Researching boat trips out of Cat Ba Island we were expecting to pay between 20-30 USD per person. Our hotel the ‘Duc Tuan’ offered a full day for 25 USD so to save the hassle we booked through them. I sometimes think its worth paying a little more, particularly when its a matter of a couple of quid. We saw some pretty tired looking old boats when we were out, but ours was lovely.
If you read up on trips around Halong Bay you’ll find it has a reputation for being overcrowded and a little dirty. Halong City is apparently rife with pickpockets and scam artists. Whether or not this is true I can’t say because we decided to give the city a miss.
Han La Bay however, (Halong’s quieter neighbour) is truly beautiful. Calm emerald-green waters lap a maze of giant limestone karsts that scatter the bay. We passed floating villages, fish farms, and the occasional fisherman out on a traditional little fishing boat.
We stopped for some kayaking. First time for me… think I may have been doing it wrong because I got soaked! When Jamie would paddle we went so fast I couldn’t even dip my oar in- let alone match his stroke! I got the hang of it by the end. We explored hidden lagoons and caves; some full of bats and tiny little fish. Kayaking is tiring, especially if you start off super excited like I did and power around for the first half hour. We went back to the boat for lunch and some sunbathing. Bell and I dangled our feet over the prow and watched the world pass by. We even saw a couple of flying fish, at least I think they were flying fish: about 6 inches long and silvery. When they jumped they glided for about 20 feet.
We stoppped at the Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave) for some exploring. What we didn’t know is quite how much of a scramble it would be: we were crawling, squeezing and scraping our way through some pretty tiny spaces. Almost everyone was still in flip-flops and several people fell over. There was a huge spider and we all came out a bit covered in clayish-cave-goo.
Our boat anchored again and we jumped off for some snorkelling. Unless you’re shallow the water is too murky to see much. There are tiny little beaches spotted around, and close to them there was plenty to see. We even spotted a sea snake! It wasn’t too big, with brown and white stripes. I was a little scared to be honest, the water was shallow enough to have put your feet down. Lesson learned there!! Another thing to watch out for are the currents, we’re all strong swimmers but we all noticed the pull; its fine as long as you keep an eye on the boat and each other.
Last stop on our trip was Monkey Island. A quick note here: I hate monkeys (I know its silly but I’m scared of them) and nothing will convince me otherwise! I was even considering not going to the island, but Jamie changed my mind. Dan, Bell and Jamie went to see the monkeys (they’re all wild but there were some on some trees right next to the beach and a crowd gathered to see them). While they did that I swam (I figured I’ve never seen a monkey in the sea before right? so I’m probably safe here). Bell joined me for a swim. I hate to say I told you so but we were watching some girls near the monkeys and one jumed on her back and bit her! It looked pretty bad but I think it scared her more than anything (poor girl, I felt so sorry for her, she was crying loads). So, if you go to monkey Island beware they will bite, but it seems you’ll be safe in the sea if youre a complete scaredy cat like me. Google ‘Monkey Island bites’ and see for yourself.
This trip was brilliant, although we were all still rocking for hours after leaving the boat. We love Han La Bay xxx