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We'd been extremely excited about visiting Ha Long Bay and the neighbouring Lan Ha Bay, as many of our friends who'd been had said it was a standout highlight of their trip to Vietnam. The photos we'd seen depicting hundreds of sculpted, jagged limestone rock formations protruding dramatically from still, emerald-green waters looked quite literally out of this world.

Incredible karst islands of Lan Ha Bay
Largely for time reasons, a day boat trip (2 day 1 night excursions are available) was the best option for us to experience the area, but there are hundreds of choices on where to go from and which company to book with. [Read more]


Quand on prend des habitudes de voyage à 2, se retrouver à 4 peut être déroutant. Mais Carl et Marion ont rendu ces 3 semaines doublement intéressantes : être 4 c’est 2 fois plus de points de vue sur les choses qu’on découvre, 2 fois plus d’idées sur les choses à faire, 2 fois plus de conneries à raconter, 2 fois plus de poids pour négocier des le prix des chambres d’hôtel… Avec Germain qui nous a aussi rejoint pendant quelques jours au milieu du voyage, on était comme les 5 doigts de la main !


Il y a juste une chose qu’on a du adapter c’est notre vitesse de croisière. On avait l’habitude de prendre notre temps, d’alterner journées de marche et de découverte avec journées de repos. Mais pendant 3 semaines on a passé la 5ème pour que Carl et Marion puissent, eux aussi, assouvir leur soif de découvertes. Alors tous les 4, on a enfilé nos bottes de 7 lieues pour découvrir le Vietnam du sud au nord ! Et on n’a pas été déçus du voyage: [Read more]

La Baie d’Along et la Baie de Lan Ha

Classée patrimoine de l’UNESCO, la baie d’Along et ses alentours ne déçoivent pas. Le site est magnifique et spectaculaire à la fois. Pour notre part, on a commencé notre découverte à partir de l’île de CatBa. D’après le guide Lonely Planet, c’est le bon endroit pour entamer la visite. Beaucoup d’agences présents à CatBa proposent des excursions de un à plusieurs jours dans la baie. [Read more]

Dream holiday – Cát Bà Island and Hạ Long Bay

We had a glorious 2-day cruise on Hạ Long Bay out of Cát Bà Island!!

After being ripped off and disappointed twice by shonky tour operators in Hạ Long city, I decided to try visiting Hạ Long Bay from Cát Bà Island when Katie, Hannah and Adam came. I found a tour company with rave reviews on Trip Advisor and got in touch with them – Mr Tung at Cat Ba Ventures.  He has been extremely helpful, and on Wednesday morning we packed our swimmers and headed for the hydrofoil with Khánh and Xuân hoping for a much better experience than Katie and I had last year on Hạ Long Bay…  AND WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED!!

Fabulous trip. We’d love to do it again next year…  Xuân has the phone number from the boat owner so we might get an even better deal… Woo-oo![Read more]

Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Vietnam’s famous Halong Bay. This rugged island is mostly national park, but Cat Ba Town is a great place to base yourself to explore the island, as well as taking a cruise to the more remote parts of Halong Bay as well as the less crowded and equally beautiful Han La Bay.[Read more]

A lucky catch: Cat Ba Island Halong Bay, Vietnam

After another terrible night bus we arrived at Haiphong, Vietnam’s third largest city. After missing the morning boat, we retreated to a coffee shop until the next one at 1:30pm, enjoying a breakfast of pork buns and doughnuts. We had decided to explore Halong Bayfrom Cat Ba Island instead of taking one of the organised tours from super-touristyHalong City as I had heard from others that Cat Ba, Halong’s biggest island, is far nicer. [Read more]

“Sailing Expeditions – kayaking in Cat Ba island, Ha Long bay, Vietnam”

When we arived in the North of Vietnam we were thinking about going to Cat Ba Island, however we were put off by the mass of tourist package deals on offer in Hanoi. After asking around at several tourist offices it became obvious that they were only interested in selling their own expensive tours. It was then we found… [Read more]

” Boat trip in Halong Bay, unforgettable!!!

Once in the north of Vietnam, we had to decide whether going to Sapa or to Halong Bay because our one month tourist visa was running out soon. Two factors determined our choice: on one hand, the bad weather conditions in the northwest region of Vietnam, on the other hand, a tropical storm which had flooded and incomunicated the northern region of Sapa, leaving hundreds of deads and homeless people behind. We could only go then for a boat trip in Halong Bay. As it is usual on our trip, we asked for advice in many different travel agencies and checked the internet to make our move independently with all the info available. This is how we found Cat Ba Ventures (, a tour operator based in Cat Ba, the biggest island of Halong Bay, who offers tailor made boat trips for independent travelers….[Read more]

” Cat Ba Boat Tour “

It’s us!

Just heading out on the boat

So…where did we leave you!? It’s been a little while.Would have been on our way out of Hanoi with Bill and Linh. We hired our very own car to take us about 90 kms to Hai Phong City. We stayed at the ritzy “Hotel du Commerce” which was really not so ritzy. We had to negotiate our way from two twin beds to one rock hard big one. There must be a good reason (sanitary? sleep? cost?) for this type of mattress but we’re not yet accustomed [Read more]

”Amazing Halong Bay tour “

We just got back from an amazing tour of Halong Bay. It is truly one of those see-before-you-die places. After searching and searching for a cruise company with good reviews, I finally found Mr.Tung with Cat Ba Ventures. Four of us rented a private sail/gunk/motor boat for three days at $110 per person.[Read more]

“Away from the Maddening Halong Bay Crowd”

We took our 12yo twin boys on a 3 day/2 night Cat Ba Ventures junk cruise in April. We had a fantastic time despite the 3 days of dreary rain. The food was fantastic fresh seadfood every day and the crew of three looked after our every need.

