Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island


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Asia » Vietnam
November 3rd 2010
Published: December 19th 2012
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3rd Nov: Up bright and early. Had a shower and brekky and got sorted to go to Halong Bay. I left most of my stuff at the hostel and only took a small bag with the bits and bobs that I would need. I think we got picked up around 8. We had to walk a couple of streets over to find the mini bus. When we got on the mini bus we drove round to a few different locations to pick other people up. Some of the people on the bus were loud and obnoxious, and it doesn't help that I am not a morning person and would prefer everyone else to sit in silence. After the mini bus was p acked to the rafters with people and luggage we headed out of the city and drove to Halong Bay. The drive was about three and a bit hours and pretty uneventful. We stopped a big shop type thing, where they try to squeeze a load of money from the tourists.

We arrived at the port and had a bit of time sitting around outside. Got talking to some bloe about the book he was reading (I ended up reading it later on in my trip, the Howard Marks biography, there are only so many books on the backpacker circuit). Then it was on to the boat and we sat down for lunch. The food was really nice, but I don't think there was ever quite enough. Or maybe it's because I have a huge appetite! A lad I met in Laos gave me a really good piece of advice for choosing a cruise to Halong Bay, after he had been ripped off. Just go withthe cheapest one you can find and have no expectations. Anyway my first impressions were good, lovely food and the boat was cute, too. However we wweren't allowed to check-in to our rooms yet.

After lunch we headed up to the top deck to chat and take in the scenery. The views were amazing. We stopped at a big cave, I think it was called Surprising Cave or Amazing Cave in English. It was canny, but nothibg special. They had put loadds of bright lights around it to make it more interesting. Then it was back on the boat for more crusing around Haloing Bay. The place is littered with tourists and there are hundreds of other boats with people doing exactly the same thing as you. We sailed among the other boats and the houses that people have built on the water. Apparantly some of the locals that live in Halong Bay have never stepped foot on dry land. Felt a bit sorry for the dogs that live on the boats and platform type houses. There's no where for them to go for a good run.

When we were on the boat we were offered an extra trip on a local (fishing?) boat to some cave type thing that was used in some movie, I think it was a Vietnam War movie (can you tell I retain information well?!). It was only a few dollars and the money went to a local floating school, so myself and a few others went along. We went into what appeared to be a cave, ducking when we went under and appeared in to this cool secret style pool. There was no roof to the cave and it was just like the outside. It was pretty cool. I thought we were going to visit the school, too, but we didn't. It was just pointed out on the way past. Back on the boat we had a bit of free time and then we got off to visit a fish farm. It was okay, but not the highlight of the trip. When we returned to the boat we had a bit more free time and then we had dinner. We also got to dump over stuff in our rooms. It was another lovely meal. Then it was back to the top deck for the rest of the evening drinking beer and chatting. The irritating ones (Ibiza club reps), who were proper like let's get mortal, were the first to bed around seven to eight. Everyone The room I was sharing with another lass was dead cute. I was very happy with it. else was more chilled out and I spent a couple more hours drinking and chatting. It was cool as there were women coming up to the boat on small rowing boats and trying to sell us stuff. The beers on the bopat were quite expensive but aince the trip was cheap, I suppose they have to make their money somewhere. However I was knackered, so I ended up in bed around ten.

4th Nov: Woke up around 6 am, when the tour guise started hammering on the door to go kayaking. Sod that! I'm not arsed about kayaking so I stayed in bed. I was content to ignore the door, but the lass I was sharing the room with got up and went out. I think I got up around seven and went for breakfast. I think about a year after my trip a boat sank in Halong Bay and a lot of the passangers died. This I can well believe as I had one of the best nights sleep of my life on the boat. I was out cold.

After breakfast we dropped some of the people off, who were only doing a one night trip and then we set sail for Cat Ba island. We were dropped off at the wharf where we had a bit of time sitting around doing nothing. Then it was onto a mini bus and we were drive to the national park. When we got to the national park, we walked along a flat path at first and then we were into the park proper. There were two routes to take us to the viewing tower. Myself and a few others opted for the longer flatter route, rather than the shorter steeper one. Well the guide buggered that up and sent us on the wrong one. It was like rock climbing in parts. The last bit up to the tower was pretty steep. When we reached the viewing tower, i thought sod that, I'm not going up that. It was dead rickety and they only let five (?) people up at a time. After having some free time to take in the views, which were really pretty, we headed back down the way we should of came up.

Back on the bus we drove to our hotel. We had lunch. The food was okay, but not as good as on the boat. Then we got checked in to our rooms. I ended up with a room to myself, score! Althuogh the bloke said I would have to share it, if someone else came along later (which they didn't). After a quick change it was time to go to Monkey Island. We got on the bus for a 5 minute drive and then onto a boat for about 10 minutes. It was a little chilly
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Halong Bay
when we were on the island so I didn't go swimming and couldn't really sunbathe. The island was really pretty though. We sat around chattting and then out of nowhere the monkeys started to appear. They were quite vicious. One nicked my bottle of water and another girl had her towel pinched. They were quite aggressive qand were clearly staking the beach as their territory. We must of looked so stupid, all these people slowly moving further and further back down the beach towards the boat. One numpty had a bag of food and was teasing one of the monkeys with a banana. Well the monjey was having no of it and ind of attacked the bloke, digging his claws in his legs. Served the stupid bugger right.

We took the boat back to the main island and went for a wander through the main town to watch the sunset over the harbour. Then back to the hotel for dinner. After dinner we headed down to one of the bars by the waterfront where we were promised some free shots. Spent a few hours drinking and chatting. Beofer heading back to the hotel and bed.

5th Nov: Up
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Halong Bay
early this morning. I was the first person to check out of the hotel. Sat outside smoking. The Hungarian couple I had met yesterday turned up so I chatted to them. Had breakfast in the hotel and then we took the minibuses to the wharf to get the boat back to Halong City. We spent ages waiting at the wharf. The journey back was pretty but uneventful.

More waiting around in Halong City and then we drove to a restaurant for lunch. It was nice, but nothing remarkable. Then it was a mad scramble to find a seat on one of the various min buses that were making the journey back to Hanoi. We arrived back in Hanoi in the early evening. I headed back to the Green Hostel and had a few of the free beers, before heading out to dinner and then back for an early night.

I'm glad I booked a cheap tour and went with no expectations as it meant I wasn't disappointed and could tell myself well it was cheap if something went wrong. Halong Bay itself was beautiful and our boat really nice. I had read horror stories about seeing rats on
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Halong Bay
the boats, but luckily I didn't see any. I think I paid $35 or $45 for my tour, including the trip to Monkey Island. It was good value for money and I am pleased I didn't book a more expensive tour. The hotel in Cat Ba was grotty and the staff not very pleasant, but I was only there to eat and sleep.


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