DIY Halong Bay

Staying in Hanoi and not visiting Halong Bay? Cannot be! The world famous gorgeous Halong Bay was high on our list of desires and we would not be discouraged by rain, mist and cold. February is probably the worst month to visit, but we didn’t care much. We had to see it, one way or another. 99% of people visiting Halong Bay do so on an organised tour from Hanoi, but it wasn’t for us. There is one thing that we avoid like a plaque when traveling and it is organised tours. We like doing things our way, even if it means spending more time on travel. All our trips since the beginning of our travel have been DIY and Halong Bay was not to be an exception.

Instead of cruising Halong Bay we headed to Cat Ba, the biggest island in the bay. It was a great base to venture into the sea, but the island was very interesting itself as well. There was plenty of trekking and exploring to do, so we figured if the weather sucked on the sea, we would at least see the island. It was a good plan.

The island was closely surrounded by the islets of Halong Bay and standing on the shore we could see as much as from a cruise boat. Despite rain and cold we rented a motorbike and drove around the island to see the bay from different angles. One thing is sure, Halong Bay is one of the most scenic, dramatic and mesmerising places on earth. If it was gob-smacking in bad weather, I think I would faint from the impact of its beauty on a good day. We rode from one little harbour to another and watched fishermen bring their catch to the shore, mysterious rocky islands in the distance, thousands of colourful boats rocking on the water. We sat in the rain and made a silent woe with the sea that we would come back. Next time in summer and ready for kayaking, yachting and snorkeling. The sheer thought of it gives me goose pimples.

As predicted the weather was bad and was getting worse. Also the food was rather bad. We at least hoped for tasty sea food, but being it a low season, it seemed that all good cooks run off to a warmer climate and would be back for summer. We did as much as we could and saw as much of Halong Bay as the weather permitted. After two days on the island we packed and jumped on a bus, boat and another two buses. A few hours later we got off in Tam Coc – next dot marked on our map of Vietnam.

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