A Chinese Junk, Cave, Pagoda, Beach, Kayaking,Jungle Trek!
If variety is what you are looking for then this Halong Bay three day cruise will appeal.
Halong Bay is high on most travellers list, when they are going to northern Vietnam. We booked a two night, three day package through our hotel with Ganoa Tours. On talking to others, you do get what you pay for.
One couple, booked through Columbus Travel and highly recommended it. They had paid three times as much as we had, so could expect better . We did get what we paid for and felt it was good value. $99US for all meals , accommodation , a trek and kayak. The down side was we changed junks 7 times, and the kayaking equipment was barely adequate.
We travelled to Halong Bay in a bus load of of Malaysian friends and relatives travelling together. They certainly knew how to have fun, and talked, sang and ate, the whole two hour drive.
Halong Bay was a surprise. The dozens of Chinese Junks were tied up waiting for the next party. Lunch was served immediately we had departed, in the beautiful wood lined dining room.
Sung Sot Cave on Bo Hon Island On arriving at Bo Hon Island we climbed the steps up to a viewing platform, before going into the stunning Sung Sot Cave.
Developed for large numbers of tourists who visit, this cave was found by the French in 1972. It has a huge cavern, and was used in the war.
A Pagoda and Beach on Ti Top Island
We wound our way through the stalagtites and stalagmites, and eventually emerged at a walkway taking us back to the junk. From here it was a short cruise to Ti Top Island. Brian climbed the 450 steps to the pagoda at the top, and a beautifully rewarding view, while I longed on the white sandy beach. We cruised out past the Fishing Villages and moored along side a flotilla of other junks of all shapes and sizes. The evening meal was an entertaining affair, and we sang and talked until the surprise birthday cakes appeared. One provided by the tour leader.
We were then shown our cabin on the newer junk tied up beside us. It was small, but very lovely, opening out onto a deck running the width of the junk. From here we had beautiful views of all the lights around us, silhouetted against the high peaks of the many islands in the bay.
The en suite bathroom was a well organised space, with a good shower. Some of the cabins are very luxurious. Depending on how much you are willing to pay.
Kayaking through Bat Cave Brian and I were the only two who took to the water in a kayak. We were somewhat disappointed there were no rudders, the paddles were in poor condition, and the lifejackets somewhat dodgy. Others from the same company had newer gear, so it was probably the luck of the draw. We paddled across the fast flowing open water to the island in the distance and hooked up with another tour group. From here we went through the famous Bat Cave – and you could hear and see dozens of these ugly little creatures( shudder......I have an aversion to bats!)
After a paddle around the quieter waters encompassed by small islands, we returned to the Junk, in time to gather our belongings, say good bye and transfer onto another, as we were going on to Cat Ba Island.
Jungle Trek on Cat Ba Island
We had opted to do a trek offered. and the guide appeared a little concerned.” Once you start, you have to keep going” he said. An elderly Vietnamese woman met us, and the young guide carried her half full sack of rice.
We spent the next two hours climbing over jagged, volcanic crops of rock, walking over bamboo pole bridges and clambering down cliff faces. Cat Ba Island – is another UNESCO Heritage site.
The jungle was thick in parts, but eventually we came out at a fishing spot on the flat. Here we stopped at the old lady’s house. This was the highlight. A simple affair, they had lived here for 20 years. When Cat Ba was made a National park they were given the right to remain until they die, when the land they own will become part of the National Park. Rested we carried on, and eventually came out onto a road that took us back to a wharf 2 kilometres on. We joined our junk mid afternoon, and were so hungry we opted to have lunch inside, rather than on the beautiful little beach we anchored near. Apparently they usually set up a table with white cloth, and you dine in style. However, a cool swim was most welcome, as we were joined by a bunch of kayakers.
Hotel on Cat Ba Arriving at Cat Ba Islandat 5.00p.m. , by the time we had driven over the hill to our hotel Holiday View Hotel it was almost dark. This huge hotel was not your appealing, character hotel. But the rooms were very nicely decorated, with fantastic views over the bay. After a wander down the road and a drink at a local bar, we had the set menu traditional Vietnamese meal .Next morning after a buffet breakfast on the large deck of the restaurant, we were on our way to catch our junk. We had much time to admire the beautiful outlines of the 1964 islands in Halong Bay rising out of the morning mist as we motored for the next two hours. It is fascinating watching the local fishermen in their little boats, and the floating fishing villages as you pass.
Arriving at a rendezvous point where we were to be transferred onto junk number seven, there was not a boat in sight! Lost at sea in Halong Bay !
After several worried phone calls, we met up with our boat a bit further on. Back to Halong Bay and the bus to Hanoi.
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