Touring Ha Long Bay Vietnam
By Heidi Senderovitz
If you have the chance to tour Ha Long Bay while you are in Vietnam, it will be a most memorable time.
A friend of mine had told me that we just HAD to see Ha Long Bay, and she advised me to book a trip through Queen Cafe. We only had two days, as we arrived in Hanoi on a Friday afternoon and were scheduled to collect Molly on the Monday. So as soon as we had arrived at our hotel (Green Park Hotel, highly recommendable!) we asked in the reception if they could help us. They put us in touch with some agency who sold such tours, but it was very expensive. So we went out and took a cyclo to Queen Cafe which was in Hang Bac street in the old part of Hanoi. Queen Cafe is an internet cafe cum restaurant cum tourist office - very scruffy, but very cheap and friendly! We booked a two-day guided tour to Ha Long Bay - it included a several-hour bus trip to Ha Long City, meals (lunch and dinner, both Saturday and Sunday), five-hour boat trip (including a visit to a grotto) to Cat Ba Island in the bay, accommodation on Cat Ba Island, five-hour boat trip back, bus back to Hanoi - all for 24 US Dollars per person! Incredible!
The bus trip to and from Hanoi was good because it gave us a chance to see the Vietnamese countryside. And coming from a western country, the sight of hundreds of people working the rice fields in their rice hats, barefooted, with their water buffalos, is fantastic.
Ha Long Bay is very beautiful. It is like nothing we had ever seen. Thousands of huge limestones rise out of the sea, ghost-like against the sun. It would be so easy to get lost among them. Fortunately our captain knew where he was going! We sailed for five hours, visited a grotto, and ended up late in the evening on Cat Ba Island, where we stayed the night. That place was not particularly nice - new tourist hotels have shot up in recent years, but they are already dilapidated because the Asian crisis dashed the hopes of a booming tourist industry. We were told that Cat Ba Island is beautiful if you can get to some of the small beaches between the rocks, but we did not have the time to find them.
When we woke up the next day, we were met with a beautiful sight of the harbour at Cat Ba Island. Thousands of boats, big and small, fishing boats, house boats, you name it! scattered the water. When we set out again, we sailed out between them all. Then followed a five-hour sailing trip back to Ha Long City, during which we stopped and had a swim.
Ha Long Bay is a fantastic area and definitely a place you should visit if you have the time!