After a bus and a ferry ride, I arrived at 3:15pm at the LePont Bungalow Hostel in CatBa. I had booked the transportation at the Central Backpackers Hostel. The LePont had a very nice dorm with a fabulous view over the bay.
You got a towel, toothbrush and also shampoo and body wash. The hostel had a nice outdoor area, which also served as the restaurant. The rest of the day I spent relaxing, walking around the city, having dinner at Mona’s Restaurant (a delicious vegetable curry with a nice view),
booked a tour for the next day and hung out with a few people from the hostel.
The breakfast the next morning was one of the best breakfasts I ever had in a hostel. And it was included in the price for the room ($5.5/night). It was almost hotel like with a buffet and freshly prepared omelets or any other way you wanted your eggs. At 8 am the tour started. The three German guys I had met the evening before were also on this tour. We were dropped at the harbor by bus, where we had to wait a little before we got on a boat. By boat we drove around Halong Bay checking out the karst mountains and two fishing villages.
After about 1 hour, it was time to get active ourselves. We got kayaks and could paddle around. We paddled through a cave to a hidden bay. Although the weather was not the best – it was not raining, but very cloudy and windy – it was really beautiful.
Back to the boat, we had lunch. The boat drove on for about one more hour to a spot where we could go for a swim. I skipped that part though, since it was too cold for me without the sun.
Next stop was Monkey Island. As the name might already suggest there were many monkeys there. Some of them were really aggressive and very cheeky like the one who stole the soda from Jul and drank it.
Apart from a nice beach, there was also a mountain that you could climb up to have a great view. And that is climbing in the in the truest sense of the word. The beginning was not so bad, but then it got rather dangerous. There was no rope or anything; it just went down deeply over very sharp rocks if you slipped. I got up quite far up but at one point my fear of heights won and I got stuck. Roman went up to the top, Jul and Con had given up way before me. I stayed a bit where I was and then made my way down again with a bit of help in form of suggestions where to put my foot or hand from other participants of the tour. I was very thankful for that help and very happy with my new shoes too! We drove back to the harbor and by van from there to the hostel. It was a nice tour. Would have been better with nicer weather, but what can you do?! I came to CatBa to see Halong Bay, not to sit around in the hostel and wait for better times. In the evening I went to the Oasis Restaurant for dinner and had shrimp with garlic and French fries accompanied by a cider. When I just finished Roman, Con and Jul passed by and joined me. We had a few drinks and I tried my first laughing gas balloon ever. It is quite funny and what I like about it, is that the effect only lasts for a couple of minutes. So it is good to try. If you don’t like the feeling you are ok after a few minutes again. We went to Oasis II. It is a very nice place with pool tables and tabletop soccer. Also the location is great there was not much going on unfortunately. We staid anyway for a while playing pool. The next morning I slept in and later walked up the hill to the Cannon Fort.
They charge 40000 Dong entry fee. I was running out of Vietnamese cash and since I was leaving the country just two days later I didn’t want to withdraw again. So I skipped the fort, I anyway just wanted to move my hurting back a bit. Later that day I had an appointment with an osteopath. I was hoping to finally get rid of my horrible back pain that I had since the crash in Hoi An. On my way back to the hostel I stopped at the Oasis again for dinner. The only free space was at table where a young Dutch girl was sitting. So I joined her. She was eating a pizza but was already full and gave me the rest which was almost half. We had a nice chat and at one point she told me that she would like to try a balloon but was too scared. I told her that it is quite harmless and we could try one together if she wanted. After all I was also happy to have someone with me, when I tried. So I got one for us and we shared it. She was super happy to have someone looking after her while trying but discovered that this precaution wouldn’t have been necessary in the end. But anyway, better careful than sorry! I was rather tired and went to bed early.
The next day it was already time to go back to Hanoi. The bus was scheduled for around midday, but it was raining cats and dogs. The rain was so hard that it was not even possible to sit on the covered terrace of the hostel without getting wet.
So I was stuck in the dorm and used the time to write some reviews and working on my blog. When the rain eased a little bit, I got something to eat. The bus arrived one hour late and we also had to wait for the ferry due to the weather. So in the end I arrived in Hanoi about two hours later than planned. I got some last souvenirs and enjoyed another burger and crafts beer at Chops and a last coconut coffee at Ag Café as desert and went back to the hostel to pack my stuff. When I was finished it was too late to go out or something and I was rather tired anyway, so I went to bed. I had to get up early the next day. I was completely alone for my last breakfast since no one was getting up so early. Once I had finished I called a Grab to get to the airport. The driver didn’t speak one world of English so the receptionist helped me quickly to settle everything. And a few hours later I was on my way to the last stop of my journey – Singapore.
I really liked Hanoi. I definitely haven’t seen too much of it, since I have to admit I was getting a bit tired of constantly running around sightseeing and discovering new things after a whole year of traveling. That is actually true for almost my whole time in Vietnam. I also had a phase of about 2 weeks in Vietnam where I really had difficulties to connect to people, finding friends or just people to hang out with. I was so fed up with the same topics over and over again when you talk to other travelers. Where have you been, where are you going, how long are you traveling for, what are you doing back home and so on and so on. So I felt lonely but at the same time was not in the mood to hang out with someone. It also would have been time for another travel break to recharge my batteries (remember I swore to myself to put a few days of that into my schedule every 6-8 weeks in order to avoid a kind of travel fatigue after my first “break down” in Canada and it had worked out perfectly until Vietnam), but since I had so little time left and I wanted to see so much in Vietnam, I didn’t do it. So I ended up traveling around like crazy without really enjoying it. Probably would have been better to just look for a nice place and stay there for a week or more. But well afterwards you always know better. I really liked Vietnam anyway! And I know that I just have to come back to this beautiful country to value more what it has to offer. Even without that fact there is still a lot I haven’t seen and want to discover in Vietnam! But next time, please, it would be nice to be more lucky with the weather. I had sooo much rain and cold during my time in Vietnam. I have always been on the wrong end of the country. When I was in the south it was nice in the north and vice versa. In conclusion, I can only say that if you ever get the chance to visit Vietnam: do so! The people are friendly, the food is great and it has a lot to offer, landscape and culture wise.