Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

HANOI – CAT BA – HALONG BAY, Vietnam on a Budget

Are you thinking about going from Hanoi to Halong Bay but you’re not sure how to enjoy it with a happy wallet? I hope this post will give you some ideas as I’m going to tell you how I enjoyed my trip to Halong Bay. 😄

You can skip to the next bit if you already know about Halong Bay and definitely are going there but if you want a bit more convincing then please do read my rambling part. It’s not too long…

Halong Bay is packed with beauty, legend, culture and history. If you don’t know already, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage and a second winner of the New 7 Wonders of Nature for 2007.

This “Bay of Descending Dragons” is 120 kilometres long and throughout this distance, there are thousands of limestones islands. Some are small and some are big enough to settle down. Though, thousands of people chose not to live on these islands. There are four floating fishing villages among these islets and islands. It’s amazing to think that they live like that, doing everyday things like buying fresh ingredients, cooking, eating and repeating all of this to many levels cooler than how I live. As an addition to this already too cool not to witness, there are also many traditional Junk Boats, with colorful masts that perfectly contrast the blue of this bay. ⛵

How I went to Halong Bay?

I did some research before flying to Hanoi. I ended up with confused head because there are too many ways to visit Halong Bay, from 3 days cruise, party cruise, a private cruise and more. Many of these choices are too expensive for me and some are not very convenience with my time.

So, I decided that I’d go from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island, which is the largest island of Halong Bay. Then from there, I’ll cruise to the Halong Bay!

From Hanoi to Cat Ba Island with Good Morning Cat Ba
  • Pick up and drop off at hotels
  • Leaves Hanoi at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • 3 hours trip
  • 32 USD for return ticket

I came across and contacted them through Facebook Messenger. They offer a package that pick you up from your hotel around Old Quarter streets of Hanoi, take care of all your belongings and take you to Tan Vu. Here is where you hop off the bus and jump on the speed boat and after 10 minutes, you’ll arrive at the Cat Ba Island, where they drop you off at your accommodation in town as well!

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Things to do in Cat Ba Island
  • Rent a scooter and see the Lan Ha Bay
  • Observe cultures at temples and markets
  • Visit the Cannon Fort
  • Explore the Hospital Caves and its National Park
  • Relax by Cat Co beaches

When I was doing all my bookings. I planned to stay in Cat Ba for a day because I only think of it as a stopover, but then I extended my stay. There are so many things to do and see here. Cat Ba is just as amazing as Halong Bay itself. 😎

I’d recommend renting a scooter or a bicycle to go around the island. The view along the coast by Lan Ha Bay is stunning. There are many fishing boats and few floating restaurants if you are keen on some seafood munch. Otherwise, you could also eat like a local at their market, which opens until very late. You can also localize to a spiritual level by visiting their temples. Please dress appropriately, though they are not too strict about clothing.

                                                                     Floating restaurants

My favourite spot of Cat Ba is at the Cannon Fort. It gives you the view of the harbour and the bay. There is a small café up here, which is pretty nice after a walk around. Another cool place to visit is the Hospital Cave. The name is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a three-storey bomb-proof hospital inside a cave that was built in the 70s. It’s definitely worth paying 40,000 VND for. The entrance is right by the Cat Ba National Park!

If you are looking for a place to relax after all this, simply chose a number from 1 to 3. There are three main beaches on the island, Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2 and Cat Co 3. All of them are located by resorts but you can still hang around and even order some cocktails into the mix. At Cat Co 3, there is a cliff-side walking trail that’ll take you to Cat Co 2. I went up there after the swim, so I was barefoot and it wasn’t a smart idea. The floor is pretty sharp and hot! 🔥

                                             Cliff-side walking trail between Cat Co 3 and Cat Co 2

I was staying at the Bay View Hotel. It’s close to the night market and the harbour. There is a restaurant on site and they arrange scooter rentals as well. I also booked my day trip to Halong Bay with them. Upon booking, make sure prices of everything are included.

                                  View from the walking trail between Cat Co 2 and Cat Co 3

Halong Bay – 1 Day Trip
  • Fishing Village
  • Monkey Island

Cat Ba Island is a very good departure spot to cruise the Halong Bay. It’s pretty close and there are many boats leaving the island every day! This makes it easy to modify your schedule or design your own excursion.

