Cruising Ha Long Bay and the island of Cat Ba
Tony Tran | 06 Jul 2009

Another early morning start and the weather was still grey and overcast but at least it had stopped raining.

Another early morning start and the weather was still grey and overcast but at least it had stopped raining. The minibus picked us up at 7.45 and we spent the next hour doing a city tour picking up the other 10 people on the tour. Three hours later we boarded our ‘luxury’ boat which would take us to explore Ha Long bay. There were only 6 of of us on the our 16 berth boat which made things all the more personal with our tour guide ‘Suan’. Suan was a mine of information and we later found out she had studied tourism for 7 years at university.

After boarding we sailed for 2 hours to LanHa Bay and disembarked. We were shown the impressive caves and the million year old stalactites and stalagmites inside the limestone mountains. Ha Long bay has over 1500 square kilometres of limestone and dolomite islets which have recently been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We both really enjoyed the caves……..is this a sign we are getting old?

From there we sailed into the next bay for kayaking. After 15 minutes we returned with wet bums, aching arms and goosebumps. Kayaking is not for us!

Dinner was sea food again, we are both feeling a little ’sea fooded’ out.

The following morning was my birthday, oh joy of joys I’m now 40 and unemployed, only kidding.

We got off of the boat at Cat Ba and then 4 of us and Suan went for a 2 hour mountain bike ride. What a wonderful way to spend my birthday. The scenery was stunning,we felt really welcome as all the locals shouted and waved as we passed through.

After the cycle ride we checked into our hotel in Cat Ba town. It is a strange place where it is very obvious the local population are desperate for the US$. It has a growing number of high rise hotels, karoke bars, water fountains and bright lights to entice the overseas visitor.

Having said that we both spent a very entertaining evening with 40 or so other drunken travellers in a karoke bar until we were thrown out. There were 2 of us celebrating birthdays and somehow we were forced into a duet. Last time I sang karoke I said never again…..this time I mean it! Steve even got photographic evidence, trouble is, I look like I’m enjoying it. I’ll never admit it though.

The island of Cat Ba is 18km so when we woke up this morning to find the sun was shining, and when my hangover had abated, we decided to hire out 2 motorbikes and explore. We have spent over 5 hours riding around today, covering every road on the island (all 3 of them!) There is very little traffic on the island which makes it very pleasurable and good practise for the week we will spend riding from Hoi An to Da lat. We have another day on Cat Ba Island tomorrow and hopefully the weather will remain good so we can go to the beach then it’s back to Hanoi to meet Mum on 28th.