Over the past few weeks, I’ve had so many people message me about whether I’m going to be blogging on the rest of my Vietnam trip…and finally after nearly a year, yes I am! It’s not that I didn’t like Vietnam, but that oh my god, my life as a third-year student was so busy. So here goes, FINALLY, a blog post on Hạ Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Nam Cát Island. Everyone NEEDS to go to Hạ Long Bay, since, after all, it is one of the new “seven wonders of the world.”
Unsure of the best thing to do, my boyfriend and I decided to book a hotel in Hạlong city, as we felt that it may be best to do a day tour of Hạ Long Bay. We arrived at our guest house, but there was literally NOTHING around but a random theme park and a lot of rats…and they were HUGE (literally the size of cats haha). SO… we decided to ditch our guest house and book onto a cruise. We were massively SCAMMED and paid *deep breath* £220 each for a 2 night/ 3-day cruise. Whilst this doesn’t seem expensive for what we did, we met people who paid half for the same deal…shop around in travel agents in Hanoi, don’t do it the way we did!!!!
Regardless of this rocky start, we did make it onto a cruise (after being forgotten and left at the port lol). The Cruise included a bed, shower room, food, and happy hour (yaaaas). We stayed on the boat for 1 night travelling around the bay. We made friends with some of the loveliest people from around the globe. I’ll never forget the evening we sat underneath the stars in the middle of Hạ Long Bay. We got to kayak, do a cooking class, visit beaches, fisherman villages and caves…the tour really was amazing.
The next day we travelled further onto Lan Ha Bay. Personally, I preferred Lan Ha Bay, Hạ Long Bay was very polluted (full of tourist boats, plastic in the ocean etc) and was therefore not as picturesque as people make out! This bay led us to Nam Cát Island, and much to our surprise, a beach hut room with the view of the bay. We were confused as we definitely booked to stay on Cát Bà Island..but in the middle of the ocean we were told that this island was our stop… we couldn’t believe our luck. We literally kayaked around this little island for hours. (there is a picture of this tiny island at the top of this blog post). There was nothing there apart from the island restaurant and a few beach huts. I woke up to the sound of the ocean sweeping underneath me. I’d die to go back to this Island – make sure you add it to your Vietnam bucket list!
We heard from other backpackers that Cát Bà Island was much more lively and had a town, so we were so glad that we ended up on Nam Cát Island! However, this might not be everyones cup of tea. I loved how intimate Cát Bà Island was. The whole island ate together, including the staff. The evening meal consisted of a “help yourself buffet” full of Asian deliciousness.
We booked through a random tour operator but the Island can be booked online: http://catbaislandcruises.com/chi-tiet-bai-viet/20/369/nam-cat-bungalow-resort-.html – but do shop around in Hanoi as you may find it cheaper. Hanoi is basically the base for Hạ Long Bay.
- Vegetarian/vegan: I pretty much lived of sticky rice for the duration of the trip. Be prepared that “vegetarian friendly” means “we’ll give you fish.” However, Cát Bà Island had lots of vegetables, rice and noodle dishes and I was spoilt for choice!
- We got forgotten/ left/ transferred onto a different boat etc etc. So, basically, be prepared for no one to know what is going on…! Don’t worry though, the Vietnamese are happy to help and you will EVENTUALLY make it back to shore – don’t worry!
- Book your tour in Hanoi, don’t book it in Hạ Long Bay.
- The cruises are not luxury at all. Don’t be deceived by the pictures.
- Be prepared for some of the best days of your life.
I’ll be writing very soon on Hội An, one of my favourite places in the WORLD! So stay posted.