I decided to go on a full day trip, which they picked me up at Bay View Hotel at 8 a.m., took me to the pier, got me on a Junk Boat and took me through islands and islets of Halong Bay. We did cruise through a Fishing Village and I was in awe!

After some time of cruising, the boat stoped. We got off the boat, jumped on our Kayak and spent around an hour rowing through some limestone bridges and holes.  It’s beautiful and I enjoyed it with every sore arms. 💪

After we got back on the boat, they took us to an enclosed bay, where they started serving us lunch, which was much-needed after how little we’ve done. Once we were satisfied and all, we swam from the boat to a small island that has a small beach where we sun bathed or we could just snorkel around the bay too.

We spent few hours there, then the boat took us to the Monkey Island! This was the highlight of my trip, with monkeys on the white sandy beach! I couldn’t think of a better way to end my trip! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 😁






MAURITIUS Road Trip: One Week Itinerary

Mahébourg Waterfront, Mauritius

Not many have heard of Mauritius, but a lot of you might have heard of the Underwater Waterfall. It’s the biggest waterfall on Earth and it’s in Mauritius, an island with azure waters and soft sands.

Mauritius or Île Maurice in French comes with peaceful comfort, tons of activities, amazing wildlife, great curries and seafood. It’s a relax place with excellence flow.

Le Mourne Public Beach

I met a lot of vacationers with months in the country, while some were stopping by for few days. However, if you have about a week to spare, with a driving license, then you are welcomed with a simple road trip itinerary that you could easily adjust to your preferences.

One of many scenic routes of Mauritius

Firstly, please note that you’ll see diversity in this country. You’ll hear locals speaking to each other in English, French and Creole. You’ll see people from around the world and everyone’s different. This is the last place to feel awkward, because warm welcome is opened to everyone visiting Mauritius.

Cap Malheureux Church, Mauritius

Secondly, please also note that there is no complication in doing the road trip here. The island itself is pretty small, driving from the very south to the very north takes about 1.45 hours, while from left to right takes only about 1.30 hours. Food is easy to find, fresh sugar cane juice is even easier to find and public toilets are everywhere. Foreign driving licenses are accepted, roads have clear signages, petrol filling stations open until late and parkings are mostly free. GPS is not needed, sim card is not necessary, only a free map from the rental place and you are ready to enjoy your week in paradise! 🚗

Day 1 - Arrival

There is nothing much for the arrival day. It’s usually the day to do all boring bits, like exchanging money or buying sim card. For driving around Mauritius, you wouldn’t need any internet or GPS to navigate because free maps that you could grab from the airport or at your accommodations are already very clear. Also, roads here are not complicated at all.

Mauritius’ skyline

When you exit the Arrival Hall of the airport, you’ll spot many bureaux de change and on the right, you’ll see a hub of car rental services. I’d say it’s a great place to choose your car, negotiate, make payment, deposit, load your baggages and go. The boring bits are over! 😆

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Day 2 - Poste Lafayette, Pereybere to Grand Baie
  • Poste Lafayette Public Beach
  • Roches Noires
  • Pereybere Public Beach
  • La Cuvette Public Beach
  • Grand Baie Public Beach

Poste Lafayette to Grand Baie

So, I’m gonna kick this off with Poste Lafayette. There are many beachfront resorts in this area, so if you happen to stay here then you are very near. Taking B15, you might wanna stop at Poste Lafayette Public Beach, which has a small sandy beach area, suitable for swimming. You could park and walk towards the north. You’ll be at Roches Noires, where you will find a massive area of black rock, with amazingly loud wave crashing sound, a sign warning people not to swim and public restrooms. This place is extremely picturesque due to the contrasting colors of black rock and blue sea. It’s also very energetic!

Black rock at the northern part of Poste Lafayette Beach

If you follow B13, you’ll arrive at the Pereybere Public Beach. It’s one of the very crowded beaches on the island, but that’s because you could do a lot here. There are heaps of food vendors, choices of restaurants and souvenir boutiques. The sea itself is also very calm, very safe to swim or you could even rent a kayak and spend hours here as well.

Beach art at Pereybere, with cute admirer

Next up, it’s La Cuvette Public Beach. This beach is an odd one, because it features everything. Cliffs hang on one end, rocks decorate the other end and between them are short sandy beaches. It’s nice to walk through all of this and decide your spot. Plus, if you wanna stay for long, then you could simply switch up and there are few shower facilities in the area as well.

