No trip to Vietnam would be complete without seeing it’s famous, UNESCO heritage listed Halong Bay. We were a bit worried about how touristy this area would be and after doing some research decided to stay on Cat Ba Island instead of on a boat.
It was a good call. As we checked in to our $7 a night guest house with beautiful views over the bay we were feeling pretty smug. Rather than rush things we bought a bottle of or favourite local wine and sat in our room admiring the view and planning our next couple of days.
The first thing we did was a trip to the national park. This did not go to plan and resulted in us being chased out by angry bees shortly after starting. (The full story on that here.)
Things improved though when we went to the fort and view point at the top of the hill. We decided to walk and it wasn’t easy, but at least it made up for the lack of national park trek. Expecting to find a couple of old cannons and some rubble we were amazed at the set up and spent over an hour wandering around looking at the exhibits and marvelling at the views. One bunker had an odd noise coming from it that sounded like a cross between a pig and a frog. We decided that whatever creature was in there did not need to be disturbed and quickly left.
Then the day of our boat trip rolled around. Excited, we boarded the old boat, trying not to be apprehensive. As the rain started to come down, so too did it start to rain inside the cabin. The boat ceiling had sprung about 20 leaks and the deck hand dashed about with towels and rags trying to keep the seats dry. We couldn’t see more than 5 metres in front of us, meaning the captain was navigating with an old school compass.
Skipping the snorkeling stop we were taken to a cave to explore and wait for the rain to ease up. It was pretty cool with underground streams and hidden waterfalls to see. There were some tight squeezes, but nothing too scary.
Kayaking was probably the best bit of the day. Ignoring the rain and our wet bottoms we made our way around some of Halong Bay’s rocky islands.
Halong Bay was beautiful, but we were really disappointed by all the garbage in the water. Unfortunately the locals that live on the water use it as a rubbish bin and there really is an obscene amount floating in there. It was quite sad to see.
Overall our time in the area was OK. I’m glad we did it but I wouldn’t go back. There is some amazing natural beauty, but too many crappy over priced restaurants and western bars.