Destination: Halong Bay
Number of Days there: 4 (1 in Cat Ba Island & 3 in Halong Bay)
Times we took the: Boat: 1; Bus/Minivan: 0; Train/Subway: 0 Taxi/Car: 0; Motorbike: 2; Kayak: 5
Where we stayed: Phong Lan in Cat Ba ($8) & private boat in Halong Bay - Classic Sail 1
Favorite Restaurant: Steamed crab & grilled squid on the boat
Best of: Sailing through Halong Bay on our own private boat - FANTASTIC!
Worst of: Being overcharged for drinks on the boat.
After being gripped by uncertainty over a Halong Bay tour - which operator, which level (budget, deluxe, VIP), how many days, etc and hearing several horror stories about the group tours we decided to charter our own boat for a 3 day trip through Halong Bay. The cost for the trip was $320 and included all food as well as water, coffee & tea. Expensive but worth every penny! We were able to plan our own itinerary, stop when we wanted to stop, kayak when we wanted or just sit on the top of the boat and watch the scenery sail by. We went with Cat Ba Ventures, www.catbaventures.com, and would recommend them. The boat was simple but comfortable and included a bathroom with a hot water shower (it actually worked better than some of the hotels in Vietnam), a private cabin, a shaded lounging area and a sundeck. Food was included and every day we stopped to buy crab, squid, fish & clams from local fisherman (very yummy). The only thing that makes me slightly hesitant to recommend them is the fact that they overcharged us for drinks. We were charged 150,000 dong for 1 beer and 3 soft drinks while we were on the boat which for Vietnam is ridiculously high. The beer was $1.25 (we asked before we bought it) and we assumed that the soft drinks would be the same or less. WRONG...the drinks were $2.50 each which is more than you would even conceivably pay in the US even at a sporting event. We still recommend them, but buyer beware of this tidbit of information.
We took the 7:20 am bus from Hanoi to Haiphong which connected with a boat to Cat Ba Island (total transport time - 5 hours/160,000 dong - Hong Luang Transport). Tired from our trip we decided to relax, we took a short walk to the beach where we read until sunset. The next morning we boarded the boat for Halong Bay where we kayaked through the arches, the fishing villages & numerous caves (karsts). We also walked through Surprise Cave (see photo for the surprise) and spent hours on the boat deck just watching the scenery roll by from the top of the boat. We were even able to sleep on the top of the boat one night in a secluded bay (it was gorgeous but quite cold)! Here are some of our favorite pictures from our trip:
To see our other photos of Halong Bay please click here!