Hi everyone! We are Joe and Delfina – a travel couple and pair of digital creators from America and Argentina. In this blog we would like to introduce ourselves and tell you all about our adventures in Halong Bay.
We created Travelers in Translation three years ago after deciding to quit our jobs and go traveling. Joe is originally from Long Beach, California. He is a life-long surfer. When he turned 24, he decided to live on an island! Firstly, this took him to Puerto Rico but then he ended up working as a surf instructor in Bocas del Toro, Panama where he lived for five seasons.
During the other half of the year, Joe was living in California working for a helicopter tour company. Delfina, on the other hand, was born in Buenos Aires – the capital of Argentina. She worked as a Spanish teacher for a couple of years. At the age of 24, she felt this strong desire to explore the world. She packed her bags and flew up to Panama in Central America.
Here she volunteered at the foundation – Give and Surf – which is located in the islands of Bocas del Toro as well. In the summer of 2013 and after only one week of Delfina being on the island, we met at a birthday party. Joe invited Delfina to experience her first surf lesson the next day. She had never surfed before – so it was a little bit nerve wracking for her.
Luck was on her side as she surfed the biggest wave of her life. We got to know each other more and then realized we both loved to travel and that that would be a big part of our futures. So we crossed Central America from Panama to Mexico. That would be our first trip of many. We went on to travel to Europe, North and South America, Australia, NZ and Asia.
How we Started Travelers in Translation
Five years after we met, we were living in Argentina and were going about planning our next holiday when we thought to ourselves: “Why don’t we go back to where it all started?” That is when we decided to go back to Bocas del Toro in Panama but this time around just as tourists. We spent a month in Bocas del Toro surfing our favorite waves and visiting old friends.
One afternoon, Delfina was trying to convince Joe to create an Instagram account. He said: “I would only create one if it was a joint account”. We then realized that if we were going to travel the world that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to share our photos on social media. Delfina studied photography at university, so this was a fantastic opportunity for her to improve her skills.
Our goal was to inspire others to travel and get out of the rat race. An added bonus for us would be to work with brands and hotels. That is how Travelers in Translation started. Delfina has been writing travel articles for over five years now. She was even fortunate enough to have some of her articles published in Spanish magazines and Argentinian newspapers.
A few years later, after our account had grown, we took a year trip to Australia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam. There we worked with hotels like Park Hyatt and Hilton. This was a dream come true. Actually, when we were in Halong Bay, our story became so popular that we were interviewed by one of the most famous newspapers in Argentina, La Nacion.
Adventures in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Vietnam was the last country we visited on our three month trip in Southeast Asia. We spent two weeks there, including a couple of days exploring Hanoi and a week and a half relaxing in the beautiful Halong Bay.
Originally, we found out about Halong Bay through pictures that we saw on Instagram and from the general knowledge that it was one of the natural wonders of the world. This place looked so spectacular and the seascape is completely unique – so we couldn’t wait to visit ourselves!
We took one of the craziest van rides ever from Hanoi to get to the Halong Bay area. It was one of those rides where we thought we were going to die multiple times! Luckily, we arrived safely. We suggest using a tour company to set up your trip. Otherwise, be prepared for a crazy drive there.
Our first impression of Halong Bay was that it was breathtakingly beautiful. We thought that even just from the viewpoint of a local beach. We visited in September which must have been the low season because the local amusement park was closed and there were hardly any tourists around.
After a few days, we booked our boat tour around the bay. We loved how the bay transports you to another world. Firstly, we enjoyed kayaking through ocean caves and then we discovered a 700,000 year old cave. This was all part of our tour and we absolutely loved every minute of it!
Best Things To Do in Halong Bay
The ocean caves that we kayaked were our favorite places in Halong Bay. We spent hours there taking photos and it was super easy to get away from the crowds. It was amazing to see the local fishing villages too. They floated in between the islands. For us, Halong Bay was full of endless incredible places and experiences but below would be our top ones:
1. Take a Halong Bay Day Boat Cruise
A boat tour through the islands, karsts and waterways of Halong Bay is a must-do! There are many cruise options – from different starting points and with differing lengths – but what they all seem to have in common is that they take you out for the day, stop off for kayaking, cruise to secluded spots where you can jump off the boat and also discover a cave or two.
2. Visit or Stay on the Awesome Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is an awesome place to base yourself while you explore Halong Bay. We loved staying on this island because it’s a local island with very few tourists. The local food is great too. You can hire scooters and go exploring, hike in Cat Ba National Park, head to Canon Fort for sunset and book your boat tour to Halong Bay with a tour operator on the island.
3. Explore the many Caves of Halong Bay
Visiting a cave in Halong Bay may be part of your boat tour or you may have to go on a separate trip for this wonderful experience. The bay is brimming with ancient caves, some of the best include: Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave, Dau Go (Wooden Stakes) Cave, Trinh Nu (Virgin) Cave, Luon (Tunnel) Cave, Dark and Bright Cave, and Thien Cung (Heaven) Cave.
Need to Know Before you Go
Because we did everything on our own, we stayed in local hotels on Cat Ba Island that we found in the moment close to the beach. We can say that there are tons of cheap, clean and quality options on the island plus many fantastic restaurants where you can try both Vietnamese and Western food. We recommend basing yourself on Cat Ba Island.
If you have less time, then we suggest doing a bus and boat package from Hanoi. The bus ride takes at least three hours – so you will have a big day of traveling. Ultimately, it’s best to stay for a couple of nights to explore the area properly. If you can afford it, you can book a multi-day cruise around the bay. When we go back we will take advantage of this option!
We would like to leave you with our favorite moment from our visit to Halong Bay. The boat ride we took back from the islands at sunset was just unforgettable. Seeing all those rock formations floating in the sea during golden hour was spectacular. The photo was one-of-a-kind and ideal for photos. This was the perfect ending to our long year trip away.