Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
Posted Date: 3/7/20133:08 AM
Again we stopped off at the crafts centre for the victims of Agent Orange, but were spared the confusion of any more stops and delivered straight to the pier.
Once there we still had to climb over several boats to get to ours, but when we did, we found a beautiful, new wooden junk. There was no top deck, but there were decks fore and aft with sun-loungers that actually had cushions! And tables to sit around, and a big pagoda thingy on the bow to shield us from the sun. More importantly, the boat set sail with a compliment of eight passengers, without packing it full of day-trippers.
The cabins were a vast improvement on the previous tour — cozy, well-decorated, with tile bathrooms — a pint-sized version of a midrange hotel room. And the food was a definite notch up as well — more fresh seafood, better presentation, and the staff were eagre to please.
We saw the Surprising Cave this time, which was a bit more interesting than it’s cousin, the Dragon. We won’t give away the surprise. The beach we visited was a bit better than on the budget tour and there were no last-minute changes — we spent the first night on the boat. The small compliment of passengers we wound up with weren’t nearly as social as the budget group, and there was no top-deck on the boat to lounge on, so we hit the sack early.
We arrived in Cat Ba early in the morning, checked into our hotel — a two-star place, no better or worse than the budget tour, then piled into a mini bus and ventured out to explore cave arches in the bay by kayak, and a cavern that had only been discovered five years ago — the best cave yet. Afterwards we fished for our lunch at a local fish farm and ate what we caught. Following lunch we were given ‘free time’ to stroll on Cat Ba’s seafront promenade or visit one of the beaches. Not a bad day, all told.
When we boarded the boat again in the morning, we found some extra passengers there that had just spent the night on it, for a one-night, two day cruise — but just a handful. Cruising back to Ha Long Bay in the morning, we would have stopped for a swim, but the weather was against us, so we continued to the pier. Again we had to crawl across four boats to get from ours to the pier and some of the older passengers had a pretty rough time of it. Then there was lunch at Ha Long City, and the van back to Hanoi.
Recommended Tours in Halong Bay: http://www.vietnamtour.com/halong_cruise_and_homestay_t221.html