We based ourselves on Cat Ba Island to visit Halong Bay, not fancying an epic journey to and from Hanoi on a day trip. By basing ourselves on Cat Ba we could take things more slowly and get more out of our visit by not having a rushed experience.
Cat Ba Town in March is very quiet, it is not especially warm and it will most probably rain too but we didn’t mind, it was peaceful and unlike other places in Vietnam you can walk around without being constantly menaced by mopeds. We also found some great local places to eat by just going one road back from the waterfront away from the touristy area.
We didn’t get to explore too much of Cat Ba Island itself, the day we had pencilled in for hiring a moped and exploring turned out to be raining. Not fancying getting wet and still a bit nervous after my moped accident in Phou Quoc we decided it wasn’t the optimum day to get back on a bike. Instead we walked along the coast checking out the little beaches and stopping for coffees and fruit shakes every so often.
Luck was on our side though for our trip to Halong Bay. Although it can be notoriously foggy in March we had a fog free day which was great. We could see the limestone formations rising out of the water in their full glory without any annoying mist obscuring the view.
We also were in luck again as we had a great crowd of people to hang out with for the day, much like the week before at the caves. This is us mucking aroun, our smiles are us trying to pretend it was nice and warm in the water and that we hadn’t all let out an involuntary yelp when jumping in from the coldness of the water!
We spent the day cruising around the bay, kayaking through caves into smaller secluded bays, swimming and being chased by monkeys on Monkey Island.
The monkeys were truly terrifying, they have no fear of people and if you get too close they have no hesitation of baring their pointy teeth as they run at you. If you have food with you, say goodbye to it as a monkey will confiscate from you pretty quickly. I hung back and watched from the safety of the beach while the others played monkey roulette. I didn’t fancy having to get a rabies shot! These monkeys may look cute in these photos, but don’t let their looks deceive you.
And then that was it. Our time in Cat Ba and in Vietnam was over. We had to make our way to Hanoi to catch our flight to Bangkok. Despite spending nearly two months in the country there was loads we missed. Sappa sounded amazing but we had run out of time. We had spent so long lingering in the south we hadn’t allowed enough time to do the north justice. Not that we regret it of course, we had an amazing time and as we have learnt on this trip it isn’t possible to see and do everything. It is much better to take it slowly and see what you do see properly.