A slowly spreading secret amongst backpackers, Cat Ba Island is the smarter choice if you want to experience Hà Long Bay cheaply – not to mention, not be surrounded by hoards of tourists. Although Cat Ba Island has its own national park, I mainly visited for the tours.
Along the main street facing the pier, there are numerous tour companies selling half-to-full-day tours around Hà Long Bay, with several starting at 20$ but most priced around 15$. The trick is to haggle, which is exactly how my friend and I managed to buy a more than half-day-tour for a mere 12$ (46RM) – we simply said how we were offered the same tour for 13$ and voila, 12$ it became!
You’re probably wondering what we experienced during our 12$ tour around Lan Hà Bay and Hà Long Bay so let me break it down for ya:
We started by cruising through a local fishing village then moving onwards to Lan Hà Bay, where the boat docked so we could kayak though caves and around the area. If you’re apprehensive about kayaking then know that the area chosen consists mainly of shallow waters – plus, life jackets are provided!
After many magical moments kayaking into hidden lagoons, we feasted aboard the ship as lunch was included. From there, we cruised around Hà Long Bay and were lucky enough to view the Floating City due to the sun parting the clouds.
Again, the boat docked but this time in the middle of the Gulf of Tonkin, with a little sandy area nearby which we swam to (pictured above). The last stop was Monkey Island (pictured below), where we hiked to an incredible viewpoint showcasing specks of land dotting the ocean.
“As I come to understand Vietnam and what it implies about the human condition, I also realize that few humans will permit themselves such an understanding.” Alan Moore