VIETNAM - HA LONG BAY
|The view from Ben Beo Harbour out into the bay at sunrise|
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Easy. You want to go to Cat Ba Island out in Ha Long Bay. You cand get there from either Hai Phong or Ha Long City. Through Hai Phong is definitely the easiest. Just get to Hanoi and follow these easy instructions from Hanoi to Cat Ba provided by Slo Pony Adventures - http://www.slopony.com/index.php?option=com_sloponycontentlon&Itemid=27&Id=1
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
There are plenty of options of hotels along the main strip of Cat Ba with prices ranging from a couple of US dollars a night to luxury resorts. The usual is about $7-8 USD or so. The Cat Ba Dream is a popular choice.
WHAT ROPED CLIMBING IS THERE?
The is basically just one bolted crag on Cat Ba Island which is 'Butterfly Valley'. There is a little climbing in Ben Beo Harbour which is nice but access might not be easy soon due to some construction there.
Butterfly Valley is a great bolted crag with a surprising amount of routes from about 5.8 up to solid 5.13 with alot of the routes being in the 5.11 to 5.12 range.
You need to buy a pass to the crag each day from the Slo Pony Adventures office to go to Butterfly Valley. This pass costs $2.50 USD and the money goes to your National Park access fee and the bolting / rebolting fund. You can also have lunch prepared for you at the crag by the local farmers for a couple of dollars too which I highly recommend, the food is great! Just ask the Slo Pony guys about the lunch option when you get your park pass.
You also need to get to the crag. This isn't Tonsai. It is about a 25 minute motorbike ride from Cat Ba town to the crag on all tar roads. You can either hire a motor scooter, get a scooter taxi or get a mini bus taxi if there is enough people. All easy options.
There is also some bolted route climbing out on some of the islands like Moody's Beach, Tiger Beach, Saigon Wall, The Face, etc, etc. Check out the guidebook (available at the Slo Pony shop) and organise a boat out there!
|Fred Vanden Bergh climbing at Tiger Beach|
DEEP WATER SOLOING!
So let be honest. This is what drew you to Ha Long Bay in the forst place right? So let me be frank. This isn't supermarket cragging. You cant just kayak to the crag and hang on a beach all day. The bay is extensive with a maze of islands, the tides are big and the crags impossible to find on your own.
With that in mind you need to hire a big boat, a crew and a basket boat for the crag if you want to do your own thing. Not super cheap but affordable with a big enough group. If you want to come here to live on a boat and deep water solo everyday come here with a big group of friends and go crazy, just remember it takes a little organising and cash.
As a short trip option heading out on day trips of deep water soloing with Slo Pony Adventures is your best choice. They offer affordable day trips with deep water soloing, kayaking, etc and they provide the boats, chalk, guides to show you the routes, lunch onm the boat, etc, etc... definitely the choice if you don't have experience with DWS or you are travelling on your own.
Tides are also a concern in Ha Long and really effect the crags there due to water depth so look into the tide charts before you head out to Ha Long because you might turn up for a week only to find the tides are bad the whole time your there, which wouldn't be much fun. Just contact the Slo Pony guys ahead of time to ensure your trip coincides with good tides if you have your heart set on deep water soloing.
If you have a group or just plenty of cash and want to rent a private sleeper boat and a crew that knows DWS again just get in touch with the Slo Pony Adventures crew and talk to them about your best options.
|Me Deep Water Soling at Fisherman's Way. Photo Courtesy of Simon Carter|
OTHER STUFF TO DO...
Rent a kayak and explore the floating villages and kart islands, rent a motor scooter or mountain bike and explore the island, go hiking in the National Park and look for one of the the rarest monkeys in the world, the Cat Ba Langur ( http://www.catbalangur.org/ ), eat amazing local food at one of the floating restaraunts, eat amazing western food at The Green Mango
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Go to http://www.slopony.com/ and contact he guys there for help with booking trips, renting boats, gear and any other info you might need on Ha Long Bay.
Donate to the bolting / rebolting fund at the Slo Pony Adventures shop... help with a few $ to bolt new routes and maintain the classics you climb while your there!
Now get out there and enjoy!!!