Ha Long and Cat Ba Island

Halong Bay Travel Blog

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Another bridge designed by Eiffel!

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.

Junk in Ha Long Bay
  We rather naively thought that there would be less boats, but there were huindreds of other tourists clambering aboard their choice of vessell.  WE were pleasantly surprised by the standard of our junk, there was a nice resturant / bar area, a roof lounge area as well as 8 private double cabins.  OUrs was fairly basic, not the white linen and fancy windows depicted in the agency's literature (although in Vietnam you can usually be certain that something fundamental varies between what a tour agency promises and what it actually delivers!), but nonetheless it was fine.

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.

FIghting Cock Island
  The sea was incredibly still, unfortunately there was hardly any sun to be seen though the mist, but at least it wasn't raining!  We eventually made it towards our first stop, a sheltered bay with a cave.  We were astounded how huge the cave was and the lighting gave it a fantastic atmospheric effect as we climbed through the impressive natural limestone formations.

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.

Ha Long Bay
  There was much publicity around the area to vote for Ha Long Bay to be part of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" (a competition which allows people to vote for their favorite places for via the web), however it is mind boggling that one site was excluded from the early vosting due to there being a lot of rubbish around the site - how Ha Long Bay wasn't excluded as well is simply mind boggling!

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.

COngestion at Ha Long Bay
  We tramped though the forest, unfortunately missing the rare Cat Ba Lemur (which has probably disappeared due to hunting) but fortuntaely avoiding any of the snakes that reside in the area!  In the afternoon we kayaked to Monkey Island through the filthy waterways, although we didn't see any of the 12 monkeys that live there.  It was at the same time a wonderful experience to be kayaking in such a beautiful and peaceful place, but at the same time depressing that people and the government could let what is potentially a national treasure turn-into the most dirty area of sea.

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.

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Another bridge designed by Eiffel!
Another bridge designed by Eiffel!
Junk in Ha Long Bay
Junk in Ha Long Bay
FIghting Cock Island
FIghting Cock Island
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay
COngestion at Ha Long Bay
COngestion at Ha Long Bay
Cave
Cave
Cave
Cave
Cave
Cave
WE thought we would be safe from p…
WE thought we would be safe from …
Cave
Cave
Happy-slapped by a jellyfish
Happy-slapped by a jellyfish
Random Rock, Ha Long Bay
Random Rock, Ha Long Bay
Fishing Eagle, Ha Long Bay
Fishing Eagle, Ha Long Bay
Typical example of the widespread …
Typical example of the widespread…
Typical of the crappy pottery shop…
Typical of the crappy pottery sho…
Farewell Ha Long Bay
Farewell Ha Long Bay
Halong Bay