The final stop of the day could be Grand Baie Public Beach. It’s really close to La Cuvette. There are many restaurants, cafes, clubs and bars that are by the beach and some even hang just above the sea. If you are not driving, then this is a good stop for few drinks and party scenes can be found here as well. 💃

The very clear water of Grand Baie

Day 3 - Port Louis to Mont Choisy
  • Port Louis Waterfront
    • Fort Adélaide
    • St James Cathedral
  • Trou aux Biches Beach
  • Mont Choisy Public Beach

Port Louis to Mont Choisy

First thing first, let’s head into town for some morning treats! Around the city area of Port Louis, parkings are not free and you can’t just park anywhere like in other places. But, once you are happy with the parking, I’m sure you’ll enjoy walking around the city. It has amazing waterfront with loads of souvenir kiosks. Port Louis Waterfront is a good stop for food. However, you could wander around Fort Adélaide or visit the oldest Anglican church of Mauritius at St James Cathedral.

Stained-glass windows of St James Cathedral, Port Luois, Muritius; Minolta A3

You might ended up spending many hours in Port Louis but once you are ready, we could head out to more beaches! Next stop is on B36 and it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Mauritius. The blue water of Trou aux Biches Beach is decorated by colorful sunbeds and white fine sand. It’s also a good snorkeling spot as well as jet skiing and paddle boarding.

However, if you are looking for something just as nice, but with less people, then you might wanna go to a beach next to this, which is the Mont Choisy Public Beach. It’s very quiet and peaceful here.

The peaceful scene of Mont Choisy Beach

Day 4 - Le Morne Brabant to Flic en Flac

One of many amazing views from Le Morne

  • Le Morne Brabant
  • Le Morne Public Beach
  • Flic en Flac Beach

Le Morne Brabant to Flic en Flac

Personally, one thing that I think you should try when in Mauritius is to hike Le Morne Brabant. It has been declared a World Heritage by UNESCO. It’s the most preserved area of the island. It also holds a lot of history as well. This mountain was used by escaping slaves, who would committed suicide by jumping off the cliff here.

The view from the top of Le Morne, with an elegance cross

During the hike, you’ll get amazing views of the island and the wildness of this mountain. It’s a must! To get to the very top, it’s only illegal to be accompanied with Mountain Guides of Yanature. They are the only people who have the right access to the route, otherwise you’ll be trespassing. Click here for more information and reservation.

Yanature, Beyond the Peaks

After you are back on the sea level, then you might as well freshen up a little. There is a stunning beach very close to the base of the hiking route. Le Morne Public Beach is a perfect place to have a fresh dip. The water feels good and the breeze is pretty nice. It’s not only a good spot for swimming, but it’s also good for any other watersport activities as well. A perfect spot to catch some waves here is called One Eye.

Le Mourne and its blue water

But if you are looking for a place with more watersport facilities, then head over to Flic en Flac Beach. It has long white sand beach and great scuba diving sites, especially the one called The Cathedral. It has an arch that you dive through the dark and greeted by warm light on the other end.

Day 5 - Chamarel to Macondé
  • Seven Coloured Earth
  • Chamarel Waterfall
  • Macondé

Chamerel to Macondé

For today, we’ll gonna go off the coast for a bit. We’ll start at Chamarel Village. There is so much to see here. One place not to miss is the Seven Coloured Earth. It’s almost like a rainbow on land, with families of turtles! 🐢

Not far from here, there is a lookout point that gives you a whole sight of the Chamarel Waterfall. So, you’ll probably ended up spending many happy hours here.

Next stop is at the very south tip of the country, there is a sharp curve called Macondé. It has a small stairway that gives you a better look of the road, which is very panoramic.

View of an excellence curve at Macondé

Day 6 - Gris Gris to Mahébourg

Sun is setting nicely at Mahébourg Waterfront

  • Gris Gris Beach
  • La Roche Qui Pleure
  • Pont Naturel
  • Blue Bay Beach
  • Pointe d’Esny Beach
  • Mahébourg

For today, we gonna start at the very south area of the island. At Gris Gris, there is a big space of rock beach. It may not be a place to swim but it surely looks nice in picture. From Gris Gris Beach, you could walk to La Roche Qui Pleure. It’s a rocky tip that looks like a crying man, with crashing waves as tear.

