The Halong Bay Castaways Island Experience Awaits…
3 days… Your very own private Castaways Island in Vietnam… A fresh group of bikini and budgie smuggler laden backpacker buddies… This is only going to go one way!
Vang Vieng in Laos… Jog on. Full Moon Party… Pahhh. There’s a new party paradise on the scene in South East Asia. For anyone who is slipping their way along the banana pancake trail, this experience is one to slot right into your itinerary.
Halong Bay Castaway Islands Experience is all thrills, the only spills you have to worry about is your drink gradually disappearing as you dance your flip flops off on the beach underneath an unspoilt horizon.
Oooooooh Weeeeee. Mark Ronson couldn’t have said it better himself. If you’re looking to lounge around in the sun, take in some ancient cultures and have a good night’s sleep… It’s time to pack up your beach towel and move onto the next backpacker tour. This one’s not for you. Run along now, toodaloo.
Let’s cut to the chase…
If you love partying till sunrise, frolicking with kindred spirits, skinny dipping under a blanket of stars and drinking so much you end up talking to a basketball named Wilson… All aboard. The Castaways Island Experience will definitely float your boat.
Short and sweet…
A part of the magic of this backpacking adventure is that it’s only 3 days, so everyone and anyone, yes you, can easily schedule it into their agenda while in Hanoi. Simples.
I had heard stories of this tour from other backpackers all over South East Asia. So when I finally arrived at the famous Downtown Vietnam Backpackers Hostel in Hanoi, I immediately secured myself a spot on the bus.
Halong Bay Castaway Islands Experience Day 1 Itinerary
Crack of dawn…
I could barely prize my eyelids apart as I crawled out of bed to get on the bus which departed at the ungodly hour of 7am. As always the Vietnam Backpacker hostel had laid out a free breakfast which kicked me right into gear.
A couple of top tips before departing…
Numero Uno – Only pack the bare essentials, there isn’t a need for anything luxurious and the journey has a lot of transfers. Leave all your spare stuff in storage at the hostel and thank me later!
Numero Dos – Definitely bring some cash with you. Pretty much everything is included but it’s always good to have a little stash for a couple extra drinks.
I had a cracking power nap on the bus across to the coast, if you manage to avoid the slumber you will (apparently) catch some unreal glimpses of Cat Ba National Park.
Astrid, a lovely German girl and my surrogate pillow for the journey, woke me up when the bus arrived and we all boarded the boat.
The boat journey across was where everyone started mingling and our random group backpackers from all over the world began to merge into a family. There were plenty of solo travellers and a couple of groups on board, either way it’s an outstanding way to rub shoulders with new people.
The boat pulled up on the island at about midday. If there was picture sitting next to the word paradise in the dictionary – the views we were welcomed with upon arrival could have definitely fit the bill…
A perfectly cosy island with white sandy beaches, intricately chiseled sky-scraping rock faces, clear blue ocean and countless clones of this same tiny island scattered around the horizon. All completely unspoilt by the human touch.
We all dove straight into the buffet lunch which Vietnam Backpackers had provided for us, before we all hit the fork in the road…
It was decision time…
Which one of the 3 awesome activities would each of us choose to take on…
The group was pretty spoilt for choice with either rock climbing, tubing or wakeboarding on the menu. Having already done tubing and my fair share of water-sports in South East Asia, it was about time to become vertically challenged.
Rock climbing it is.
All the tubers and wakeboarders headed towards the speedboat to do battle with Poseidon’s wave formations. I was blessed with the company of a group of Dutch travellers, two French fries and a British girl.
I couldn’t wait to take on this snack size version of Everest. All necessary safety precautions were taken and despite a brief episode of vertigo half way up, the whole experience was smoother than my grandmother’s custard pies.
The view from the top was something I will never forget, nor bother describing to you as the words simply don’t do it justice.
