Sailing through Vietnam's Emerald Isles

Halong Bay Travel Blog

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The lake near our hotel in Hanoi
Very early in the morning, we arrived in a dark and damp Hanoi. Not the best weather for our Halong Bay day! Roommate #2's mother was waiting for us at the hotel when we got there. She was joining us for the rest of the trip through Laos. In the hotel we took out clothes and toiletries for a night. We were going to be staying on Cat Ba Island and leaving our luggage at the hotel in Hanoi. I packed my stuff into a small packable backpack I had brought but not used up to that point. I was considering leaving it behind earlier in the trip, but I'm glad I didn't. It had been years since I last used a small everyday backpack and I forgot how useful they are.
Our boat


I was one of the last to leave the hotel to find breakfast. I went out with Cat and the girl from Germany and nothing was open. The Sofitel Hotel around the corner was was one place that was. It was a weird environment to be in when you've been traveling cheaply. But I splurged on breakfast there and enjoyed unlimited amounts of coffee and an overwhelming selection of food. They even had little glasses of creme brulee... for breakfast. Why? Why not?!

We got back to the hotel and everyone else had ended up returning to the hotel and waiting for them to open up for breakfast because they couldn't find anything. On the bus to Halong, we discussed the plans for the next day. Our tour was new and the next few days hadn't been planned very well. We had basically left Hanoi as soon as we arrived.
Steps down to the boat
We were supposed to leave Cat Ba Island in the afternoon that day which meant there would be barely any time in Hanoi. I preferred to spend more time in Hanoi rather than Cat Ba, because I figured islands are everywhere, but Hanois are not. My roommate and her mom were also interesting in getting back to Hanoi so we decided to look into trips back once we got to Cat Ba.

The drive to Halong takes a few hours from Hanoi and most tours will do a shopping/rest stop at the same place. There are a lot of bathrooms there, but also a lot of stuff to buy. We finally made it to Halong and it was really crowded with large tour groups. We eventually went down the steps to our boat which had no railing on either side. I was sooo happy I didn't have me large backpack.

After we were all on the boat, we headed out and were soon given lunch.
Dragon leading the way on our boat
There was a great assortment of food, most of it seafood. Prawns, fish, fried calamari, spring rolls, rice, salad, and the best of all were the crab cakes baked inside a crab shell. I'm not a crab fan, but these were great.

We headed to Suprise Cave next. I guess it's called this because around each corner there is a bigger more suprising space. It was pretty cool and lighting adds to it. When you leave the cave, there are little stands where you can buy pearls that supposedly come from the bay. They have different colors and many styles of pearl jewelry so there was a lot of interesting stuff.

We left the jumble of boats at the cave and went back into the bay. It was still cloudy and misty, but it was so nice and serene. On the top of our boat, they had lounge chairs and it was the perfect place to sail by the islands.
After awhile, the rocks and islands begin to acquire their own personalities and start to resemble other things. It reminded me of watching the clouds float by when I was little and imagining shapes and faces in them.

As we got closer to Cat Ba, we saw the floating villages. People live on the water and make their living off of the sea's bounty. Amazing. It seems that some of the kids from the villages go to school on Cat Ba Island and were returning back to their villages for the evening on little boats. They all waved as we sailed by.

We approached Cat Ba and were met by a guy who drove us in two van trips to our hotel. It wasn't far, but he drove like a maniac on the hilly winding roads. At the hotel, for the first time I had my own room. Since my roommate's mother had arrived, they would be sharing and I had my own room for the rest of the trip.
Very exciting. I went up to my room and had a shower. The Devils Wears Prada was on so I decided to watch it until we met up for dinner, and then all of a sudden the power went out. It came back on after several minutes. I wasn't looking forward to a night on an island with no electricity!

We left for dinner and saw that inexplicably, there were tons of Christmas lights everywhere. We went down the street to a restaurant called Green Mango. They had a few Mexican food dishes on the menu and I was craving something other than noodles or "Western food". I had low expectations when I ordered shrimp enchiladas. It tasted so good until I slowly realized it tasted nothing like enchiladas. The problem with Mexican food in many places is that the salsa or any other tomato based sauce usually ends up tasting like marinara sauce.

My old roommate and her mother were leaving around 7am the next morning and they showed me were to get tickets if I wanted to join them. I didn't want to leave quite so early so I got a bus ticket for around 8am. I thought it would be an interesting adventure to make it back to Hanoi by myself!
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The lake near our hotel in Hanoi
The lake near our hotel in Hanoi
Our boat
Our boat
Steps down to the boat
Steps down to the boat
Dragon leading the way on our boat
Dragon leading the way on our boat
Roof of the cave at the entrance
Roof of the cave at the entrance
The lovely trashcans at the cave
The lovely trashcans at the cave
Writing on the wall
Writing on the wall
Great views when you exit the cave
Great views when you exit the cave
Another great trashcan
Another great trashcan
Walkway from cave to boats
Walkway from cave to boats
Temple on a beach on an island tha…
Temple on a beach on an island th…
Our noisy friend who joined the bo…
Our noisy friend who joined the b…
Reflection
Reflection
Floating fishing villages
Floating fishing villages
Kids on their way from Cat Ba Isla…
Kids on their way from Cat Ba Isl…
Approaching Cat Ba
Approaching Cat Ba
Cat Ba at night
Cat Ba at night
Halong Bay