Then onto something similar, but too nice to skip is the Pont Naturel. You’ll have to park quite far and walk towards the tip of the land, searching for a bridge and a hole. You might wanna watch out for surprise waves and splashes that come out of nowhere. 😂

For our next place, it’s Blue Bay Beach. This is a perfect place to snorkel. The reef is amazing with loads of colourful fish. The next beach is by the Coastal Road. Pointe d’Esny Beach is a hidden gem. The beach is blocked by buildings of resorts and hotels. You’ll have to park by the road and find small pathways that you could take on foot to the beach. It’s very calm here.

Last stop for the day is Mahébourg. It’s a small town with cute waterfront and loads of restaurants. At Mahébourg Waterfront, you could walk towards Pointe Canon, which is a memorial place that gives you the view of few tiny islands close by.

One of tiny islands that can be seen from Mahébourg Waterfront

Day 7 - La Cambuse and the farewell

For the last day, I want to end the trip at La Cambuse Public Beach. It’s a long beach with big trees that have odd shapes because of the wind. The water is extremely blue and there are toilet facilities as well.

Then sadly, we have to leave. On to the next journey!

Locals with their boat at Mahébourg






Things to do during Winter in CAPE TOWN, South Africa

Cape Town is surely many people’s dream paradise, especially surfers, hikers, backpackers or lovers (a honeymoon, maybe). It offers a great variety of services, from budget hostels to beachfront luxury villas.

Visiting Cape Town or Kaapstad in Afrikaans during Winter is actually quite nice. It’s not that cold, except the sea that’s always a bit cold. You could still do everything that you should when in Cape Town, like surfing, shark cage diving, whale watching, sailing or visiting wineries. If you don’t mind a bit of light rain then we are good here. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper and also less packed. If you’re not sure what to do during the trip, then you might wanna keep reading. 😊

Firstly, getting around is really easy, you could just walk or use the MyCiti Bus. You’ll need a bus card for that, which you just add some credit into the card, tap and go. You could get the card from many places, like the Airport. I got mine at the Cape Town Tourism Office on Burg Street.

Actually, I wanna talk a little bit about their Tourism Office. They are really helpful. I went to Cape Town with no idea about what I should do and see. Fortunately, one of the staff introduced me to Baz Bus, which offers really cool tour services around South Africa for great prices. Tours are specifically designed for backpackers. These services were amazing and I also met loads of cool people as well.

Things you shouldn’t miss when in Cape Town:
  • District Six
    • Muir Street Mosque
    • District Six Museum
  • Bo-Kaap
  • Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
  • Signal Hill
  • Lion’s Head
  • Table Mountain
  • Chapman’s Peak

Firstly, I’m going to kick it off with things you can do around the City Bowl, which is the central business area of Cape Town. It’s packed with history, especially at District Six. The district is the result of discrimination, where only white residences were allowed to stay and the others were forced to leave. It left the district abandoned. Years later, Nelson Mandela returned the district to everyone but some areas are still visibly abandoned. You could just walk around the area, visit the District Six Museum and Muir Street Mosque to know more about the story.

Not far from District Six Museum, stands the Castle of Good Hope, which is the oldest building of South Africa. It’s a good place to relax as there is a small kiosk that you could grab some warm drinks. I had my breakfast there, with the view of the castle’s garden in front of me. Tea and food was warm, perfect for the winter morning.

A bit further from the castle, you’ll find the colorful neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. You’ll notice the cobble stoned streets once you’re in the area. It’s a good place to walk around, take pictures with them colorful doors and houses. Also, check out the Nurul Islam Mosque there as well.

The next stop is Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. There is so much to see in the area. So, if you wanna fill up your tummy first, definitely check out the V&A Food Market. It’s an international food complex that sometimes plays live music as well. Otherwise, have a walk around the harbour, get the bird-eye view of the town from the Cape Wheel, shop at the mall or book yourself a ticket to visit the Robben Island.

Robben Island was used for the isolation of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Apart from history aspect, it’s the kingdom of African Penguins as well. On the island, you can take pictures, but for personal use only and tripods are not allowed.

Now for those who like mountains, camping and hiking, Cape Town is your place. There are many peaks and mountains for you to conquer. We’ll go from North to South and the first one is the Signal Hill (Lion’s Tail). You could just drive up the summit through Signal Hill Road. It’s great for the city’s view and the Atlantic. I also spot couple of campers there as well.

Otherwise, the one next to it is the Lion’s Head. The walk up to the top is only about an hour. So, it’s quite nice.

