopped, a couple of jarring clunks were felt, and the motor was cut. After a torturous wait sipping Tiger beer on the sun deck surrounded by the beautiful limestone cliffs of Ha Long Bay, another boat from the same company turned up and tied up to us and escorted us through the bay for the remainder of the day. We had two hours after dusk without power (I am still not sure why the steering fault meant they could not fire up the generator) but eventually there was light and food.
I ate too much and went to sleep at 8.30pm (I'm 30 now). But was able to get up at dawn and soak in the peace of the morning by myself
on the top deck.
I was not expecting Ha Long Bay to be as good as it was. I had heard about the numbers of tourists that went there, and that there was quite a bit of rubbish in the water. There were loads of tourists, but we did not see them once we were on the water away from the harbour on the mainland or the caves in the bay. The water looked pristine (I saw only 5-10 plastic bags the whole trip). Even the fishing villages looked relatively tidy. Being on the water was peaceful, and very beautiful. You can see the place in photos, but when this landscape surrounds you, it has a deeply relaxing effect.
The second day we transferred to a smaller boat with a very friendly crew, and cruised about. We went for a three hour walk on Cat Ba Island, then the boat took us to a tiny island with a white sand beach for lunch (complete with table and chairs and fresh seafood). Surreal. After going for a swim we cruised to a guy's floating house who fished and hired out kayaks for a living. It was even more peaceful
exploring the cliffs in a kayak.
We then headed to the town on Cat Ba Island and were put up in a very good hotel room. Great dinner, great buffet breakfast. We then hopped back on another boat and pottered back to Halong City. We enjoyed ourselves so much we boarded another boat and headed out for another night.
If you go to Vietnam, chill out for a couple of days in Ha Long Bay.
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