Goodbye Vietnam – Cát Bà Island… Vietnam Post 5/5

… is the biggest island in the Halong Bay in the north of Vietnam. The three of us were thinking for a long time about how intensive we wanted to visit Halong Bay.

Of course, the first question was how much time we will have in the end. The boat tours vary from one day trips, two-night, three-night boat tours and you should book in advance. And they vary from 20USD to several thousand… Wonder what that would include… On one hand, we said to ourselves that such a little luxury tour at the end and at the farewell could be quite nice. On the other hand, we wondered if we would really enjoy being ‘locked up’ for 2 or 3 days with other tourists… Sometime from somebody we heard about Cát Bà Island and that it is possible to do tours from there. We didn’t book anything until the end and found us one afternoon on the ferry to Cát Bà Island. The sun was shining, the sea air blew around our noses. We decided not to drive all the way into town to look for accommodation, but to look somewhere out of town before. We found an idyllic FUNtastic homestay on the mountainside in a small village with a small beach.

There was everything you need, good food with vegetables from the garden, cold drinks, nice little bungalows and even a pool table (Where the owner challenged Sascha every day, and Sascha let him win (from time to time…). We made a little sunset tour into town and when returned we met our bungalow neighbors, a French couple. We exchanged our information about any boat trips and prices, as our host interferes. He could also organize a “private” boat, one just for the five of us. It did not take long before we had agreed on a fair price for everyone and a private boat day tour for the next day was on the go! Time for a toast! [Sascha speaks and opens up another bottle of beer and goes, more or less straight, to the pool table]

We spent a wonderful day together in the Halong Bay, with stops for canoeing, super delicious lunch prepared by the captain, swimming time, a visit to Monkey Island (where Sascha got attacked by that F….g Monkeys!!!) and above all in super nice little company.

The last day before we had to go back to Hanoi, we used to discover the rest of the island. We explored the fort which was fantastic, drive up the paths to the viewpoints and get to know the other end of the island. We had done everything right. We enjoyed this island and until the last minute.

In Hanoi we now had to return the motorcycles and say goodbye to David – as usual with tacos and happy hour 1 margarita bowls. Now it was finally time to say goodbye to George – the good times always go by way too fast! George (the lucky f…er.) had time to stay in South East Asia as long as he wanted. He kept the motorcycle and travelled through Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam.

We wished him a lot of fun and planned that he might come to Europe in spring with his BMW. (But then this Corona thingy came up. Hint to remember when we read this in 10 years from now: That was the very time when first all the super-honk-rednecks bought all the toilet paper they could get hold on and then went all mad into this conspiracy theories and ran around with the aluminum hats on their head!… Unreal…) In Hanoi we visited the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater and that was a great show. It has its roots in an art form that dates back to the 11th century.

The tradition of water puppet theatre origines in a time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers would entertain by standing in the waist-deep water with the puppets performing on long sticks over the water.

Performances are accompanied by a Vietnamese orchestra playing traditional music using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. The music you can hear in this video:

We all know what happened then. Travel plans of any kind are on hold. George is back in the States right now, we are in Hamburg, Germany, working in our “home office”. Nobody knows how exactly it will go on, we don’t want to talk too much about it at this point. We hope you have some fun with our report and the attached photos. We are making ourselves as comfortable as possible at home. We realize how lucky we have been during all our travel stages regarding riots, border closings, illnesses or like now facing a pandemic. Moreover, we are grateful that we do have a cozy comfortable place to stay right now. Time to remember or to let new travel plans mature.

We send our best regards to all corners of this wonderful planet and hope you all stay well! Still don’t forget to dream and even more: don’t forget to turn your dreams into action. Remember: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! (a famous Chinese proverb千里之行,始於足下, Chapter 64 of Dao De Jing by Laozi)    😉

Take care,

Kerstin and Sascha

places we enjoyed… Vietnam Post 4/5

…, even if they are touristic; they are scenic and beautifully situated with nice driving routes in the surroundings:

Ban Gioc Waterfal is in an area of mature karst formations in the very northeast directly at the Chinese border. It is part of the Cao Bang province and reachable on a tarmac road winding through the karst formations.

There is another road which is still rough dirt mostly. It is coming from the south so you can ride a loop. That is what we did, and we really enjoyed! Along the path, you will hear a banging metal sound from time to time. Small villages of knife cutlers.

Nung ethnic minority people in Phuc Sen commune have practiced the forging trade for hundreds of years. It is fun watching them and chatting with them. Of course, we bought one! The waterfall itself can be touristic, more from the Chinese side.

However, we were lucky having the place nearly for ourselves at sunset. Just around the corner, you find the Nguom Ngao Cave.

With the total length of more than 2,100 meters. It is perfect to stroll around this wonderful limestone forms in the cold climate just by yourself if you are lucky like we were.

The famous Ha Giang Loop – Nice but quite touristic and crowded. The loop still has many small branching laps where you can discover a lot – we preferred the area a bit east of Ha Giang in the Song Chay Mountains. The area where Kerstin had to take a break after her accident. While she was resting, the boys could let off steam on the trails between the fairytale rice terraces. At this topic, we would like to thank Hoanh Trung Duong, the Co-Founder and COO of Ha Giang Motorbike Tours & Rental. Although we neither stayed in his guesthouse nor rented a motorcycle from him, he was immediately ready to help when Kerstin asked him for advice via chat after her accident. It is always nice to see how great the motorcycle community works worldwide!

Ba Be Lake and National Park is worth a visit. There is a wide range of homestays with full board right on the lake as the area is home to many ethnic minority communities. Surrounded by limestone mountains it is a peaceful place for fishing, hiking, boat trips, waterfalls, caves or just exploring the area by motorbike.

Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park is in the center of Vietnam in the middle of a large rainforest covered karst mountain range and it is famous for its many caves. The region is beautiful, and the place has retained a certain charm. If you move towards Laos, you are immediately out of the tourist part.

Cúc Phương National Park in the Ninh Binh province surprised us. Its proximity to Hanoi did not let us expect this dreamlike landscape of tropical rainforest with outstanding limestone cliffs. The individual sights in the park are often overcrowded, but offside of it you can drift endlessly on the small paths between the rocks, rivers and lakes.

By the way, the geological formation corresponds to the same processes in the tropical karst as in the Halong Bay.

… and it continues!