The magical waters of Halong Bay
Trip Start May 01, 2010
90Trip End Apr 30, 2011
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Where I stayed
Cat Ba Paradise
On our second day we took a boat tour of Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay. The scenery was breathtaking as limestone pinnacles surround you on all sides and the boat steers through narrow passages between the islands, making it feel like a tropical version of a fjord or sea loch. Unfortunately we had chosen the only cloudy day here for our tour which didn’t make for good photos. We passed fish farms and floating villages and stopped off at one to have a go at kayaking, which was fun but hard work and resulted in a soggy bum! Back on the boat we travelled deeper into Halong Bay, enjoying a very good lunch onboard, before stopping off at one of the islands to visit a cave. We were expecting a small grotto so were pleasantly surprised when we discovered three huge caverns dripping with stalactites and stalagmites and illuminated with different coloured lights. Later in the afternoon we stopped in the middle of a channel for a quick dip before continuing on to beautifully craggy Monkey Island where we avoided the apparently aggressive monkeys and climbed to the top for some great views. Then it was back to Cat Ba town for some G&T’s on the balcony.
On our other day tour we were much luckier with the weather. We decided to go to Cat Ba National Park by ourselves, taking the bus to the park headquarters from where we could walk along one of the trails
The walk was tough but very enjoyable and involved a lot of scrambling as we crossed a series of steep limestone hills. We felt pleasantly tired and very hungry by the time we reached remote Viet Hai village for our lunch stop. From there it was another 5 km along a lane passing through a green valley surrounded by peaks on all sides until we reached a narrow inlet of the sea, where the water was deep emerald and looked very inviting. We boarded a boat which chugged out into Lan Ha Bay and were delighted to find that we were following the same course as the previous boat trip but this time with the most perfect weather imaginable. With a cloudless sky and warm late afternoon light, we experienced the incredible majesty of this place in a way that we had not been able to do under grey skies
We return to Hanoi tomorrow by way of a bus, boat, minibus, then another bus! It’s all done with the same company so not nearly as laborious as it sounds. We were in Hanoi for a couple of days before coming to Halong Bay and found it incredibly noisy and chaotic. The streets of the Old Quarter are completely choked with motorbikes and crossing the road is a bit of an art form! It’s a shame because I can imagine it must have been a lovely city not so long ago but is now far too congested. This time we will only be there for one night before taking the train north to mountainous Sapa.