Ha Long and Cat Ba Island
Halong Bay Travel Blog› entry 9 of 12 › view all entries
After a night back in the hectic "Hanoi-ing" after the peaceful Sapa trip, we headed-out to Ha Long Bay, for what we hoped would be a suitably relaxing end to our stay in Vietnam (before the final couple of days in Hanoi, which could never be relaxing!). We had heard and read many unsatisfied travellers complain about their trip -particularly the "whistle-stop" packed tours that operate. We didn't take the cheapest option and we were pleased when we saw that there were only 12 or so others on our trip.
We arrived at Ha Long City (after the usual bizarre stop at a service station / china and souvineer tourist trap, which the driver and guide obviously get kick-backs for!) to the usual chaos that you expect of a port of dozens of boats.
We set-off through the atmospheric gloom towards and then through the limestone islands of varying size that make an instantly recognisable vista to anyone that has seen a selection of pictures depicting Vietnam's prime tourist areas.
We didn't head much further before we reached our anchoring point, which gave people the opportunity to swim in the sea from the boat. Unfortuntately, the sea in Ha Long Bay was simply the dirtiest sea area that we had ever seen - it was strewn with refuse (and of even more concern - a brown scum that appeared to be raw sewage). Even the usually bravado-filled Australians didn't fancy taking a dip! Ha Long Bay is simply a stunning and dramatic set of islands - we had never seen anything like it before, but it was very saddening to see them in such a dreadful state.
After a very peaceful night aboard our boat, we transfered to a smaller boat and headed towards Cat Ba Island - a National Park of Vietnam. We went ashore and cycled about 8km to walk for an hour or so through the forest. There are very few people living here (although they included a little s**t of a child trowing stones at tourists passing by on their bikes!) on this side of the island and it was nice to be in an area like this.
That night we spent the night in one of Cat Ba's nicest hotels (it was indeed very nice!) before heading along the strip past the usual hawkers selling the same old tat for a few drinks.
We enjoyed our trip to Cat Ba Island and through Ha Long Bay, although we were very surprised at what a dirty place it was. Many other people remarked the same thing.