Halong Bay - 25th August 2008 @ 1:27 pm «   »

Location: Vietnam : Halong Bay

Being another one of the countless UNESCO World Heritage sites that we’ve visited over the last few months, Halong Bay is a sublimely beautiful place with scenery not unlike that of Yangshou in China. There are thousands of karst hills forming individual islands off the coast in the bay which makes for an amazing skyline.

We bought a 3-day/2-night package trip to the bay – package tours seem to be the preferred method of getting around and seeing things in Vietnam – and our tour bus picked us up at 8:00 on Saturday morning. It was an easy 4 hour ride to the coast from Hanoi, with a very excitable guide talking most of the way and the usual stop at a local handicraft centre thrown in for free of course. Having arrived in Halong City, our group of 16 were loaded onto one of literally hundreds of Junks (authentic looking boats, with multiple decks) moored in the small harbour.

Our junk had sleeping cabins on the bottom deck, a lounge/dinner area (and two moreĀ  cabins, one of which was ours) on the middle deck and an open area on the top deck. We sailed for about an hour before reaching a small floating village, set in an enclosure of island hills. We got the chance to take a small boat ride through a few caves openings in some of the hills – at an extra cost of course – and we got the chance to look at some of the homes.

Our next stop was a massive cave in one of the hills ,where we had to get off the junk and climb a short way up one of the island hills to the cave entrance. Having seen our fair share of caves recently we didn’t have major expectations, but it was pleasant never the less and quite impressive. A little further along the junk stopped for the evening and we could swim and of course jump off the top of the boat. Unfortunately the weather seemed to be closing in all day and we moored in an enclosed area.

Our group consisted of 2 French couples and a Spanish student group – all very nice and laid-back people. All our meals were included and the food was very nice indeed for the price we paidĀ  for the bottom-of-the-price-range trip. We played a lazy few drinking games with the rest of the guys on board before turning in for the night. A rather big storm forced everyone to scurry around and close all windows properly as the junk got whipped with heavy winds and rain – didn’t last too long luckily.

It was up at 7am the next morning for breakfast (don’t ask us why) and off to the main island (Cat Ba) where we left the junk and got a mini bus to the Cat Ba National Park where we did a short hike up a hill for nice views of the lush surrounding areas. It was absolutely pouring down with rain again when we started walking, so despite the flimsy plastic raincoats we bought from a local, we got completely drenched. It was extremely muddy and very slippery all the way with massive amounts of mosquitoes attacking our bare legs (Jan later counted 32 bites on one of his legs).

Halfway down the return path Marizanne slipped and landed with her back and upper arms on the roots of a tree. She took a really hard fall and has been left with huge black & blue marks. Luckily it doesn’t look like she’s done any internal/serious damage to her back or anything else. All got back on the bus to go to the main town on the island and check into the pre-booked hotel. After a quick lunch and the chance to hose off the mud, we were picked up around 14:00 for sea kayacking to an island with a monkey colony. We had a great time swimming and lazing around on a nice beach before paddling back the 40minutes to the main island.

After dinner we had an early night after the day’s activities, while the rest of the youngsters in our group went out on the town. We boarded the same junk again on Monday morning and cruised for about two hours before arriving back at the harbour at Halong city. There we enjoyed our last lunch with our group before getting on the bus for the 3 hour ride back to Hanoi. The bus dropped us of at the hotel around 16:30 where we picked up the rest of our luggage and waited for our overnight bus to Hoi An.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

4 Responses to “Halong Bay”  
Brutus Says:

shame man! hope you feeling better M, glad to the rest of your trip has been injury free. loving all the photos and stories. Makes my weekend reading all about what you both got up to. Laters guys, keep well

jan Says:

Hi Brett,
Happy birthday for today!
Thanks for the comments. Yeah, the fall was pretty hard and could easily have been more serious, so we’re lucky. We’re in a lovely little beach resort with windsurf spots all over and a really laid back vibe. Having lunch in a local restaurant on the beach waiting for our 13:30 bus to Saigon.
Cheers mate

Ciara & Trav Says:

Still loving the photo’s, marizanne that bruise is massive! Hope you received loads of TLC from that man of yours. Keep them travel stories and amazing photo’s coming.
Trav and Ciara

jan Says:

Hi Guys,
Good to hear from you again – we should sort out a Skype session soon!