sunset over Halong Bay

Halong Bay, one of Vietnam’s biggest tourist attractions, didn’t disappoint, partly thanks to our rather comfortable arrangements.

The biggest tourist attraction of this entire trip is Halong Bay, the karst landscape off the coast of Northern Vietnam. So we had carefully analysed the weather forecast, to ensure our visit would coincide with the best possible conditions during our two weeks in Vietnam – quite a challenge, on account of our experiences so far.

a row of hotels at the Catba harbour front

Early one morning we took the hydrofoil from Haiphong on the coast to Catba, the centre of Halong Bay tourism on a small island in the bay. And lo and behold, halfway the clouds, at least most of them, cleared and a watery sunshine established itself, which held for most of the rest of the day.


the floating village from where the tourist boats leave

quite a few floating houses, in fact

densely packed together

and little fishes, to be fed to the bigger ones in the fish farms

a collection of connected jetties and pontoons

vintage Halong Bay

with isolated steep karst hills

sometimes eroded at sea level

and the effect of varying water levels from the tide

ripple-less water surface in a small secluded bay

isolated palm trees on sharply eroded limestones

and a family of monkeys debating the next steps

not only tourism, also fishing is economically important

either with so-called Chinese fishing nets

or through nets that are being picked with small canoes

another Chinese net, attached to a floating family house

our sail, not especially hard working

haphazard tourists struggling in a kayak

kayaks are being rented out from several places

And then Halong Bay is very nice indeed! We had booked ourselves on a private boat, a junk equipped with sails, just two cabins for the three of us, large and comfortable deck chairs, a captain and a cook. Which was all we needed. By ten in the morning, the captain steers the boat away from the harbour whilst we establish ourselves in the deck chairs, by twelve the cook has prepared us a fabulous seafood lunch, for which we temporarily leave the deck chairs, and by two we have installed ourselves once again in the deck chairs. To see the many small bays, tiny little beaches and rocky karst hills pass by, to watch the fishermen check their nets, to observe the various villages and fishing farms go about their daily business. Occasionally our captain approaches an island where many other boats are moored, indicating a touristic attraction – think of monkeys, or a kayaking centre -, but on most of those occasions we manage to convince him to continue. It is, in any case, too cold for a swim. My two more active and sporty travel companions do, at one stage, get into a kayak to frustrate themselves for an hour, or so, but for the rest we maintain our peaceful course, as far away as possible from the other boats.  To emphasize this peaceful atmosphere, we suggest to the captain to raise the sails and switch off the engine. But the sails are obviously only for the show, they are being raised late afternoon, but not for sailing. And the engine is never switched off. “Then we will capsize”, is the captain’s view. He has never sailed before in his life, so much is clear.

another view of Halong Bay

these are empty baskets, stacked on a pontoon

several fishing boats moored together

fish farm

another little floating house, with boat

one of the rather nice tourists boats, also with useless sail

In the evening we anchor in a small bay. Sunset, more food, early night. And the next morning, more of the same – albeit with less sunshine. Back in the harbour at noon, after an early lunch. Great way to have spent a day.

next is Haiphong

and sunset over Halong Bay, again

Tagged with →  

4 Responses to 27. Halong Bay

  1. Thea oudmaijer says:

    Very beautiful and relaxing!

  2. Peter Wit says:

    What a pity there was no pedal boat for you to chase the kayaks…

    • oudmayer says:

      Peter, I don’t mind the pedaling, as long as there is a comfortable seat involved, which is usually well taken care of in pedal boats – even if they come in the form of swans, or dragons; bicycle saddles, though, are another issue all together

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *