Life on a desert island: The ultimate Halong Bay experience

IMG_1271IMG_1017IMG_2765IMG_2125IMG_1024 IMG_1022.PNG I’m still half asleep as I blink open my eyes in the morning. It still feels like night but the sun is starting to rise and daylight is streaming in through the window.
I check my watch. It’s 5:30, the time our guide said to wake up if we wanted to witness the most spectacular sunrise. Considering we’d all been sat around a campfire just hours before, I hadn’t thought that a possibility. I peer around the room at the only other 15 people on this island but I am the only one awake: perks of the window side bed. Within minutes the sky has gone from grey to bright pink, and I watch the sunrise in solitude from the comfort of my bed.

I booked this tour a couple of days ago, unsure of anything apart  from the fact it would take us by boat to Lan Ha island, “the new halong bay.” Identical in every sense, apart from the tourist numbers.

The travel agent explained, ‘you get what you pay for’ when I booked my trip, so considering what I paid, it’s safe to say I was a little dubious. However within a few minutes of sailing from the port, we’re already in the depths of some postcard worthy islands and chatting away over lunch. I’d seen pictures of these islands but nothing could prepare me for the sheer beauty of them as we sailed through.

Our first stop was kayaking, off a little cluster of wooden boards nailed together in the centre of the ocean but called a ‘fishing village’. We were given no instructions apart from to follow our guide, before we were pushed off into kayaks within a matter of minutes and set off sailing into the heart of these islands.

The islands are immense and block out the sun as we sail though and the two of us in the kayak can’t help but stop rowing and just sit for a moment. Of course, no suprise, we’re back of the group. We come to a rock, no higher than my head, and seeing the last of our groups kayaks glide underneath, we follow. Inside this cave it is eerie, yet beautiful and the sun at the end of this cave, that seems to go on for ever, gives the impression of moonlight on the water. When we emerge the scene is even more beautiful, and remote than the last.

I don’t think any of us had given much thought to where we were spending the night. Our guide said we were staying on Cat Ong, a private island situated opposite popular Cat Ba Island, a watersports hub. Like I said, I was forever sceptical.

The sun was already almost down when we arrived at the island. To my suprise, it really was a private island. There was a little stretch of sand, with small bungalows and a larger main building to eat in. Apart from that it was free of infrastructure, wifi and phone signal.  It’s fair to say we all felt like we were in a adventure movie.

After a late evening chatting and drinking a lot of beers around be campfire, watching sunrise the next morning and then falling sleep again, it was breakfast of banana pancakes and condensed milk coffee.

Key, our guide said that we could either sunbathe or choose to go on a short and easy hike to the viewpoint.
I chose the latter. About an hour later, after literally climbing up semi vertical rocks as sharp as knifes and walking through some very questionable looking paths, we finally arrive at the viewpoint. When I got my breathe back, the view was spectacular. From this point we could see all across the island and over the sea on to Cat Ba Island. With its tall hotels and it’s infrastructure, it looked like a world away from our little sanctuary, hidden from civilisation.

Want your own desert island experience? Book this trip with Ocean tours, Vietnam. Prices start from 99 USD.

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