The advantage of Cat Ba Ventures is the tour departs from a small fishing village on Cat Ba Island, rather than Halong Harbour which means you feel like you are the only tourists. The only hassle with this is you have to catch a high speed hydrafoil from Haiphong to Cat Ba Island which adds an extra hour to your transit but well worth it. I had been warned about the less than peaceful experience of jostling for night moorings with many other junks in the more popular Halong Bay. [Read more]

So great we did it TWICE

Upon arriving to Cat Ba island, my family and I saw numerous ads for kayak tours and various others. We luckily ran into Mr. Tung; we could tell that he was trust worthy and a great businessman from the begining. He helped us planned an incredible trip and even helped us book our tickets from Hanoi back to HCM. We explored Ha Long Bay and other islands on a breathtaking sunset cruise. I have never seen such incredible sights in my life! Mr. Tung helped make our experience enjoyable and easy. There was no hassling or hidden fees on anything. Both the and his wife extended their hands to help us make our trip worthwhile.Exactly how good of a time did I have? About a month later, I brought my volunteer team of 7 back to Cat Ba. We relied on Mr. Tung to help us set up a “two days and one night” excursion. [more]


“Halong Bay, by the best way”

One year ago Ihave been to Halong bay by Halong city and I told myself, never again there! it is a tourist trap!

This year we have chossen to explore it from Cat Ba, taking a boat for 2 days 1 night.

It was an another trip.

Only 4 people on a quite simple boat but confortable. 2 really good crew who cooked for us. And nobody while the “halong city tourist trap” was fully of cheated tourist.

A reasonnable price to visit Halong Bay. We have seen less than 5 tourist boats, did a lot of kayaking around in caves, and isolated islands.

The representative has arranged all transportation from Hanoi. It was smooth and awesome.

A really good deal!   [Read more]

“Most memorable Christmas!”

I’d absolutely recommend Mr. Tung!First, he was very responsive and easy to arrange beforehand. We had 3 sets of people to pick up at different times and places, and he absolutely accommodated all of our needs.

Second, our trip itself was amazing! His crew took us to the best spots in Halong Bay, not overcrowded but other tourists. The food was great, especially the calamari the captain caught that day! Our boat was comfortable and easily fit 5 people and could have fit more. It was an ideal way spend Christmas!

Third, Mr. Tung was so helpful in arranging trips after our Halong tour, even translating and talking to other travel agencies around Vietnam to help us arrange the next leg of our trip.

I have several other friends heading to Vietnam this year and have definitely recommended them to Mr. Tung.

[Read more]

“Halong Bay, Cat Ba Ventures”

I spent two days on a medium sized junk called the Eco Friendly with a company called Cat Ba Ventures. It was two of the best days of our lives as the only two on board looked after by two local Vietnamese.We swam (in the very cold bay!), went see kayaking twice, visiting a cave formation and had four delicious meals cooked fresh on board. I’d heard about many trips that take large groups of tourists together so it was idyllic and very romantic to spend the time alone. The scenery was breathtaking and the beautiful emerald green water shimmered until the sun went down at night. [Read more]

Ha Long Bay with” Cat Ba Ventures” We did the Halong Bay with “Cat Ba Ventures”, a local tour operator lead by Mr. Tung, who starts his tours from Cat Ba Town on the island of Cat Ba, about 50km south of Haiphong.

Cat Ba, in contrast to Haiphong (at least what I heard about it), is much less crowded and secluded. The harbor from which we started contained only like 5 boats that day. The trip there was kind of worth it, because of the Vietnamese countryside and the bus-ride across the island.

We started in the early evening, sailing into the sunset, buying some fresh seafood and relaxing on the upper deck, drinking some beer and having fun. The idea of doing it with a group we know was probably the best we had.

The next day we went kayaking, swimming, doing a short hike through some caves and ended up eating even more delicious seafood.

The crew was very nice: three men were on the boat with us. One as english-speaking leader, the one second as cook ‘n captain and the third one as helping hand (I suppose).

So: I really do recommend Mr Tung and his company “Cat Ba Ventures” as a tour operator! [Read more

Halong Bay with “Cat Ba Ventures” from Philipp M. W. Hoffmann on Vimeo.

”Around the World in 365 days: Halong Bay, Northern Vietnam“.

At 8am we took a very small (and quite precarious looking) boat to our new home / boat for the next 2 days. Our crew Bin, Tim and Fi, made us feel instantly at home by bringing us a cup of traditional Vietnamese Tea. We sat up on the roof deck, lounging in our reclining chairs feeling like lord and lady muck! Shame the tea had been boiled in the same utensils they use for tea, as it had a very fishy taste! The three of us (Max has come with us, and the 3 of us have a huge boat all to ourselves) dutifully drank the tea, making the correct, polite um and ahh noises until Bin had gone down below, and we threw it over board, hoping the crew would think it was a fish jumping! [Read more]



