Today, I got on a boat full of interesting people for adventure. A good start to a day!
I did a split kayak/climbing day with Asia Outdoors on Cat Ba. Somewhere around 18 of us got on a boat and headed out into the bay to pickup our kayaks.
The group consisted of Americans, Brits, Norwegians, French, Germans, Canadians and “wanderers.” Everyone seemed to be at some point on an epic pan-asian adventure (except me). I heard people talking about going to Asrams in India. Like, not ironically. I’m in the midst of reading The Great Railway Bazaar (it’s fascinating!) and it was hilarious to hear people using the exact same hippie-pilgrim language that Theroux heard 40 years ago.
In any case, we got our kayaks and went for a paddle, led by our Russian/French guide who lives in Vietnam to save money for deep water soloing in Spain (you see, everyone is more interesting than me!). Ha Long Bay continues to amaze, and getting to see it up close was even better.
Kayak is definitely the right way to see the bay – you can get into coves and caves that you couldn’t possible enter in anything else. The area around Cat Ba is, I gather, far quieter and less tourist-y than the main chunk of Ha Long Bay.
At one point, we were able to pull our kayaks up on a beach for some swimming and general milling about. It was pretty pleasant, if I’m honest.
After lunch back on the boat, it was time for for climbing. We were deposited on a small island and the guides rigged a handful of top rope routes. As I expected, it was just like any other group climbing outing – most folks were trying climbing for the first time, and what a great place to do so! Happily for me, they also rigged one harder route – something like a 5.11d in imperial units, a 6c+ in their crazy metric units – which was fun.
The rock makes for great climbing – it’s very sharp and a little painful, but there are amazing holds everywhere and tons of great texture. I imagine serious climbers here build unbelievable callouses.
We climbed for a few hours, before being picked up and brought back to the larger boat for the trek into town. Overall, an experience that certainly wet the appetite for more. I’m glad I didn’t plan to do more on this trip, but next time, with friends, this area has endless possibilities.
Decent sunsets too.