We’ve recently went on a little trip to Cat Ba island in Lan Ha bay, Vietnam to check out the climbing scene. Since we are not much of a climber (attempted but failed after pathetically, only made it to 1m off the ground) we took a boat trip to tour the Ha Long Bay area.
I’ve always heard a lot about how beautiful the area is and is listed as a world heritage site since 1994 but perhaps I’m missing something, it didn’t touch me the way I hoped it would.
For the similar lime stone karst, I much preferred the quieter Khao Sok national park, Thailand or the marine-life rich El Nido, Philippines.
KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK, THAILAND
Khao sok, located in southern Thailand, 3 hours north of Phuket is a gorgeous national park. It is one of the oldest rainforests in Southeast Asia, the dense virgin jungle makes this area home to rare species such as the giant Rafflesia flower, hornbill birds, gibbons and tigers. Wild elephants, bison, snakes and snakehead fish can also be sighted in the park.
I’d been to Khao sok twice and both stayed in floating huts on the lake, it was surreal how the jungle swallows you whole and you become one with nature. Serenity was probably my favorite part of being in Khao sok.
Nam Talu cave was another memorable experience during my stay in Khao sok. It is probably not for the faint hearted and it can be dangerous if there was a sudden thunderstorm to cause a rapid flood in the cave. It is roughly a 45 minute hike through the jungle to get to the cave. After entering the cave, a headlight is all you get for illumination and will be trekking in flowing water almost the whole way. The cave is gorgeous, covered with stalactites with water streaming down that glistens when your headlight hits it was just magical. My favorite movie when I was a kid was The Goonies, and this cave reminded me of the waterslide scene. It wasn’t as crazy (there’s no actual water slides, and we went upwards instead of downwards) but it was pitch black.
EL NIDO, PHILIPPINES
Look it up online for more images, I hadn’t figure out how to take photos back then apparently, none of my photos does this place justice! Soft white sand, crystal clear water that changes color, limestone karst islands and endless lagoons. I LOVED IT. It was also the best snorkeling spot I’ve ever been to, too bad I didn’t learn to dive back then! I bet it would have been an incredible experience.
Spend days hiring a boat to do some island hopping, or even better, rent a kayak and go island hopping yourself! We rented a kayak and just went to random islands and did snorkeling on our own.
Chill and relax at the beach is also recommended! Enjoy a nice meal with your toes tucked in the sand.
Here’s a simple list of what each places are good for to help you decide:
- Rock climbing (Cat Ba)
- Party Boat
- Boat cruise
- Khao Sok:
- Wildlife watching
- Jungle walk
- Cave exploring
- Stay in floating huts
- Diving/ Snorkeling
- Island hopping
Beach dining/ parties