”Touranbieter Vietnam, Halong-Bay“

Wir hatten Ende November bei Catbaventures ein kleines Boot gechartert ( Unser Kapitän konnte sogar Deutsch. Tourbeginn war in Cat Ba früh um 10:00 Uhr. Tourende war am nächsten Tag in Cat Ba am späten Nachmittag. Das Essen (2x Mittag, 1x Abend, 1x Frühstück) war sehr gut. Das Boot befuhr ein Route, wo die großen auf Grund ihres Tiefganges nicht hin konnten. Den Zeitpunkt für einen Schwimmstop konnten wir selbst festlegen. Die Gesellschaft ist sehr zu empfehlen. Die Preise findet man auf der Homepage [Read more]

”Vietnam, Halongbucht“

Cat Ba Ventures betreibt in Cat Ba City kleinere Boote, nicht solche Massenabfertigung wie in Hong Gai. Wir haben gute Erfahrungen bei einer 2-Tagestour gemacht: Kaum anderen Booten begegnet, Übernachtung in einer fast abgeschlossenen Bucht, ein ausgezeichnetes Essen. Auf Wunsch kann man die Fahrt auch in Hong Gai beenden. Wer von Hong Gai aus noch am selben Tag nach Hanoi zurück will, muß zwar etwas tiefer in die Tasche greifen. Aber Cat Ba Ventures organisiert auch das. Der eine der Kapitäne kann sogar Deutsch. Näheres unter  [Read more]

”croisiere sur la baie d’halong“

Pour sur, la baie d’halong est un passage oblige au cours d’un voyage dans le Nord Vietnam. Mais pour ne pas etre decu, et profiter au maximun de cet endroit, mieux vaut preparer un peu son affaire. Pour cela, eviter de partir de Halong, et preferer l’ile de Catba: pour y aller, prendre un speed boat a Haiphong.

Sur Catba, je vous recommande chaudement Mr Tung et son agence, Cat Ba Ventures, on n’a vraiment pas ete decu!La politique de Mr Tung est de ne pas prendre plus de 8 personnes sur ces bateaux, et a un itineraire qui permet d’eviter la foule! bateau tout confort, personnel plus qu’adorable, excellents repas, bref que du positif! [Read more]

Halong bay – Sudeste asiático – LonelyPlanet

Hay excursiones para todos los gustos depende de como quieras ver la Bahia. Nosotros nos fuimos a Cat Ba y desde alli una vez instalados en el hotel contratamos la excursion y como para nosotros era el culmen del viaje no reparamos en gastos y contratamos un barco de 12 metros de eslora 3 días y 2 noches por 220 euros con capitan y cocinero. Pescado y marisco fresco (cada día atracabamos unos minutos en una casa flotante donde nos proporcionaban el genero) para almorzar y cenar con cinco platos cada vez. Solo vimos turistas en las cuevas, nos paraban para nadar o remar en kayac, enseñarnos cuevas donde no van turistas cuantas veces queriamos…etc. El resto del tiempo navegamos solos sin ver un solo barco que no fuera pescador hasta Bay Tu long. Una pasada. Y el precio nos parecio muy bueno teniendo en cuenta que el capitan y el cocinero no ponian el pie en nuestra mitad del barco a menos que no fuera estrictamente necesario.Hasta que decidimos hacer esto nos habiamos planteado las opciones que aqui se barajan pero por supuesto teniamos claro que la salida seria desde Cat Ba donde el alojamiento es muy barato (una habitación-ático por 12$), las vistas preciosas y fuera de la masificacion de ciudad Halong. En cualquier caso si pretendes dormir en el barco yo me gastaria un poco más porque puedes llevarte sorpresas desagradables y además solo me quedaría una noche, dos es muy pesado para mi gusto.

Nosotros hemos vuelto hace dos semanas y hemos estado 25 días cruzando el pais de sur a norte. Todo lo hemos hecho por libre y el día antes sin contratar nada desde la distancia y no hemos tenido ningún problema. [Read more]

Croisiere en baie d H’a long

Posté par vieux sans frontieres le lundi 27 juillet 2009 à 13:57 dans Croisières nous rentrons de la croisiere et nous sommes ravis.

en arrivant a Cat ba par le bateau de Haiphong, nous ne savions pas tres bien comment organiser notre visite de la baie et surtout comment echapper a la foule de ce week end de fin juillet (vacances des locaux)

A 1oo metres du port, nous avons rencontres M. Phong de cat ba ventures ;
Nous nous sommes groupes a 6 (le bateau peut prendre 8 personnes ou moins) et la solution proposee s’est averee geniale avec un bon rapport qualite prix.

pour 65 dollars US par personne, nous sommes partis deux jours et une nuit en croisiere sur la baie sur un bateau de bois agreable avec un equipage de trois personnes qui preparaient les repas (compris dans le prix sauf boissons) les repas etaient delicieux : poissons, calamars, fruits, legumes..

