Ha Long Bay is the world famous area (UNESCO World Heritage Site) 40km east of Haiphong; the harbor city 100km east of Hanoi. Upon some research we learned that Lan Ha Bay on the southeastern side of Cat Ba island has the same geology as Ha Long, but far fewer tourists. So we took a bus from Hanoi to Haiphong and then a short, 'rapid' ferry to Cat Ba Island, and another 30 minute bus ride from the ferry terminal to Cat Ba Town. Our hotel, The Oasis, was built into the hillside and our room was up the hill with good views of the waterfront - not that we spent any time gazing from the room to the waterfront !
Thw main objective was to boat to and amongst the 1,000+ Limestone Karsts Islets all about the island. So we rented a boat so we could ask the captain to go, and stop, when & where we wanted. Although the weather was gray the geologic formations were impressive. We even stopped at a floating kayak rental office and kayaked for an hour or so; totally alone on the water amongst the rock formations; eerie & peaceful, if that makes any sense ?
Tomorrow is back to Hanoi and then an overnight train to Sapa; well actually to Lao Cai, and then 1 hour shuttle to Sapa.
Ciao for now