As said in the last post, after asking many agencies in Hanoi for a tour in Halong Bay, we decided to follow the advice of another blog in the Internet and head to Cat Ba Island by our own, with a bus-boat-bus combination. And this turned out to be a great decision! :D
Cat Ba Island is in the outer part of Ha Long Bay, in an area called Lan Ha Bay. Even if Cat Ba Town is already full of hotels and has become a very popular destination for Vietnamese summer tourists (looks a bit like “Salou”), the island still have many virgin places and it’s a really cool place to relax and enjoy the sea and the beauty of Ha Long Bay.
The first day there we took a boat tour with a company called Asia Outdoors. First they brought us with the boat among the karst scenery and the fishermen villages on the water. But we could also explore some areas with kayaks, entering hidden and amazingly quiet lagoons, getting through narrow caves and disembarking in coral beaches. And moreover they gave us a really yummy lunch! It was a really cool day and it costed us only 25$ each! Great way to visit Ha Long Bay!! ^o^
In the boat we met a group of lovely British ladies, with whom we hang out during the evenings in the bar upstairs of Asia Outdoors, meeting place for all the westerns in town to share travel stories while taking a beer, watching the World Cup, or playing the free (!!) pool and table soccer (advantages of having a currency without coins! :P )!
We have some funny stories from this bar. For example, one of the nights was Oriol’s birthday, so we told the people in the bar and at midnight they brought him a bit of ice cream while singing happy birthday!
But the funniest one happened in the last night, when Albert and Marc went there for a quite evening with a beer, and ended up envited to lots of drinks by a group of Vietnamese guys, after beating them in a table soccer match! xD
The second day we decided to take motorbikes and explore the island. It was the first day with such a vehicle for Oriol and Marc, but we enjoyed it a lot! The inner part of Cat Ba is amazing, with the road turning between the karst pinnacles and the rainforest, amazing to drive there! And the view from the top of Cannon Fort is really worth the 60.000 VND (2€) they charge for the entrance! :)
In the other side of the island, an Slovakian girl and a basque guy we had met before offered us some amazingly tasty oysters, a great appetizer just before coming back to Cat Ba town through the coast road. This road was under construction works, so we had a bit of Motocross in the way, not bad for a first motorbiking day! :P
Anyway, the usual clouds had opened up and the evening light gave us some stunning views of the coast! ^_^
Finally, the third day we took a cruising boat to Halong City and a bus to Hanoi, to put an end to our holidays-inside-the-holidays in Cat Ba. The view from the cruise was very nice, as we crossed all of Halong Bay, but the closer we were getting to Halong City the more rubbish we could see in the water… Cat Ba is definitely the place to go nowadays in Halong Bay! :)
Once in Hanoi, we had 2 hours before taking the sleeper bus to Sa Pa, in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. So we went to the City View Cafe and enjoyed a really nice sunset over the city while eating a bit of dinner. It seemed as Hanoi was trying to redeem itself after the not very nice impressions we got when we first came…
Time to try to sleep in the bus! ;)