Au programme : visite dela baie dans des endroits peu visites mais superbes, kayack, baignade. Nous avons passe la nuit sur le pont dans un decor superbe, mais on peut dormir dans la cabine. Sur le bateau, douche a l’eau douce a volonte et WC. Nous sommes enchantes et le recommandons vivement. un petit conseil, prevenez le a l’avance afin qu’il prepare votre croisiere sur mesure. Il est au top sur internet et parle anglais. Il possede egalement un petit hotel sur le port. il propose egalement d’autres prestations.
bonne croisiere a vous [Read more]

Halong Bay

Les comento de una de las mejores aventuras que hemos tenido en Vietnam!. Hemos hecho un viaje de dos dias (salir en la manana y regresar en la tarde del siguiente) en un barco espectacular!! Llegamos a Cat Ba island, y queriamos conocer la bahia pero sin ir en tour, lo que parecia imposible hasta que encontramos a CAT BA VENTURES. Es un a maravillita… rentas el barco y ya trae todo incluido, desde papel de bano y toallas hasta la mejor comida. Y te vas a visitar tosdos los rincones del magnifico archipielago. en el barco ibamso cinco personas (yo y cuatrio amigas) lo cual fu excelente pues todos los otros barcos te llevaban con un monton de gente. Conocimos muchisimas playas virgenes y el capitan del barco conocia bien que cuevas eran las mas bonitas, asi que tubimos chance de explorar bahias en las que solo se puede llegar nadando o por kayak. Aparte en el barco venia un cocinero, asi que mientras esnorqueleabamos, nos llamaban para comer . La comida fue maravillosa, nos

malacostumbo tener tanta y tan bien coninada!!!! Fue una maravillita, pues te sientes como reina, pero a la vez tu decides a donde te llevan y en que playa quieres nadar… y lo mejor es que el capitan conocia muy bien el archipielago. Todo fue muy profecional y en ningun momento nos sentimos en tour!!!Pues no vimos a ninguno otro turista fuera de un barco en una de los pueblos flotantes que hay en todo halong bay

[Read more]

Halong Bay – Day trip

It was a glorious morning when we woke up on Wednesday morning, not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining

We had breakfast at our hotel – a really nice “vegetarian” rice-noodle soup with mustard greens in chicken soup – really tasty and very filling. Preapared for the day we headed to the local “Cat Ba Ventures” office, where we had booked a day trip of Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay the day before.

We got picked up at 8 am and were heading straight to the harbour.

It turned out that we were only 4 couples on the boat, which felt almost like a private tour!

Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Vietnam’s famous Halong Bay. This rugged island is mostly national park, but Cat Ba Town is a great place to base yourself to explore the island, as well as taking a cruise to the more remote parts of Halong Bay as well as the less crowded and equally beautiful Han La Bay.

Things to do on Cat Ba Island

Halong Bay and Han La Bay Cruise

View of Halong Bay from an island

If you want to cruise Halong Bay, I highly recommend doing so from Cat Ba Island. The cruises from here pass through the equally beautiful but less touched Han La Bay, before heading to some of the more remote parts of Halong Bay.

There are plenty of cruise options from day trips to three day cruises. Most include meals and kayaking.

We took a one day cruise of Han La Bay and Halong Bay with Cat Ba Ventures and I highly recommend them. The group was fairly small and our cruise was fantastic and included lunch and kayaking. The day trip cost $28 per person. They also have multiday and private cruise options.

Hospital Cave

The Hospital Cave on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, Cat Ba Island was used as a kind of hideaway for the leaders of North Vietnam. A huge cave on the island was used as a bomb proof secret hospital and safe house, and it is an amazing sight to see. You can take a motorbike here or visit it on your way to Cat Ba National Park. We were the only ones there when we visited theHospital Cave and there was a guide to show us around and tell us about the cave.

Cat Ba National Park

View of Cat Ba National Park in Vietnam

Most of Cat Ba Island is protected as Cat Ba National Park, and it is home to the only population of Golden Headed Langurs – the world’s rarest primate. There are lots of hiking options here from a couple of kilometres to a full 18km hike through the park. We took a simple half day private tour with Cat Ba Ventures which included a hike to the top of the one of the mountains in the park, as well as a visit to the Hospital Cave along the way. The tour costs $15 by motorbike or $20 by car.


There are three beaches known as Cat Co 1,2 and 3, located about a kilometre or so from Cat Ba Town. Cat Co 2 is probably the best one to go to and you can rent a bicycle in town if you don’t want to walk or take a motorbike taxi.

Where to stay on Cat Ba Island

View from our hotel in Cat Ba Town on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

There is no shortage of hotels along the main street on Cat Ba Island, and you really only need to just pick one that suits you. We stayed at Tha Hu Hotel which cost $15 per night for a lovely sea view room with private bathroom and air con. The room was nice and clean and the view was excellent. The staff don’t speak very much English but it was easy enough to get by.

If you want to splurge, there are some remote island bungalows in the area as well which you can get to from Cat Ba Town.

Where to eat on Cat Ba Island

Again, the main street on the waterfront in Cat Ba Town has as many restaurants as it does hotels. Most places that we tried were cheap enough and the food was pretty good. Cat Ba Island is a great place to try some local seafood if you’re into that. Here are some of the places that we tried:

My Way

We ate here a couple of times and the food was nice. There were some good vegetarian options here, but the beer was a little expensive compared to other places.

Tasty food in Cat Ba Town, Vietnam

Family Bakery

We had breakfast here every morning as the food is cheap and delicious. Tasty baked croissants, pastries, bread and sweets, as well as Vietnamese Coffee. A great start to the day.

Phuong Nhung

This is more of a local restaurant and a good place for Vietnamese food. We had noodle soup here as well as spring rolls and cheap beer.

Rain or shine, it was a jolly good time.

Halong Bay

After another terrible night bus we arrived at Haiphong, Vietnam’s third largest city. After missing the morning boat, we retreated to a coffee shop until the next one at 1:30pm, enjoying a breakfast of pork buns and doughnuts. We had decided to explore Halong Bay from Cat Ba Island instead of taking one of the organised tours from super-touristyHalong City as I had heard from others that Cat Ba, Halong’s biggest island, is far nicer.

