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Be prepared to hike 20km into the forest if you're in Catba National Park. Walking is the only way to go if you're keen to look at the flora and fauna upfront. You'll hike for about an hour before you reach the village of Viet Hai and you'll hike some more as you scale a limestone peak nearby.
Equipment: Bring a parka if you're here in winter. It rained when I was here.
Updated Dec 27, 2005
If you're hiking in Catba National Park, chances are, your guide will bring you to the village of Viet Hai and to a steep hill called Hai Quan. Though Hai Quan is a small hill ( only 300m or so above sea level ) , it makes for a challenging climb since you'll be climbing on a mud path full of rocks and slippery wet leaves. It's definitely not recommended for beginners or for trekkers with the likes of Fat Bastard*.As I climbed, I shed all my layers of sweaters and when I got to the top, I was left with a thin shirt !
I'm not being rude. Fat Bastard is a lumpy roll of fat seen in Austin Powers.
Equipment: Bring a bandana to absorb your perspiration. Wearing sweat proof clothing would be good choice too if you don't want to be soaking wet at the top.
Updated Dec 27, 2005
This is not be missed even in wintry temperatures! Should I have known better, I would have brought my camera in a waterproof casing. Awesome structures were seen the whole time i was out on the waters!
Equipment: Encase your digi cam in a water proof casing and bring it along!
Written Jan 17, 2005
Our three-day trip included one day of kayaking. We set off after breakfast to explore the islands up close. Then we stopped for lunch on board a floating restaurant (included in the tour.) When we were done, the owner was so grateful for his tips and offered everybody shots of rice wine. Knowing that we still had two hours of kayaking ahead of us we all politely and regretfully turned it down.
In the afternoon, we explored a very interesting lagoon inside one of the islands accessible through a tiny opening that closes up at high tide. This was the highlight of our trip to Halong Bay.
Equipment: Handspan supplies all of the gear.
I tend to get seasick very easily, so I made sure to bring a patch. Once placed behind the ear, it lasts for three days. It really worked for me!
Updated Dec 15, 2004
Kayaking is a great way discover Ha Long Bay at your own pace with a friend, or on your own. It is also a good way to get some exercise after all that lazing around and eating & boozing on board your cruise ship.
No kayaking mate? No problem-I saw a woman from another boat who got one of the local boys from her boat to paddle with her. Now, that was travelling in style! LOL
Equipment: Most larger cruise boats have their own kayaks. Our tour included the use of 2 kayaks, and for any extra kayaks, the charge was US$25 per kayak (in Malaysian ringgits this was RM100, which we thought was rather expensive). Fortunately since only a few people on our group wanted to try out kayaking, my colleague, H, and I were able to monopolize one of the two kayaks for a few hours and enjoy the activity to our hearts' content.
Indeed, it was fun and I recommend it to everyone!
Updated Feb 9, 2005
I love sports, and kayaking and canoeing are among my favourites; but Ha Long Bay was definetly the best place I've ever done that. Anywhere you'll find a desert tiny beach, magnificent rock formations or if you are as lucky as us, a snake swimming across the channel (that I tried to follow but my girlfriend didn't allow me).
There are many tours that includes kayaking, but we arranged that once we were in Cat Ba island with a private guide. The guide is important to return, because every island looks alike and you may have a bad moment trying to find you way home if you go alone.
Equipment: You don't need to carry any equipment, just make sure to put you camera into an hermetic bag just in case...
Updated Jan 30, 2006
One of our favorite experiences in Ha Long Bay was taking a kayaking tour. It’s a good idea to kayak with a guide as the rock formations start to look alike, especially when you’re at water level, so it’s easy to get lost. The great things about kayaking is you get to see the bay from a new and different perspective. It also gives you the opportunity to go further off the beaten path and discover hidden lagoons and deserted beaches. Our our tour we rowed through a opening in one of the karsts and explored a remote lagoon. Later we docked on a deserted beach and went swimming and had crab races on the sand. One word of caution, watch out for the sand mites. When we were on the beach I got eaten alive by sand mites and my legs were an itchy mess for the next several weeks! Regardless, I highly recommend kayaking when you’re in Ha Long Bay, not only is it a great workout, it’s an amazing way to explore the karsts.
Equipment: If you go with an organized tour your kayaks and paddles will be included.
Written Feb 23, 2008
There is no better way to explore Halong bay than doing a kayaking trip which makes the visit a totally different one. With a kayak, you can easily enter the caves placed very low above the water, leading to the lagoons inside, while there is no way doing that with normal tourist boat. But, there are times you need to stretch your body lying on the kayak in order not to bang your head to the rocky stalactites.
If you are not sure with the local tide schedule, then ask a local guide to accompany since sometimes it is quite easy to go into a lagoon but very difficult to get out of it because the water has risen and closed the entrance unless you want to visit and stay in a lagoon for one day without interaction with the outside world.
In Halong Bay there are different caves to do kayaking such as Bat cave, Dark cave, Hanh cave... You can certainly do the kayaking in the open water as well, doing some kind of rowing contest with your buddies, for example. This video will show a kayak trip to Bat cave and Dark cave and a tour at night to catch fish. We later enjoyed our catch including a variety of fish and crabs on the roof of our boat.
Rowing a kayak is easy but to ride it smoothly, particularly sharing it with a partner, needs some practice. In Halong bay, with a kayak, chances are to see more of the world heritage's natural beauty including the intact rocky caves, greeny and quiet lagoons with corals and wildlife like monkeys and birds.
This video was made in May 2006 during my trip to Halong Bay sleeping overnight on the Ginger junk
Written Jul 19, 2007
Address: Halong Bay in the North of Vietnam
One diversion from the boat was two hours of kayaking in the afternoon of the second day. We disembarked at a small collection of kayaks and docks surrounded by water on all sides and paddled underneath a narrow hangover into a pool ringed by steep karst walls. The open-top cave gave the feeling of paddling around a deep and narrow volcanic crater with eagles circling above.
As we rowed back to the kayak docking station the sun began to set, morphing the blue sky orange and casting the green limestone islands as silhouettes in the calm bay. I've only sea kayaked once before, but I got the feeling that that's exactly what it's about.
Equipment: Inquire as to whether or not your tour will provide waterproof bags for this activity. Mine didn't and luckily someone on my tour risked it by bringing their digital camera along and passed on some of his pictures to me. Photo credits go to Florian Kirmeyer, bless his heart.
Updated Mar 15, 2006
Sea kayaking at Halong Bay is so different from all the canoe & kayak session that I ever did. It is especially exciting (& challenging) when you are teaming up with someone who is not so well in kayaking.
It is such a wonderful experience to paddle between so many strange formations of islets.
Written Oct 25, 2004