Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Halong Bay/Cat Ba Island

Those of you who saw the Vietnam Top Gear special just before Christmas will already be familier with Halong Bay. This is the bay where they tried to sail around on their little converted moped boats.

Halong by was a very bumpy 3 hour bus ride away from the capital almost directly east from Hanoi. The road here in Vietnam are absoutly terrible and at times I was bumped out of my seat some of the ot holes were so bad.

Once we got to the port we were all taken on to a boat which was to be our home for the next two days and we departed for the bay. Halong bay is bascially a vast collection of about 2000 limestone island and rocks cover covering a huge area spreading out over 120km of sea. Apparently the bay was creadted by a gaint dragon who when flying over the area his tale slashed and cut away at the ground causing the 1000's of rock formations. Then when the dragon splashed into the sea the waves it created submerged the place in water. However the whole time I was there I didn't see this dragon once, so very much doubt this actually happened.

The bay actually begins about an hours boats ride from the coast. As you can imagine once we got into the bay it was absoutlyly stunning. You were just surrounded by hundreds of little rock formations as far as the eye could see and the cool mistry weather there made it very atmopheric. We headed further and further into the bay till we were literaly in the middle of no where surrounded by nothing but the rocks. Eventually we stumbled across one of the few floating villages that exist within the bay and left the boat to begin our main actvity for the day, a 16km long kyack around the bay.

Tommy and I shared a kyack and as I decided to be very risky and take my camera on the kyak I got the front of the boat so I could get some pcitures without Tommy fat head in the way. Personally I wanted to sit in the back as this would have meant when Tommy wouldn;t have been able to see me so I could just sit back and relax wihtout him knowing and let him do all the work round the 16km course. Unfortunaly I was in the front so he probably did it to me instead.

We pottered around the bay for ages paddling through tunnels and coves and just generally exploring the place by sea. We eventually ended up at one of the rocks with a cave within it so all moored up next to the entrance and made our way in. The cave was cool but to be honest they guide had forgotten to tell us all the bring torches so once we made it in we couldn't actually see anything. Every so often I would set off my camera flash which gave a milliseconds viewing time which really wasn't enough time to take anything in. We struggled through the 50 meters or so of caves in almost complete darkness other than the guide’s torch which was pointing out all the various holes and Sharpe things to avoid. We made it out on to the other side and came across a very small fresh water lake surrounded by plants and trees. It was pretty cool but not worth scrambling through a pitch black cave to see. Once we had spent about 5 minutes around the lake the guided decided it was time to go, so we got back into our kayaks and made the long journey back to the boat.

That night we were treated to another feast of Vietnamese good by the crew and then they whacked some tunes on for us to party into the night on the boat. Being the miserable bastard I was during my time there couldn't arsed with any of that so just went to bed as I was still knackered from Bangkok.

We were woken up nice and early the next day as we had to set off before the dock while the tide was still high so made the hour or so journey back to the coast. The weather was so nice that morning, so cool and breezy; I just sat on the front if the boat on my own and watched all the little islands go by. Eventually I was joined by an Australian guy and we spent the next half hour discussing online media, which was nice.

Once we made it back to the coast we then all set off for our second days activities which was to be a trek up a small mountain to the top where there were to be amazing views of the surrounding area. I haven't done any exercise other than walking since I left to go traveling and for the 3 months before I left didn't do any exercise at all because of my bad foot. Therefore the 45 minute trek up the mountain was an absolute mission turning me into an out of breath mess 5 minutes in. The trip up was pretty difficult as there wasn't really much of a trail up to the top after the first 100 meters, so had to rely on the rocks and branches to help me pull my way up.

When I eventually made it to the top the views were amazing and you could see for several miles. At the top as well a 50 meter high tower had been built to maximize the views from the top. I made my way up to the top only to find the last few floorboards of the steps were missing. Finding it hard to believe that the only boards missing were the ones at the top, I cautiously leaped over the hole and made it to the main viewing platform. The view as you can imagine was stunning and I stayed up there as long as I could taking in the view I had just sweated my arse off to see. We then made the short journey back down to the bottom to get the bus to another hotel where we would be staying at for the night before making the 3 hour journey back to Hanoi.

Looking back Ha Long bay was a great and it felt great just kayaking around getting up nice and close to the rocks and being able to explore the place how I wanted and not where the boat driver or whoever decided to take us. The trek on the second day was nice little extra as it was something I probably wouldn't have done had I not signed up to the Ha Long bay trip but it did not compare to the actual bay at all.

*Top right you can just see the tower we climbed up.


  1. very good blog you got going on there. As a northerner who learnt vietnamese in SOAS in London I enjoyed seeing what I could never get to do. HaLong bay has always been a dream of mine. I hope you enjoyed the travels as much as I have enjoyed reading them. Cam on ban toi!! Tot lam

  2. Nice blog Rob. Saw the Vietnam TG Special Dave and was struck by what a amazing place the bay is.
    ta for the insight.

  3. That looks amazing! really enjoying reading about your travels...can you remember who you booked the bay trip through

  4. if you go to hanoi stay at the hanoi backpackers. i booked my trip through them.

    although i assuem there will be a lot of other ompanies offering the same trip.

    but h.b.p is prob the best option


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