Dragon boat race – part of the celebrations

They were right, Cat Ba Island boasts rich jungles and superb scenery and the town itself was charming. We just so happened to be in town for the annual festival celebrating the date that Ho Chi Minh visited the island and were lucky enough to watch the dragon boat race followed by an impressive performance and fireworks that evening.

Evening celebrations on Cat Ba Island

After a few hibiscus flower cocktails at The Good Bar, we retreated back to Mr Zoom Guesthouse which is comfortable, clean and provided free breakfast, much nicer than Cat Ba Hostel where we stayed on our final night. 

Breakfast time on Cat Ba Island

As there was a group of seven of us we had arranged to charter our own private boat fromCat Ba Ventures who are recommended in Lonely Planet. A guy called Sven from Switzerland asked if he could join us on our trip and we were more than happy to have him onboard. Surprisingly hiring our own boat wasn’t too expensive and far cheaper than the booze-filled Castaway trip, popular with backpackers. We arrived at the dock bright and early after a scrumptious local breakfast and were flabbergasted at the size of our boat. 

Us and the film crew

After we had explored our twenty sleeper boat with huge double bedrooms, hot showers and met our crew of four we realised why we had got lucky. A film crew was on board and wanted to ask our opinion on solar-powered boats like ours to broadcast on the news as part of Tourism Week. Jaimie, Pheobe and I jumped at the chance to appear on TV and spoke in front of the camera before the film crew packed up and left us alone on our massive boat.   

Lunch at sea

We cruised around the beautiful Lan Ha Bay before stopping for a buffet lunch prepared by our crew. The food was incredible and it just kept coming. I particularly enjoyed the grilledherb infused fish, papaya salad and spring rolls. Each meal was plentyful and extremely well cooked. After lunch we jumped in kayaks to explore a nearby cave and climb to the top of a small island to admire the views across the bay. 

One of the islands in Lan Ha Bay

Our guide Hung made sure we went off the beaten track and we rarely saw any tourist boats apart from on the last day when we visited the famous Halong Bay which as beautiful as it is, has been overrun by boats filled with tourists. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing on sun loungers and chatting away.

Stocking up on more sweet treats!

Before embarking on our trip we made up a challenge in which we each had to bring along a snack worth up to $1. The snacks were placed in a black bag and we went around the table pulling them out one at a time guessing who bought which item similar to secret Santa.  Everyone correctly guessed that I bought the toffee pastry cake!

Electric glow of plankton

That night after another fantastic feast we played cards whilst drinking vodka and watched in awe at the fascinating bright plankton which lit up the dark sea. I played with a fishing line which made colourful swirls of blue light caused by the plankton moving. It has never seen anything like it, it was truly amazing. 

Kayaking through caves

The next day was similar to the first; cruising the islands, relaxing on deck and enjoying some delicious food. We kayaked for over two hours exploring some of the many lagoons in search of some rare monkeys (only 64 left!) but unfortunately just found the common species.

Farming around Halong Bay

We had to make it back to Cat Ba a little earlier than planned due to the thick fog that was coming in. Halong Bay is notorious for bad weather but we were lucky enough not to see rain and be just a little overcast. Bright blue skies would have made our trip and photos perfect but I count myself lucky that I was able to explore one of the many natural wonders of the world on my own private boat with a great group of friends.

Living life, loving travel,

H x

Dream holiday - Cát Bà Island and Hạ Long Bay

We had a glorious 2-day cruise on Hạ Long Bay out of Cát Bà Island!!

After being ripped off and disappointed twice by shonky tour operators in Hạ Long city, I decided to try visiting Hạ Long Bay from Cát Bà Island when Katie, Hannah and Adam came. I found a tour company with rave reviews on Trip Advisor and got in touch with them - Mr Tung at Cat Ba Ventures.  He has been extremely helpful, and on Wednesday morning we packed our swimmers and headed for the hydrofoil with Khánh and Xuân hoping for a much better experience than Katie and I had last year on Hạ Long Bay...  AND WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED!!
They met us as we stepped off the hydrofoil

We walked across the esplanade to the Cat Ba Ventures office, where we met Mr Tung and found out all about our tour. We had chartered a private , six-berth boat for a two day, one night tour complete with kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, caves, grottoes, fishing villages, fresh seafood and Hạ Long Bay!
Just a little bit excited!
After paying up front we jumped into a van and drove to the boat ... 9.30am and our adventure began!

This is our boat - 2 three-berth cabins, a dining room and a comfortable upper deck for lounging under the shade or sun-baking (or looking at the stars...)

The cabins were small, but we were only in them to get changed and to sleep. the bathrooms were tiny, but all we needed.  So we dropped our bags and headed up to the top deck as we began our cruise...

Life in these fishing villages is quite unlike anything we've ever experienced... The tiny houses are surrounded by fish breeding pens, oyster bays...

... even ducks!

But it wasn't long before we were the only people around... not another boat in sight!  Magic!  As we pulled into this little cove, our guide, Binh, handed us goggles and snorkels and told us we had plenty of time for a swim before lunch.  Woo-oo!
The water was clear and balmy and we had a lovely time floating about ... although we didn't spot a single fish!  The boys untied one of the kayaks and mucked around on it for a while as well.  Then we got the call that lunch was ready....  and I mean LUNCH!

... surrounded by islands ...

