Cruising Halong Bay

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  , Hải Phòng,
Friday, February 11, 2011

Instead of joining the rest of the cattle being herded in and out of Hanoi every day to visit the stunning Halong Bay we decided to be a bit adventurous and do it somewhat on our own. So, on Wednesday we took the seemingly confusing but actually seamless combination of big bus, small bus, boat, small bus from Hanoi bus station to Cat Ba. Cat Ba is an island in Lan Ha Bay, south of Halong, and another good jumping off point to explore the area instead of Halong City where the big tour groups from Hanoi pass through.  As it's low season we were lucky enough to bag a $6 dollar room on the 4th floor of a sea front hotel with floor to ceiling windows and an amazing view out over the bay.  In the high season these rooms go for as much as $30.  It was very quiet around the town and we hardly saw anyone when we were walking around.  Although its not an overly inspiring place, and its definitely ruined by the Blackpool-esque seafront hotels, it was great to be by the sea for a change and sit having a cup of tea in a calm place.

We had initially planned on doing an overnight cruise in Halong Bay but as it’s freezing at the moment and there is no possibility of swimming or sunbathing we opted to spend a day in Cat Ba chilling out (we need the rest, you know :-)) and do a 1 day cruise instead. 

After a little misunderstanding on the morning of the cruise we ended up  disgruntled on the smallest junk in the bay with 11 people squished on top.  Not what we signed up for and not what we intended when we left Hanoi! However we had a fantastic day.  The people who had bothered to make the effort to go to Cat Ba wanted peace and quiet just like us and were a little older than the 18 year old booze cruisers we would have probably ended up with on our budget had we gone from Hanoi.  We cruised around Lan Ha Bay and then into Halong Bay, both of which are beautiful.  We did an hours kayaking which we were actually quite good at, and except for a couple of sharp words we remained friends for the duration! The sun even peaked its head out for a bit so our jackets came off! All in all we actually managed to stop whinging about the packed boat and were very happy people by the time we arrived back in Cat Ba at 5pm.
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