This is one of my favourite photos taken at Halong Bay, a 4-hour drive from Hanoi and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mum and I had gone to Hanoi on 8 May and Halong Bay was on Day 2 of our itinerary booked through Go Asia Travel (you can read my review on this tour agent on Trip Advisor here).
Specifically for this 2D1N luxury cruise at Halong Bay, Go Asia Travel booked us with Huong Hai Sealife. I must say that it was a comfortable cruise where you did feel a bit pampered in terms of the attention given to you by the tour guide/manager.
|Our Cruise Ship|
That’s the view of our cabin and each room comes with a private balcony which would’ve been cool to sit at after dinner, nursing a drink.
So, what’s so great about Halong Bay? It’s a bay that spans an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. As the bay was formed over millions of years, some of these larger islets have caves in them and we went to ‘Surprise Cave’ after lunch where the third chamber was simply enormous and really quite gorgeous too.
Below are photos from the largest chamber of the ‘Surprise Cave’ and it was really quite gorgeous.
After visiting the cave, we went to Ti Toc island, which has a beach! However, we went to climb up the 400 steps to get to the top to see a panoramic view of the bay.
This is only at the half way mark and the view is already really really pretty. Bring a bottle of water and make sure that you have comfortable shoes on. You could wear flip flops but I was thankful that I wore Fit Flops, which really cushioned my feet and prevented them from becoming too sore.
The above was taken from the top of the islet and you can see that the bay really extends far far out. It does capture the imagination that these limestone islets are the scales on a dragon that descended into the sea, which gave rise to the name Ha Long (下龙) – a Sino-Vietnamese name.
The beach was quite pretty but we questioned the cleanliness of the water at that area because not too far off was a fishing village and…guess where they do their business?
After the immense workout of climbing up and down the ‘mountain’, it was back to the 3-storey cruise ship where we were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Onboard activities included a short cooking lesson on how to make Vietnamese fried spring rolls!
Honestly, it wasn’t much of a cooking lesson because the ingredients were dead simple (mushrooms, spring onions, coriander and rice vermicelli anyone?) and I’ve wrapped so many popiahs in my life that spring rolls were a doozy. They should’ve taught us how to cook pho instead. Or Bahn Mi. Oh well…they probably were expecting a lot of amateurs and they didn’t want to fill our stomachs with too much food since we had a grand dinner arranged an hour after that.
The next morning, we were shuttled off to a water cave tour (optional) which mum didn’t go because she sprained her ankle the previous night while walking down the stairs to dinner. Those who woke up early at 7am went for Taiji (I obviously didn’t go for that).
All of us hopped into a ‘traditional’ rowed boat. Otherwise known as a sampan to all us South East Asian folks.
|Entrance of the Cave|
What they meant by ‘water cave’ is that this used to be a full cave but the roof eventually collapsed and is now an open top cave. If you’re adventurous, you can choose to kayak into the cave. It’s quite scenic but don’t expect yourself to be awed by it, especially after seeing the enormous ‘surprise’ cave the day before.
After the cave trip, it was back on the ship where we then checked out before having a late breakfast while heading back to shore. All in all, we arrived back in Halong City at 11am before another 4-hour long journey back to Hanoi.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience in Halong Bay – be it on the cruise or visiting the various caves and islets. I highly encourage everyone to book this tour and do it as a package prior going to Vietnam because we met a couple of Singaporeans who booked their Halong Bay cruise only at the hotel and they ended up paying about US$200/pax. That’s about half of what I paid for my whole trip to Hanoi (excluding airfare).