So fresh and so delicious!  We didn't leave much!
After lunch we cruised to visit Mê Cung Cave, and took turns driving the boat. 

- which Hannah found out is not as simple as it looks...


The scenery was spectacular . It's such a shame that photos can't come close to capturing how amazing it is.

So easy to just soak it all up. And so fabulous to be all by ourselves on our own charter boat, doing just what we wanted to do!
After lunch we visited Động Mê Cung - caves...

These caves are small, but the really cool thing is that there's no-one else here!!  Binh 'played' the shawl stalactites by knocking them with a stone ... like an eerie organ!

After looking through the caves, we climbed higher...  That's our boat moored below. You can see one of the kayaks we've been towing (kayaking's next).

We stopped at a lookout - behind them is a lake formed in a basin in the middle of the island - huge and deep very still.  
The higher we climbed, the more spectacular the view became...

I didn't take this photo... only Binh and Khánh climbed this high!
Then we hopped back on board and cruised some more...


We stopped at a place where there was a cave passing under the rock cliff face, and that's where we went kayaking... well Katie and Adam, Hannah and Xuân, were in two-man kayaks. Khánh and I had a double surf ski. It was easier for me to clamber onto, but hard work to paddle.  Good thing my mate is so strong!!  Binh led us through the cave into a series of hidden grottoes that were amazing.  We were paddling through tranquil clear water surrounded by towering cliffs and jungle with not another soul within cooee.  Couldn't have been better!  We even stopped for a while to watch a troupe of wild monkeys eating and looking down on us.  We also spotted a huge jellyfish lazily gliding through the crystal clear water. Wow. (No photos though... none of us were confident enough to risk taking our cameras on the kayaks !)
When we got back to the boat we cruised to the bay where we were to spend the night.  That was the only time there was anyone around - another private cruise boat was there and their crew and our crew tied up together while they prepared dinner. Nevertheless, we swam for a while ... jumping off the roof of the boat... having a wonderful time!
Back on board for a shower and a drink while the sun set, then we sat down to a delicious dinner - fresh prawns and clams, rice, fish and vegies...

Drinks on the top deck in the moonlight on a balmy evening just topped off a perfect day.
 Where's Khánh?  Oh, there he is!
 After a comfortable night's sleep, we had breakfast, then cruised for a while.
These basins are used by the local oyster farmers.

Then we transferred to a smaller boat so we could travel faster and further into Hạ Long Bay ...this is our day boat.

So Binh came with us, we waved goodbye to the crew from our first boat and settled back for the journey into the World Heritage listed part of the bay.

Plenty of room ... love this private charter gig!

We covered a stretch of open water that was a bit rough ... Hannah was concentrating very hard to hold onto her breakfast, but once we made it to the shelter of the next crop of islands it was much calmer.  And we had it all to ourselves.  The scenery continued to be spectacular...

It's fascinating to watch life going on in the floating fishing villages.  These ladies are the local supermarket...

These small boats are home for some people.

We came upon a small shrine set on a tiny beach...


... and they anchored the boat so we could have a swim.  While we were swimming, Binh and the boatman paddled to the nearby fishing village and bought fresh crabs for our lunch. Then when we got back to the boat, Khánh and Xuân went off with them to catch fish for the crew's lunch.

And came back smiling - Khánh caught two fish!

 But we dined on fabulous fresh crab!!!  Sumptuous!

Absolutely no complaints!
After lunch it was time to sit back and relax...

... or snooze... !
 This lady with the bemused expression on her face lives in the tiny quarters behind her. Also behind her you can see her husband's foot ... he curled up in that tiny space for a nap!

It's not even a metre square, but he was dead to the world! Binh thought it was pretty funny that I wanted to take his photo.
We did more kayaking when the tide got low enough to paddle through caves under the cliffs, and got to explore more hidden grottoes. Fabulous. But it wasn't fabulous climbing back on board!!  Unlike the bigger boat, the ladder on this boat sloped back away under the railing, so if you tried to climb out of the water all your weight was held by your arms and shoulders. The others were all agile enough to stand up in their kayaks so they only had to step up onto the top step of the ladder. However, with my bum lower than my feet sitting on the surf ski, there was no way I could manage to stand up... So I dived in and swam to the ladder. But by then I was too tired from all the paddling to haul myself up ... though Katie tells me I did manage to rock the boat with my efforts!  Eventually Khánh insisted I give him my hand (which was not easy since I was desperately clinging to the side with both hands!). As soon as I did he just hauled me up and over the side!   I told you he is very strong!!  That's not the first time he has hauled me up ... seems that he has been doing it all year ... up waterfalls, mountains, steep climbs... And there is no way I would have enjoyed the kayaking and climbing on this trip if he hadn't got me started walking every morning several months ago. My darling Khánh.
All too soon the sun was going down, and it was time to head back to Cát Bà. It was a shock to see this oil rig !!  Apparently they commenced exploratory drilling a couple of months ago.  One can only hope they will be unsuccessful! It is astounding to think that oil is so valuable it is worth risking this pristine environment as well as the livelihoods of everyone who lives here...
We booked into a hotel on the esplanade with gorgeous views from both rooms...
A shower and a change, then we took the easy option and had dinner in the hotel restaurant .  Then we went to The Good Bar above the Slo Pony and had a drink then went back to the hotel for more before turning in for the night.
Fabulous trip. We'd love to do it again next year...  Xuân has the phone number from the boat owner so we might get an even better deal... Woo-oo!

