Ha Long Bay in Vietnam is one of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world and a World Heritage Site.
Legend has it, it was made by dragons spitting out jewels to form a protective wall. The jewels are the 1600 limestone karsts and isles in the bay. It’s kind of like Yangshou in China. People have lived here for tens of thousands of years and still do.
So of course, we had to visit. But sometimes things don’t turn out the way you’ve planned, but you still get an unforgettable experience. Like when you very insistingly ask the captain, if you can go on a Ha Long Bay trip, if you get seasick – and he says: Of course – no problem. But then it is!
Here’s what a trip to Ha Long Bay can look like:
CAT BA ISLAND
We came from Hanoi and took a ferry for 2,5 hours from Hai Phong to Cat Ba Island.
But the town wasn’t that interesting, and it was cold. Someone persuaded us to a hotel for 4 $ with a view across the bay – so sometimes you can say yes…
To go to the actual bay, you can hire a boat from Cat Ba Island. Here there are plenty of boats. I was there back in 2004, so there’s probably way more boats now. But we just walked down and grab someone.
I asked very insistently about the trip, and if it was possible for someone like me, who gets very seasick. Of course they said! In hindsight, I think they might not have known what seasickness is…
HA LONG BAY
Ha Long means the descending dragon, and a dragon trip it was!
The boat was a traditional wooden boat, and it was very windy the next day. It took 1 hour until I felt so bad, that I tried to explain the captain, he had to drop me off somewhere or I would jump in and swim back. They dropped me off a the nearby Monkey Island just at the outskirts of Ha Long Bay.
My husband later told me, that the first part of the trip had been the worst, since there was no wind inside the bay…
Today Monkey Island apparently has a resort, but back then it was just a few monkeys and two caretakers. And for one day – ME!
I guess, it could have been paradise – but it wasn’t… What good is a private beach if it’s cold and you are hungry!
Monkey Island is called this for a reason! I don’t like monkeys and also for this there is good reason. After I was dropped off, a monkey came and went through my backpack. When I tried to stop it – it bit me! One of the monkeys actually bit me. Then one of the caretakers of the island came over and handed me a bamboo stick – like it was the most obvious thing in the world…
Besides the monkeys, there were only the two caretakers. They didn’t speak English at all and just seemed to think my presence was annoying. After they gave me a monkey-stick, they asked for 7000 Dong in entrance fee! After this, they avoided me for 6 hours (on a island you can walk around in 5 minutes)!
It was very cold, so I at one time sneaked over to their fire, which they tolerated, but they didn’t offer me any of their tea. The fire was used to warm an iron for tarring a boat. I did manage to get a picture of one of the guys working on it. It is a classical small basket boat that you see all over Vietnam.
This is me (and my monkey-stick) after 6 freezing hours ⇓
What saved me was my music (on a walkman…) – never travel without music!
Here’s what you’ll experience, if you don’t jump ship:
They finally picked me up and we went back to Cat Ba Island. The most hilarious thing of it all: the captain tried to sell me a new tour!!!
Not the best trip ever, but definitely one I remember… And one you can’t experience anymore with a resort on the island.
This was part of our 3-month Asia tour. Another thing that didn’t go so well in Vietnam, you can read about in Spending Christmas on a lovely beach in Vietnam – a bad idea!
Have you tried something like this?
We loved our trip around Ha Long Bay, sorry to hear you couldn’t stomach it – but good that you had your Walkman for company 👍
I can’t stomach anything. I really shouldn’t travel that much…