It didn't start perfectly. I dropped a bottle of water on my toe and it hurt like hell all day. I wouldn't be surprised if the toenail came off someday soon.
We started out from Cat Ba Town's tourist harbour, a short bus ride from town. From there we caught the boat out through a floating village inhabited by local fishermen and their families. In no time at all we were in Lan Ha bay, a truly beautiful bit of the Cat Ba island coastline with towering rocks and the odd fishing boat. The weather was pretty overcast but visibility was OK. Even though the light wasn't perfect the view made up for it, and I beat my record of photos taken in a day. It would probably be even better in sunlight, or even in mist, but as it stood it reminded me both of the Antarctic and of the Galapagos islands, two of the most amazing tours we've been on.
After the cove we headed to a lovely area for a spot of sea kayaking. These kayaks were more comfortable with the kids than the ones in Cambodia, and we had a dry bag to put the camera in. However navigating was a bit more complicated (in this case having to keep up with the group) and the camera less accessible, so there were less photo opportunities. The hardest bit was the first cave. With the low tide we managed to get completely stuck round the first bend. As we were right behind the guide we messed it up for all the rest of the kayaks. In the end the guide came back, saying he couldn't go further because of the tide. I suspect he said that to make us feel better.