La Baie d'Along et la Baie de Lan Ha

Publié le 

par Mijakely

Classée patrimoine de l'UNESCO, la baie d'Along et ses alentours ne déçoivent pas. Le site est magnifique et spectaculaire à la fois. Pour notre part, on a commencé notre découverte à partir de l'île de CatBa. D'après le guide Lonely Planet, c'est le bon endroit pour entamer la visite. Beaucoup d'agences présents à CatBa proposent des excursions de un à plusieurs jours dans la baie.

Revenons juste un moment sur notre trajet un poil mouvementé de Hanoï jusqu'à CatBa (ville sur l'île de CatBa). La veille de notre départ, on achète nos billets à l'agence Hoang Long comme conseillé par l'agence CatBa Ventures (agence où on a réservé nos 3 jours et 2 nuits sur la baie).

Le jour du départ, il n'y a aucune indication à la gare routière. Plusieurs bus de la même agence étaient présents dans le parking géant. On patiente. L'heure du départ est fixée à 13h20. Finalement, on suit 3 touristes qui ont l'air aussi perdus que nous. On pose la question "CatBa CatBa ?"  au chauffeur du premier bus de l'agence qu'on croise, il nous répond oui de la tête, maigre réconfort. A moitié rassuré, nous montons quand même dans le bus. A 13h15 le bus démarre, oui le bus est ponctuel, il part 5 minutes en avance. Le trajet dans sa totalité devait duré 4h30 et on s'attendait à avoir un trajet avec un seul bus et un seul bateau. Mais le destin (ou plutôt l'agence) en a décidé autrement, on a fini par faire 5h30 de trajet avec bus (2h) + attente (1h) + minibus (1h) + bateau (30mn) + minibus (1h). Sympathique. Heureusement que les conversations avec les deux australiens et l'américain qui étaient nos compagnons d'infortune étaient intéressantes.

Arrivée sur place, on se dirige rapidement vers l'agence CatBa Ventures pour voir si tout est OK. A première vue rien d'anormal sauf peut être quand M. Tung nous dit : "Vu que vous avez réservé un peu tard, le bateau que je vous ai proposé n'est plus disponible, on peut vous proposer que ce bateau" (accompagné d'une photo correspondant au bateau nommé dolphin sur son site internet). A première vue rien de spécial mais si vous voulez un conseil évitez si vous n'aimez pas les rats. J'y reviendrai sur les petits mésaventures de notre séjour dans la merveilleuse baie d'Along. Bien sure M. Tung propose l'hôtel géré par sa femme pour y passer la nuit. L'hôtel n'est pas mal et les plus belles chambres ont une vue sur la baie. Au réveil, on a pu découvrir une vue splendide juste sous nos yeux.

- Vue de la chambre -

Baie-Along 0944 [800x600]


Les choses sérieuses commencent. On a hâte. On prend un petit déjeuner composé d'une soupe beaucoup trop copieuse. A notre arrivée à l'agence, on nous présente notre guide durant les 3 jours, M. Luân. Un guide un peu fluet mais bien bavard et très sympathique. Nous prenons des xe-moto (taxi moto) avec nos énormes sac à dos pour aller au port de Ben Beo. Le bateau arrive enfin, nous sommes seuls à bord avec le guide, le capitaine et une dernière personne chargée de la cuisine. Vue de l'extérieur, le bateau avait l'air correct. Les transats étaient cassés mais dans un premier temps c'était le cadet de nos préoccupations. Notre premier contact avec la baie de Lan Ha / Along était le plus important. On se dirige assez rapidement vers le toit du bateau pour profiter du paysage époustouflant. 


- Plateformes d'élevage de poissons et d'huîtres -

Baie-Along 0967 [800x600]


Nous entamons assez rapidement une petite heure de kayak dans la baie. Nous nous dirigeons vers une petite plage de corail. On entame ensuite une petite baignade, un petit aller-retour de 200m. Au retour, à contre courant, c'était assez long et difficile mais bon qui se plaindrait? De retour à la plage, nous reprenons le kayak pour revenir au bateau pour le déjeuner. On prend, notre déjeuner amarré à une plateforme avec quelques élevages de poissons, huîtres et légumes. Le repas est succulent.


- Plage de corail -

Baie-Along 1054 [800x600]


- Déjeuner -

Baie-Along 1065 [800x600]


Après le repas, nous partons naviguer entre les îles karstiques. Nous nous arrêtons pour refaire une ballade en kayak. On passe par des grottes pour arriver dans des criques fermés (sorte de lac intérieur mais avec de l'eau de mer). Je vais être ennuyeusement  redondant mais c'était vraiment magnifique. Il est facile d'observer les petits poissons dans l'eau et même des oursins sur les rochers. L'endroit est calme et l'eau propre. Nous y sommes seuls avec un petit bateau bambou de pêcheur. On s'y sent bien et le temps finalement s'écoule assez vite sans qu'on se rend compte.


