Monday, February 18, 2008

Halong Bay & Cat Ba Island – Feb 15-17

Our trip to Halong Bay started with a 3.5 hour drive. The first half was rather unpleasant due to some Indian dinner the night before. Then we had the requisite bathroom/tourist trap stop. The second half was much better.. We finally got on a boat meant for 14, but were only 7 due to the timing of our trip (low season = freakin’ cold).

Halong Bay was more beautiful than I imagined, with thousands of limestone formations of all shapes and sizes. We got to enjoy the views from the upper deck. It was rather foggy, but we even got a break of sunshine. We passed some “boat homes” where fishermen and their family lived, often with an aggressive dog barking at us. The Boyfriend was really bothered by the diesel fumes coming from the boat. There is something incongruous with the beauty of the scenery and the bad smells and sometimes loud noise.

The dragon at the head of our boat.

Various view of Halong Bay.

Boat homes among the limestone formations in Halong Bay.

Meals were provided by the boat crew. Unfortunately, we were broken down into two groups: the vegetarian/non-seafood table and the will-eat-anything table. My meals included fresh fish, shrimp, crab. Mm… mm… mm!! The Boyfriend had faux fish that he did not really enjoy!

We got to visit the Amazing Cave and amazing is definitely the right word for it. It’s something out of this world. It actually felt a bit extra-terrestrial, especially with the added lighting. Then we sailed to our final location, where we would sleep. It’s a bit surreal because images of Halong Bay doesn’t capture the MANY boats out there. We were easily surrounded by 15 boats – we could see people playings card on the boat “next door” and hear karaoke on another one.

Pictures really don't capture the Amazing Cave very well.

Just outside the Amazing Cave, we were amazed to find this rock formation that looks like a "rock man" 's two dangling feet, while he's sitting on the ledge (admiring the view was The Boyfriend's story. I was a bit morbid and thought he was pondering jumping...)

The next day brought us foggy, cold weather for our sea kayaking lessons. Once we got going, it wasn’t too bad. No incident like my friend SP who got splashed by a speedboat trying to tip her kayak!! We did have a very brief panic during our second stint kayaking. Half of our boat elected to skip it due to the cold. The Boyfriend thought it was free time and we could go anywhere we wanted (even though I thought it was a better idea to follow the guide…) Our blood pressure went up a bit when we saw our boat leaving and the other kayak nowhere to be found. 15 minutes later and all was good, though our guide didn’t seem too impressed!

Kayaking in Halong Bay.

Kids we encountered while kayaking. There's really only one mode of transportation!
During the afternoon, we headed to Cat Ba Island where we were to spend our next night. It is a big island in Halong Bay. The Sunrise Resort was SO nice with a private beach, pool and bar. We had an amazing view from our room. “Too bad it’s not warmer” is all I kept saying.

This was the nicest hotel room during our stay.
View from our hotel room.

Our final day in Halong was spent trekking in Cat Ba National Park. Our guide was very nice, but tended on miscommunicating, or not communicating (thus the kayaking incident). We didn’t find out that we were actually hiking up a mountain until we were close to the peak. It was quite a treacherous ascent, and an even worst descent, with very slippery rocks due to the rain. At the peak was a former military observation tower that we could climb. I’ve gone gliding and skydiving, and I would compare the experience of climbing this tower equivalent or worst. The tower was so rickety with spaces between the stairs and my shoes were muddy and slippery; one false move, and you’re falling off a tower, perched at the top of a mountain. Even at the top, were planks of wood that did not seem to be securely nailed down. But the views were amazing and worth it all, I think?

View from the military watch tower.

All in all, we were very VERY happy with our trip to Halong and with Handspan in case anyone wants to book a tour with them!


Nina Natalia said...

how much was your trip package? :D

Miss.Adventure said...

I honestly don't remember but it was a bit pricey. Maybe $200? There are definitely more affordable options, including those that don't include overnight stays. Good luck!