Two words. HALONG BAY. Another two works. BUTTERFLY VALLEY.
If you are even considering climbing in SE Asia, you MUST go here. Yeah, yeah, you MUST go to Tonsai Beach in Thailand as well. But Northern Vietnam offers something that Tonsai cannot.
After you leave the schizophrenic pace of Hanoi, taxi your way through the armpit that is Haiphong, you will jump aboard a ferry to take you to this stunning and magical place.
You will be dropped in Cat Ba, which lies on the edge of the limestone outcroppings of Halong Bay and Cat Ba National Park. Find a hotel, grab some grub and make your way to Asia Outdoors which is on the strip on the Cat Ba waterfront. The lovely staff there will set you up with a junk boat tour into Halong Bay, a deep water soloing trip or directions, motorbikes and a meal ticket to Butterfly Valley.
There is an excellent guidebook available at Asia Outdoors or online here.
View from Cat Ba Town
Cat Ba at night
We started our week of climbing at Butterfly Valley. The best way to get there is to rent a motorbike at Asia Outdoors and drive out about 15 minutes to the crag. There is not much traffic so it’s safe. Park at the HIVE and say hello to the people that live there. Make sure you have the people at Asia Outdoors arrange lunch for you because it is AMAZING (You will also need to pay a small daily use fee to Asia Outdoors). The family that owns the land at Butterfly Valley will make you homemade Vietnamese food when you take your lunch break. I still have not found spring rolls that live up to the ones we had there. YUM!!
Once you arrive in Butterfly Valley, there may be no one else there! It’s a beautiful, green valley with some resident cows and a handsome bull.
Head over to the crag and get thee climbing! The routes flow beautifully, the limestone is sticky and you will probably have your choice of what to climb all day long.
JUNK BOAT TOURS
We also took one of the junk boats out into Halong Bay to do some beach climbing. While the climbing was not as impressive as at Butterfly Valley, the views were spectacular.
On the junk boat
DEEP WATER SOLOING
We were lucky enough to be the first people that Asia Outdoors took out deep water soloing on a speed boat. While the weather was a little chilly for me…the climbing was fantastic and a completely different experience than anything I had done before. As a climber, you are constantly fighting gravity and trying NOT to fall. Here, you HAVE to jump, to get off the rock. It messes with your head. In a good way!
Getting off the boat is the hardest part
Getting close the jumping off spot
Dave takes the plunge
I can’t wait to go back. Happy Climbing!
- For more info on all the areas, gear and prices go HERE
PPS. Are you wondering what “Charlie” is? Charlie is one of the names given to North Vietnamese troops during the war. Charlie as in Cong, Viet Cong. BTW, they call it the War of American Aggression, NOT the Vietnam war.