No trip to Vietnam would be complete without a visit to the stunning Ha Long Bay. The lime stone mountains dot the landscape and make you feel as though you have travelled back in time. This iconic landscape has been featured on many TV shows, blogs, and Pinterest boards because of its stunning natural beauty. There are hundreds of boat trips that will take you around these rocky wonders, but one is getting more and more famous every day – and for good reason – and that is Castaways.
Castaways is a 3 day, 2 night trip run by Vietnam Backpacker Hostels (look out for more on these guys in the near future!) and it takes you out to enjoy this natural wonder, along with a good dose of drinking and fun!
The tour begins from the Vietnam Backpacker’s Downtown Hostel in Hanoi at 7am. If you’re staying here the night before, be sure to get downstairs for around 6.30am, so you have time to tuck into the lovely free breakfast! Then you will walk a short way through Hanoi to reach your first bus of the day. Be warned – this is a long trip! The bus drives you to Ha Long City, which takes around 2 hours and saw most of us napping the whole way! Then you transfer to a boat which takes you over to Cat Ba Island. Top tip – do your best to head down the little stairs for seats, as these are cushioned benches instead of the hard plastic chairs up top. This boat takes aroun 1 hour, and when you reach the island its time for another bus, and another hour, to take you across the island. Then, it’s your final boat, which takes around 45 minutes, but does come with music and beer. And that’s it – you’ve finally arrived!
Castaways Island is your own little slice of heaven for the next 3 days. The only people that stay on this secluded beach are the people on this trip – so it’s easy to realx and really enjoy your time here. When you arrive, your guide will take you up to the bar/ restaurant for a quick orientation speech before digging into lunch (which is included). The speech is all your basic stuff, don’t bring your own alcohol, have fun etc. and then there was the explanation of the Island’s real rules.
Don’t say T-E-N. If you do, then you must do T-E-N press ups
Don’t say M-I-N-E. If you do, you must do T-E-N press ups
You must always drink with your left hand. If you are drinking with your right hand, and someone catches you, they will shout ‘BUFFALO’, and you must down your drink
Simple enough right? And so the party began! The first day was pretty chilled actually. After a yummy buffet lunch, I went for as dip in the sea with the girls I’d met on the way over, while we waited for our turn to do tubing. Tubing is included in the price, but they alos offer extra activites if you want to try them out as well – Wake boarding and Rock climbing. Now, I am not a very sporty person, so I gave these a miss, but the guys who took part said they had a great time!
The tubing was hilarious. If you don’t know, tubing is pretty similar to banana boats, but instead of a banana, you’re lying flat on a huge, inflated circle. The boat driver did his best to slide us off, and suceeded. I was quite proud of myself though, as I was third out of the four of us to fall each time. After about 15 minutes of being dragged around, screaming, and falling in the water, we headed back to shore. Now, it was definitely time to relax with a nice cold beer – we really felt like we deserved it.
The rest of the night continued in much the same fashion. Beers, another (delicious) buffet dinner, more beers, and then bed. The accomodation was pretty basic, but comfortable. I was sharing a double bed with one of the girls I met, mostly so we coud stay in one of the en-suite bungalows, rather than having to use the shared showers/ toilets. They were standard dorm rooms with between 4-6 people in each room.
The biggest problem here though, was the heat. The rooms had a fan, but ti was pretty ineffective, and everyone found sleep a little difficult. Best tip – just get drunk so you pass out reagrdless! There were a few people that ended up sleeping on the beach instead, as the night breeze was cool and refreshing.
Day two on the island is the main main of the trip, as it is when the boat tour around Ha Long Bay takes place. The boat leaves at aorund 10am, and comes back to the island around 4pm, so you’re getting a lot of boat for your buck!
The first hour of the cruise is relaxed, and sailing around the bay. The guides warn you to enjoy the views now, as later you may be a bit precoccupied with beers to really care! The drinks started rolling as soon as we set off, and we had our first drinking game of the day too (which I’m proud to say, I won). When we reached our first destination, it was time for everyone to jump off the boat, and into the crystal clear waters. For some reason, I always find this terrifying, but after a few countdowns, I finally made the leap – unopened can of beer in hand. The water was the perfect temperature, and certainyl refreshing after being on top deck in the Vietnamese sun for an hour!
After eveyone had cooled down a little, it was time for kayaking. It was 2 people per kayak, and the bar even gave out plastic bags with your beer so you could take them with you! We kayaked a little ways into one fo the coves, where we stopped as our tour guide explained some of the history of Ha Long Bay, and the culture surrounding it. Then, those who wanted to, shotgunned a beer in the kayaks, before we headed back to the boat for, you’ve guessed it, more beers!
Lunch is served downstairs on the boat, and was just as yummy as it was on the island. After everyone had finished eating, there were more drinking games (my team won AGAIN!), and then partying on top of the boat back to the beach. That night was more partying on the beach, but everyone was already pretty drunk, so it was a great laugh.
The next day is time to say goodbye to your life as a Castaway, and head back to Hanoi. The boat doesn’t leave until 1pm, so you have a nice relaxed morning to sleep off your hangover, catch some rays, take out a free kayak, or go for a dip before leaving.
The whole trip was a fantastic experience, and a great way to meet people as a solo travller. I felt safe drinking here, unlike when I’m alone in a city, as anything could happen. If you’re not a big drinker, that’s fine too. There were a few people on this trip who either didn’t drink at all, or only had a few, and they had a blast too! Some people think the price is a bit high, but when you think of everything that’s included – I think it’s a great deal.
$199 | £150 | 4.5 million VND
Beers on the island
90 cents | 70p | 20,000 VND
3 days, 2 nights (also available, 2 days 1 night)
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