- Entrée -

Baie-Along 1240 [800x600]



- Paysages -





- Oursin inoffensif  -

Baie-Along 1221 [800x600]


Il est déjà presque 17h quand nous avons fini notre ballade. Il nous faudra une petite heure pour aller à l'endroit où on devait passer la nuit. Après un bon dîner, direction le lit. Et là pointe le nez de la déception quant à la propreté du bateau, le manque d'intimité et la présence d'invité pas vraiment recommandable : un rat. On l'entend, on l'aperçoit bref il se fait trop présent à mon goût. Blague mise à part, personnellement j'ai passé une mauvaise nuit. Franchement pour le prix qu'on a payé (un peu au dessus du marché) c'est abusé. Seul réconfort ? Il ne sortait que la nuit. Enfin, le jour se lève. Je me précipite sur le toit du bateau. Le paysage me console de cette nuit difficile. La vue rend rapidement toute personne grognant de bonne humeur. Un bon petit déjeuner puis on repart. Nous repartons pour visiter des grottes avec ou sans chauve-souris et des magnifiques criques. Impossible de se lasser. Une des grottes visitée faisait 200m de long, un spectacle  inoubliable avec les stalactites et autres bizarreries.


- Entrée -

Baie-Along 1347 [800x600]


- Grotte -

Baie-Along 1351 [800x600]


- Paysages -

Baie-Along 1370 [800x600]


Baie-Along 1401 [800x600]


Nous nous dirigeons ensuite vers un village flottant qui organise un petit tour en bateau bambou autour du village. Une femme nous accueille à la descente du bateau avec son petit bateau en bambou. Elle nous emmène ensuite vers les maisons flottants. Chaque petit bateau bambou est muni d'une petite épuisette afin de ramasser les éventuels détritus rencontrés. Un très bon réflexe. Le village flottant compte quelques 400 habitants avec une centaine de maisons. Le tout est d'une propreté exemplaire. Pour nous c'est assez curieux voire incroyable de voire toutes ces personnes vivre sur l'eau. Dans le village, il y a bien sure une petite école, des maisons, des épiceries vivant essentiellement de la pêche et du tourisme.


- Village flottant -

Baie-Along 1804 [800x600]




- Bateau de pêcheur et bateaux bambou -



A la nuit tombée, l'ancre est jeté au milieu de paysages idylliques. Nous nous apprêtons à manger quand le capitaine annonce à notre guide qu'il n'y a plus assez de gaz pour cuisiner le lendemain. Après le coup du bateau pas très net, ceci démontre bien l'amateurisme des employés et de l'agence.  On se dirige dans l'obscurité vers une plateforme à une heure de là. La seule chose qui puisse encore nous consoler à ce stade, c'est la vue d'un beau bateau de pêcheur avec ces énormes lampes halogènes pour attirer les poissons dans le noir. Surnaturel ! Nous nous amarrons pas loin du bateau pêcheur. Le seul inconvénient ? Le bruit.


- Bateau de pêcheur -

Baie-Along 1597 [800x600]


Un nouveau jour se lève. Et encore une fois, on se précipite sur le toit, encore une fois j'ai mal dormi. Heureusement, le paysage est enchanteur.


- Levé du jour -

Baie-Along 1598 [800x600]


Après le petit déjeuner, direction une grotte à visiter à pied. Des stalactites, des stalagmites et encore et toujours les paysages et les vues sur la baie.


- Grottes -

Baie-Along 1644 [800x600]

Baie-Along 1654 [800x600]


- Paysages -

Baie-Along 1672 [800x600]


- Nous -

Baie-Along 1666 [800x600]


Nous zigzaguons enfin dans la baie pour admirer une dernière fois la baie d'Along. Bien évidemment, le temps passe très vite.


- Paysages -

Baie-Along 1689 [800x600]


Baie-Along 1701 [800x600]


Baie-Along 1699 [800x600]


Baie-Along 1763 [800x600]

Après le déjeuner, on fait une dernière visite en kayak. Nous visitons entre autres des plateformes avec les cultures d'huîtres. A part l'odeur assez désagréable, la visite est très intéressante. Deux sortes de culture ceux en bassines et ceux suspendus sur des fils. Une des curiosités de la baie c'est également le nombre impressionnant d'animaux domestiques présents sur les plateformes. Des chats mais surtout des chiens qui passent leurs temps à s'aboyer entre eux.

Enfin, le voyage s'achève. Nous nous dirigeons vers le port de CatBa avec le couché du soleil. A notre arrivée, nous nous dirigeons directement vers le bureau de CatBa Ventures pour exprimer notre mécontentement sur l'état de propreté du bateau et bien sure de la présence d'au moins un rat. M. Tung après avoir sorti des excuses bidons (mais vraiment farfelus) fini par nous rembourser 50$ (presque rien comparé au prix payé) et nous propose une nuit d'hôtel gratuit dans l'hôtel géré par sa femme. Nous acceptons le remboursement, mais refusons bien sure la nuit d'hôtel. Question de principe. Néanmoins, on tient à préciser que notre guide était un très bon guide. M'enfin, nous déconseillons  fortement donc l'agence CatBa Ventures bien qu'il soit bien noté sur Trip Advisor. Ce qui est difficile c'est qu'il n'y a pas de moyens surs pour vérifier l'état du bateau sur lequel embarqué avant le jour de départ. N'empêche, notre petit mésaventure prouve bien que tout ce qui  est dit sur Trip Advisor ou Lonely Planet n'est pas forcément parole d'évangile.

Pour finir, ci-dessous le choses à ne pas oublier lors d'une visite à la baie d'Along :

- Crème solaire et maillot de bain

- Sandales fermés utiles pour les ballades en kayak

- Chapeaux

- De très bons batteries pour l'appareil photo et une carte SD avec de bonnes capacités

- Si possible un petit sac étanche pour l'appareil photo

Pour le reste, il suffit de bien profiter du séjour (et ça malgré les petites mésaventures ou pas).