I won’t be telling a long story about Hanoi. Not that we didn’t enjoy our stay here, we actually ended up not doing much. We mostly took our time to plan our further travels and strolled around in the city — i.e. drinking coffee during the day and beer in the evenings in the nearest backpacker’s quarter. We also met up with Bert, whom I know from our long past days of being students. He’s also traveling through Vietnam, and our paths crossed in Hanoi.
Next we decided to go to Ha Long Bay. In Hanoi, you can literally book a ‘cruise’ to Ha Long Bay at every street corner. Also every hostel will try to sell you at least a day tour — count on spending at least 50 euros per person if you decide to book one. You’ll be picked up in the morning in front of your hotel and dropped off in the evening at the same spot. Multiple day tours are possible too, in that case you’ll spend the night on the boat. Prices depend on whether you go for basic or deluxe tours.
Sound good for sure, but a little off budget — and not so much our kinda thing anyway. We decided to go to Cat Ba Island instead, which is the largest populated part of the Ha Long Bay islands. A boring bus + ferry brought us to our guesthouse. The guesthouse was cute and we had our own bathroom. We had planned to stay 2 nights here, but ended up staying 5. The amazing weather and Cat Ba Island’s beautiful beaches are mostly responsible for our extended stay.
Our guesthouse offered a tour through Ha Long Bay for only 15 dollars per person. Way cheaper than the Hanoi tour, for the same amount of sightseeing. Swimming, kayaking and lunch on board are all included. Ha Long Bay is magnificent. The karst sea mountains are breathtaking.
Cat Ba town is nothing special. Mostly hotels and restaurants, however you can find good food and drink deals here. The island itself is definitely worth a visit by motor bike. You can spend an entire day just visiting caves and enjoying the different views over the bay. We mostly spend the rest of our days at Cat Ba Island’s beaches, and taking a holiday on holiday.
Back to Hanoi on Monday, where we took the night bus to Ha Giang. Ha Giang is located in the upper north of Vietnam, close to the border with China. The mountainous landscapes are stunning. Local inhabitants aren’t used to seeing tourists here, and time doesn’t seem to have a hold on local life.
From Ha Giang, you can drive around with a motor bike in a loop for 3 days, our initial plan. But when we arrived, it was raining too hard to be able to leave and it was said that the rain would last for at least another week. Too bad for us. Watching the rain and hoping it would end soon would be a waste of time, so we decided to go back to Hanoi. We rested in preparation for our flight to Laos on Thursday. The weather should be good there, fingers crossed!
Our hotel in Hanoi is called Hanoi Little Town Hotel, which was basic but ideally located. One of the best eateries in Hanoi is Com Pho Co. On Cat Ba Island, we stayed in Cat Ba Guesthouse. For little money, we had a clean and spacious room. We booked the tour and motor bikes at our guesthouse. Our guesthouse in Ha Giang is called Huong Thao 2 Hotel.