Later, our group all gathered back at base camp for sunset where we were joined by the rabble of loose backpackers that had arrived the day before. After the first family dinner, the evening’s festivities kicked into full swing…
Juan, one of the Spaniards, cracked open his guitar case and started serenading the crowd in a manner very similar to Will in the Inbetweeners 2 movie… Enough said. His chords floated into the night as we sessioned drinking games and underneath the glistening galaxy. The atmosphere was incredibly enchanting.
Halong Bay Castaway Islands Experience Day 2 Itinerary
Was rashly dragged out of bed the next morning by Emelié, one of the lovely French girls, who was rallying all the backpacker troops to get ready for today’s headline act…
The BOOZE CRUISE.
The stage for today’s antics had been set by the beaming grins of the backpackers who I’d seen stumbling off the booze cruise the day before. Georgia, our tour guide, attempted to herald it as the ‘Cultural Tour of Halong Bay’… Maybe if it wasn’t for Captain Morgan was steering the ship!
Our Castaway group were living a charmed life with the weather, another day of flawless blue skies and that wonderfully cooling breeze which floats just above the ocean’s surface.
The booze cruised us all the way through the eerily beautifully shards of rock emerging from the ocean that makes up Halong Bay. Legend has it these insane rock formations were the result of an ancient mountain dragon that flew through the region and carved out the earth with it’s tail.
Put that story in your pipe and smoke it.
After passing through some of the fishing villages in the boat, we dropped anchor and were gifted the opportunity to go and explore the secret lagoons in kayaks.
Word of warning – avoid the green kayak at all costs! Lars, the unlucky Dutchie, got stitched up with the greeny which kept sinking, to sheer delight of the rest of the backpacker group! Apologies Lars.
Explorations had started to bring on the munchies…
Right on cue, the Vietnam Backpacker’s Castaway team whipped up some delightful fresh fish and noodles for lunch. Delicious scenes. The rest of the afternoon was spent drinking, relaxing and dancing on the boat.
There was a constant and complete shared feeling of appreciation and contentment between the group. No drunken douchebags or dark times whatsoever, apart from Lars who was still grieving his green kayak!
The Castaways Islands booze cruise pulled up at base camp as the sun was setting and as if Groundhog Day for the islanders, another group of beaming grinned backpackers stumbled back onto the beach for dinner.
This was our last night on the Castaways Island, so we wanted to pay our respects in style. A couple of the staff put on a sizzling fire show on the beach as the drinks were fully flowing. Even Lars had a smile on his face!
Sam, Georgia’s tour guide partner in crime, cheekily ushered the group into the ocean with the promise that the bioluminescent plankton are 100% visible when you’re naked. Well played.
Not that the group needed much persuading anyways…
It was certainly one of the more gloriously surreal experiences to date, glowing plankton getting all up in our junk. Jazzled.
The rest of the night continued to escalate nicely, ending up with one of the Irish girls (who I won’t name and shame… Claudia) downing a beer completely naked, with toilet paper that’s on fire, sticking out of her ass! One for the memoirs Clauds.
Halong Bay Castaway Islands Experience Day 3 Itinerary
Holy smokes. There was a soundboard on repeat playing cutlery in a blender mixed with high pitched screams when I woke up the next morning. The hangover to end all hangovers.
“I’m never drinking again” was the promise circulating around the group, good luck.
We didn’t have to depart till after lunch, so had enough time to freshen up with a swim, avoid the green kayak and chill on the beach. The journey back was a sad one, a big shame to leave Castaway Island behind but I’ll be back for sure.
For all of you that made it this far, congrats. You must be up one of the lucky buggers that is excited and sane enough to embark on this adventure of a lifetime.
As you may have distilled from this tightly written piece, the Castaway Island Experience certainly isn’t for the faint hearted. This is an island were all judgement and technology is cast aside, to guarantee a completely pure, natural and unforgettable trip of a lifetime.
When in Vietnam… You know the rest.
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