Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever traveled to.  It was a great way to end my backpacking trip feeling rested.  There are approximately 2,000 limestone karsts or mini mountains that jut out of the waters to create amazing backdrops.  I took a three day two night tour here by myself and met many wonderful new friends.

Day 1 – Took a 4 hour bus ride from Hanoi to the Halong Marina.  Hopped on our wooden boat around lunch time and after eating we were arranged a day full of activities.  We explored some old caves in the limestone karsts, went kayaking, then went swimming.  After all of this we had showers then dinner which consisted of some seafood and chicken.  The first day was jam packed and a bit touristy but the weather Gods blessed us with beautiful clear skies.  Also, as I signed up as a solo traveler, I was assigned a room with an old Vietnamese Grandma who didn’t speak English.  Such a curious situation since the entire tour was really catered for Westerners, I believe her kids just treated her to a weekend away.  I really enjoyed her and she was very quick to smile and hold my hand and laugh, not really sure why.  Our tour guide translated to me that she invited me to her home in the countryside so she could introduce me to men.  After dinner and a beautiful sunset, we tried to go squid fishing and were unsuccessful as it wasnt squid season.  It was neat to try though!  Squid are attracted to bright lights so basically you have these strong bulbs that shine off of boats and you take your fishing reel and move the lure up and down to bring the squid to the surface, way different than the fly fishing I did with my Dad growing up.

Day 2 – Woke up at 5 am to catch what I hoped to be a beautiful sunrise.  Unfortunately it was raining but I managed to get some nice panoramas.  Even with rain and gray skies Halong bay was beautiful.  Had breakfast at 7 am and then we headed to a pearl farm at 9 am where we saw different species of pearl oysters and saw people cultivating them.  Very touristy and hard to understand the guides so didn’t really get much out of the tour.  After this it was about 10 am and a different boat picked me up to take me further into the bay to Cat Ba island.  Had lunch around 1 pm and went on a bike ride that was supposed to be light and easy that turned out to be quite strenuous with the strong sun.  After the bike ride we checked into our beach bungalows that were newly built and away from all the touristy crowds.  Did some guilty pleasure reading on the beach then had a buffet dinner that was advertised as all you can eat seafood that was less than ideal.  Then, played a drinking game with two French guys I met on my boat that were cousins traveling together.  After the drinking game I hung out with some British guys who discovered some  phosphorescent plankton in a beached kayak so that was fun to play with.  Then there was a lightening storm and I watched the lightening cast light to show the limestone karst shadows until I was tired.

Day 3 – Woke up early for breakfast and then our return back to Halong marina.  It was about a 3 hour boat ride through the bay and then I arrived in Hanoi at about 3 pm.

My Cabin roommate and I

Kayaking in Halong Bay

Boats at Sunset

Dining room on the boat

 

My Bungalow on Cat Ba island

 

A bungalow all to myself!

Enjoying my cigar gift from Erwin on one of my last nights abroad