The next one, the landmark of Cape Town, Table Mountain is a must. It’s called Table Mountain simply because of its flatness. You could get up the top by either hiking or by using cableway. By hiking, there are many routes to choose, depending on how long you wanna spend and how fit you are. Though, a spot that you shouldn’t miss is the Devil’s Peak. The view is crazy! You just gotta see it by yourself.

Moving on to the Chapman’s Peak. This place gives you both the view of Hout Bay and Noordhoek Beach. To get here, you could simply take the Chapman’s Peak Drive and you’ll find many hiking trails up here as well.

Between Chapman’s Peak and the stunning Noorhoek Beach, there is a really cool place called Monkey Valley Resort. It offers a really sweet stay. Hidden among the trees of Milkwood Forest, with the view of the beach; each rooms are designed with massive windows for the infinite view, farmhouse kitchen and stone fireplace. It’s just really cool! 😎

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Cape Town’s shorelines, from North to South:
  • Sea Point Promenade
  • Clifton
    • First Beach
    • Second Beach
    • Third Beach
    • Fourth Beach
  • Camps Bay
    • Witsand
    • Glen Beach
  • Hout Bay
    • The Dungeons
    • Hout Bay Harbour
  • Noordhoek Beach
    • The Dunes
    • Wreck of Kakapo

About half an hour walk from Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, close to Green Point Lighthouse, you’ll see the start of Sea Point Promenade. It’s really nice to walk along the Promenade as there are many different beaches, some are smaller and some are rockier.

Though, if you are looking for a bigger scale beach, then definitely check out the Clifton area. Here, there are 4 beaches, from First Beach to the Fourth Beach. For surfers, the First Beach has the strongest and the Fourth Beach has weakest waves. The Third Beach is the smallest one but it’s a very busy beach. This place is awesome and beautiful!

For divers, you might wanna check out Camps Bay. Here, there is a famous dive site called Witsand. However, this bay is also good for surfers, especially for those who like a bit of challenge. At Glen Beach, it’s one of the harder beaches to surf as the take-off area is quite small.

The next stop is where I spent most of my time while in Cape Town. It’s Hout Bay! It’s the place for big wave surfers who wanna ride the 14-metres Dungeons. The place itself is beautiful and colorful, with cute fishing village and Hout Bay Harbour.

Lastly, it’s the one we’ve talked about for a bit, the Noordhoek Beach. If you want to relax, then this 8 kilometres of peacefulness is your place. You might wanna visit The Dunes, take a horse out and enjoy the ride by the beach or explore the Wreck of Kakapo.

What else?
  • Cape Winelands
  • Cape Peninsula
    • Simon’s Town
    • Boulders Beach
    • Cape of Good Hope

Apart from Cape Town itself, you could also explore the area around it as well. I’d recommend few places. Firstly, Cape Winelands is the region where many famous wines are made. Wines are sooooo cheap and sooooo tasty! By the time you’re having lunch, you’d already be tipsy. It’s a joy! 🍷

Apart from the beauty of wineries, you could also join the search of South African’s Big Five. If you are keen on spending a day with animals, you could book yourself a day trip and head to Worcester. I’d recommend horseback safari because it’s a lot more exciting. Otherwise, try any styles of Game Drives.

Most importantly, since you are in Cape Town, you have to visit the Cape Peninsula. To do so, you might wanna start at Simon’s Town, which is a Navy Base Town.

There is a cute history here too. It’s about Just Nuisance, which is the only dog enlisted in Royal Navy because he was a loyal dog that always travelled with seamen by train. He was enlisted as a Royal Navy so that he could travel freely on the train. He was somehow a moral booster for the town during the World War II. His statue is by the town’s main street.

Another cuteness here is the African Penguins at Boulders Beach. The place is so cute! What penguins live by the beach of blue water? This place is so heart-warming. 😍

Next, you should definitely visit the Cape of Good Hope. To explore the whole place, which is also a Nature Reserve, you could just drive around, hike or go around with bicycle. I did cycling and my companies were some ostriches, baboons and couples of deers.

You might wanna stop by the Cape Point first because it’s higher than the Cape of Good Hope so it offers a greater sight of all peaks and ocean. The view from the lighthouse is the best! You also don’t have to worry much about the weather, all the walking will heat you up but the wind won’t let you sweat.

The final most important stop is the Cape of Good Hope. It holds so much history and the area is stunning. The shore is great for taking pictures and to be there is just great!






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