Here is a rule of thumb for you to remember, should you ever have the immense wish to see this absolutely stunning piece of paradise : in order to see paradise, you first need to see human failure to preserve nature. I am pretty sure, they are trying to teach you a lesson with this. Why else would they screw up close by cities like cat ba or halong bay and turn them into ugly 70s tourist centre’s.
I did not know this. All I knew were these pretty and very iconic green tiny islands around halong bay, which you see on TV. No one really prepares you for the ugly getaways, you need to go through in order to get there.
We chose Cat ba as our overnight spot, because we got told that this place is not as busy and terrible touristy like halong bay. Really?! Honestly, if cat ba is „not as bad“, I really don’t wanna know what Halong bay town looks like.
It’s fairly easy to get to paradise. Busses from Hanoi can be easily booked with your hostel and it takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to get to cat ba. In between your journey, you need to exit your bus, take a speed boat and take a local bus which is stationed on the island permanently. A piece of rust from the boat fell on my head during the transfer 🙂 I figure they drive these boats until they literally fall into pieces.
The roads are winded and lead through thick rain forest along the coast. Cat ba town is basically the end of the road you taking and basically consists of restaurants & hotels and that’s it.
Enough of this town, let’s get to the actual story of why we came here to the first place: the halong bay. We were so, so, so lucky. Travelling in rainy season has its perks and its set backs. The perks are certainly the lack of big tourist groups, however the problem can be the weather. If it rains, it rains cats and dogs and unlike Southern Africa it doesn’t rain 10min and 5 times a day, it rains cats and dogs for hours and hours and hours. NOT on the second day of our stay though. We head out to the Harbour in the early morning and boarded a small boat. For the following 8 hours we cruised through the breathtaking scenery of the bay. Hundreds of green islands are located in this bay, offering many hidden and secret beach spots, if the tide is low. We visited the swimming fisher villages, swam in the ocean twice, felt like Leonardo di Caprio at his beach and really enjoyed every single second of this piece of nature. Because this area is so huge, we barely saw any other people and it truly felt like we had this James Bond playground all to ourselves. Lunch was first caught fresh from the boat and then served to us. I could really lay down in all this Vietnamese food. Everything is so unbelievable tasty and fresh. I could eat all day every day
We finished our trip with a kayak tour through a few hidden tunnels and caves. Pollution doesn’t stop in front of a paradise and so I spend my time in the kayak, collecting trash out of the water. I am blown away by the amount of plastic that is still being used here as well as in my home in Cape Town and how senseless some people just throw their garbage out of windows. It could be so simple. Just pick up your trash and leave no trace. It doesn’t hurt you in any way right? If you drink a G&t drink it without the straw and if you go shopping just take a reusable bag or two. It’s really that easy.
Just after the kayak trip the thunderstorm, which we were already able to see on the horizon opened its gates and it poured down with rain. It was warm rain and let me tell you one thing: there is nothing more calming than sitting on the sun baked warm floor, listening to the crashing small waves against the boat and get soaked in a warm summer rain. The first time in years, I felt at peace with myself without forcing myself to calm down. I just sat there in the rain and on my own, listening to the sounds of the ocean. What a blissful day.
The following day we weren’t so lucky with the weather anymore. It rained and rained and rained and…. We had such great plans. We wanted to explore the island and go hiking or see the caves… And what did I end up doing? I ended up getting my nails done and sitting in a bar for a whole big 8 hours after that 😀 I had all their food, all their coffee and I played endless games of solitaire against myself. I actually stopped playing when I caught myself cheating on myself.
I regret nothing. You know, after all this is a holiday. Yes I didn’t see everything I could have seen but, you know, it RAINED. And all I was really longing for for years was doing absolutely nothing and don’t be anxious or nervous about it. That totally worked out in cat ba!