Instead of taking a typical Halong Bay cruise from Hanoi in Vietnam, we decided to head to Cat Ba Island. Geographically, Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Halong Bay, and from here you can take cruises to the more remote parts of Halong Bay and also to the equally beautiful, but far less crowded, Han La Bay. This is what really drew us here.
Sitting on the top deck of the boat, I felt the breeze in my hair and the warm sun on my skin, while the calm waters passed by in our wake as we left the dock on Cat Ba Island. Ahead lay a beautiful scene of tall limestone karst islands, with a village of floating fish farms sitting in the calm waters at their base. Slowly, we cruised through the maze of waterways of Han La Bay and most of the time it was just us and the local fishermen who call this place home.
Han La Bay is certainly a place of pure beauty, and it is far less touched by tourism than the overcrowded and rubbish strewn Halong Bay nearby, which is often seen on day trips from Hanoi.
If you want a less crowded and more authentic experience, head to Cat Ba Island and take a cruise from there. It is a lovely place to spend a few days.