Cat Ba Island, Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay

We finally got to the sea! It hadn’t actually occurred to me that we hadn’t yet seen the sea until the fresh sea air hit me. Ha Long Bay and the vast surrounding area of tiny Islands has been a place that I’ve been SO excited about coming to. We were originally planning to get a bus to Ha Long City, stay in a hotel, and just get a cruise from there; but I did my research and decided it was a far better idea (cheaper and less busy) to stay on Cat Ba, the biggest island in the area, and get a cruise from there instead. We had a very pleasant and straight forward journey to Cat Ba from Hanoi yesterday, so decided to book our day cruise with the same company. It’s been an absolutely glorious day, and I’m so glad we went off piste with our plans.

We started the cruise in Lan Ha Bay, the closest Bay to Cat Ba Island, and is was absolutely beautiful. The water is clean, the rocks and sea cliffs are just breathtaking (lol), and best of all, we barely saw any other boats all morning.

Firstly we cruised through a fishing village, which was constructed entirely of floating dwellings and huge fishing nets; we stopped at a fish farm, where our guide explained the farming industry to us. Families pass down the farms through generations, and children work from a very young age; school is available and free to these children on the Island, but unfortunately very few of them go as it’s expensive for them to travel to the Island every day. We then spent the morning exploring the immense bay, jumping off the boat for a swim, and then eating a traditional Vietnamese seafood lunch which was cooked for us on board. The cruise still took us to Ha Long Bay, as this is the only area that allows kayaking, but the difference in the sea was staggering. Plastic, rubbish, and all sorts of other debris filled areas of the bay, it was pretty distressing. Interestingly, I’ve always assumed these huge areas of sea plastic are comprised of waste from tourists, but our guide explained how its actually mostly from locals who’ve lived through generations and generations using degradable items, which have now been replaced with plastic. For example, the local people would have eaten out of banana leaves for literally thousands of years; so when given food in a plastic container, they absent-mindedly throw it on the floor as they have always done, and this inevitably ends up in the sea. We spent the afternoon kayaking through caves to secluded lagunes (definitely not for the claustrophobic), and chilling on the boat as we cruised back to Cat Ba. Kayaking was actually really fun, and quite relaxing for me because Elliot did most of the paddling. He ached the day after.

We had a seafood dinner back in Cat Ba which was absolutely glorious. Vietnam is the first country in which we’ve dared to eat seafood, and it hasn’t disappointed. I had seafood fried rice, Elliot had squid fried with tomatoes and onions with steamed rice, and we shared some shrimp spring rolls. Absolutely amazing, best fried rice I’ve eaten so far, and I’ve eaten a lot.

The weather was supposed to be absolutely dreadful for us, but we were extremely lucky and it didn’t rain once. It’s been a short but sweet visit to the coast.

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