Before we travelled to Vietnam we had heard a lot about Halong Bay, which is northern Vietnam’s most popular tourist site. We were reading both positive and negative reviews about the bay which is, since 1994, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. A beautiful paradise with emerald sea and lime stone karst islands, or an exploited tourist trap where you can’t barely see the sea because of all the junk boats and litter. Most visitors book a tour in Hanoi for Halong Bay. The tour companies offer everything from cheap one day trip tours to luxury cruise tours.
We decided to do it differently!
We went by motorbike from Hanoi to Tuan Chua where we took a ferry to Cat Ba Island. Cat Ba Island is an amazing island where we spent one week exploring historical sites, caves, jungle, eating delicious seafood and we also discovered our own secret beach (SEE VIDEO HERE!) and went to Monkey Island (SEE VIDEO HERE!). We choose to stay away from the touristy Cat Ba town and found a double room including breakfast for 6 dollars close to Ben Beo harbour.
There we met Smiley, a super friendly tour operator. She offered us a one day tour, in Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay, with a private boat including captain who was also an amazing cook. This was exactly what we had been looking for.
SMILEY’S TOUR – CATBA PACKAGE TOUR
We told Smiley exactly what we would like to do and see during our one day boat tour. We knew that the Bat Cave and kayaking in a lagoon are popular activities so we decided to start early in the morning to avoid the crowds. At 7 am our captain picked us up in the harbour! We passed floating villages on our way to the lagoon. Then she dropped us off on a floating fish farm which was also the starting point for our kayak adventure. It was nice that it was just us and our kayak, and that we were not a part of a group. We were paddling through the Bat Cave and then we ended up in a beautiful lagoon. It was a good choice to start early because we had the lagoon for ourselves.
After kayaking about 1 hour in the lagoon we went back to the fish farm where our captain was waiting to take us to other awesome spots.
While she was preparing a delicious lunch on the boat we were jumping from the boat into the sea and swimming to a deserted beach. When our fingers started to look like prunes we decided to swim back to our boat. Our captain/cook had prepared an amazing meal. Bbq oysters, fish, chicken, vegetables etc. One of the best meal we had during our three months trip in Vietnam.
After that meal we were lying on mattresses on the boat floor enjoying the amazing landscape while our captain took us back to the harbour.
This tour was amazing and we are so glad that we decided to go for a private tour and visit a less touristic a part of Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay.
PRICE: $48 per person (one day private boat tour including captain/cook, kayak and a huge lunch)