Halong Bay – Day One

Today began our whirlwind tour of Halong Bay!

The bus was meant to leave at 8.30am and after packing everyone in like sardines, 16 people on a 12 seater bus, with backpacks, we were well on our way!

The countryside was beautiful and Daniel got to sit next to a boy who would not stop brag about how much travel he had done – ha ha! While this was going on, I began to feel quite travel sick, so at the next stop, I conveniently asked the boy to do a swap, in turn being a win win for everyone.

When we got to Halong Bay City, we decided quickly to ditch our $10 accommodation we had booked and jump straight on a tour. If you ever find yourself in Halong Bay City, you may agree that it is quite deserted 😛

We found a company who charged us $80 for a two night/three day tour and even though we apparently payed more than most we were extremely happy with the deal 🙂

This marked the beginning of an unforgettable trip to Halong Bay and Catba Island.

The tour began with a taxi boat, the arrival of this instilling fear in all that this was our “cruise ship”, which took us to our actual mode of transport. Once we made ourselves at home on the deck of the boat, sunshine beaming down on us, we set sail and made our way to see the famous caves of Hang Dau Go. When we got here we were allowed 40 minutes to explore the stalactites and stalagmites of the three chamber cave. No words can describe or pictures can show how truly fascinating and beautiful these caves were. Walking through the caves was both peaceful and eerie at the same time.

After this, we cruised along Halong Bay looking out at the many magnificent islands and taking pictures of them to try and capture their beauty. There are over 2,000 of these islands – all uninhabited.

On our way to Catba Island, we stopped off at a floating village. We paid 3 dollars for a private dingy boat ride with some locals. The father and his son, both laughing and joking, took us through a tiny cave that the boat could just squeeze through to a huge inlet of crystal blue water and cave walls surrounding us. We then got to jump in and swim around for awhile which was refreshing and amazing.

Once our swim was over, we went back to the boat and made our way to Catba. When we got to the island a bus took us to our hotel where we checked in and then went for dinner with our tour group.

After arriving at dinner a little late, the Vietnamese women who was to be our waiter, ushered (or pushed, you choose) us through a tiny door at the back of the restaurant. To our surprise, every chair was filled with Vietnamese locals bar 2 others from our group. We sat down next to them and became friends with Elexa and Tyler.

Before receiving any food, a toothless local approached our table with four shot glasses and a cheeky grin. He placed them on the table and in broken English stated that if we did not have 3 rice wine shots before dinner we would not be considered brave, or welcome. Not wanting to displease the locals, we decided to take the rice wine shots. With pain, we got them down and our chasers of warmed bottled water did not help the taste. Throughout dinner, the man would reapper, filling our shot glass while the other Vietnamese men cheered on in encouragement.

When dinner was finished a group of us went down to the harbor which was crazy fun. Inexplicable to us, some form of a children’s festival was taking place throughout the main street. The children, in inflatable swimming pools, fished for plastic fish with toy fishing rods while others rode electric motor bikes and cars around the massive river front with no restrictions on speed or area. It was very funny to watch the children, crashing in to each other and laughing hysterically.

We shared a few beers by the waterside – looking out at the shining lights of the floating bars and restaurants. After this, we went to a bar on the main street and played drinking games until the end of the night. We left around 1am, excited for our 7am wake up…