One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Vietnam was because I wanted to see Halong Bay. After looking into Vietnam some more I was convinced that I would spend my December in this part of South East Asia. Vietnam had me, it looked absolutely beautiful. I think that the Halong Bay had like 70% influence of why I choose Vietnam. It was a dream to see Halong Bay in real life – during the years, when hearing stories about Vietnam I mostly heard stories about Halong Bay and most of the photos I saw from this country were from Halong Bay as well. Those photos were so incredibly beautiful that I fell in love with this piece of earth long before visiting it myself.
I spent one day in Hanoi before leaving to the Halong Bay. Luckily I didn’t have any jetlag troubles – which I was kind of worried about before leaving, seeing the tight schedule I had planned. I booked my Halong Bay adventure through Vietnam Backpacker Hostels (to Castaway Island), I booked it long before leaving to Vietnam after stumbling upon it during my search for fun hostels in Hanoi. It looked like the perfect combination between activities, backpacker’s fun and sightseeing.
My Halong Bay adventure started at 6 in the morning – best time ever, I know. Along with 40 others I had to prepare myself for a 2,5 hour bus ride, a boat ride of 45 minutes, another bus ride of 45 minutes and another boat ride of 20-minutes that would take us to the Castaway Island. It sounded long, and I was dreading the it, but once you see the first rocks that shape the Halong Bay you know it was worth the effort. Definitely worth it.
I imagined Halong Bay to be very touristic – which it definitely is, however I didn’t see any tourists. I imagined there to be like a harbor where all the boat hotels and tours took off and where you could start your hikes. I imagined there to be one place where all the tourists had to come to to start their tours. However, it was amazingly quiet in the part where we took of to Castaway Island. I didn’t spot any other tourists than our group, I didn’t spot any other boats and basically the only thing I saw was a ton of floating villages that are so iconic Halong Bay.
Halong Bay was as beautiful as I imagined it to be. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great (it was cold, foggy and raining), but exactly those weather conditions made Halong Bay look very mysterious. I imagine it to be very different during summer. During the two nights I spend in Castaway I did one big boat trip, and two smaller ones (the ferry rides). Those tours couldn’t last long enough for me. It’s beautiful. It’s unreal to finally see Halong Bay for yourself – an iconic place you only know from photos and ‘must-visit lists’.
Now, back on Castaway Island. Is it a tour I recommend? Definitely. Are you in for a party and do you like to meet other backpackers? Then hell yes. During the days I stayed on Castaway there were activities planned out for us. Activities like rock-climbing, kayaking, boat tours, swimming and wake boarding. Other than that the island had a volleybal and basketbal field and a pingpong table. Insane! During the nights? Everyone came together to chat, laugh, drink and to get to know each other. It was really fun! By far the best thing from Castaway was that a lot of people who did the Castaway Tour traveled down South through Vietnam afterwards – always staying in the hostels of Vietnam Backpacker Hostels (Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An), which meant that you would always meet people at hostels you knew from Castaway. It was really fun and a big part of what made Vietnam an amazing experience for me were the people I’ve met during my trip. And Castaway was all a start of my amazing journey through Vietnam.