The second leg of our Vietnam travel began with the 4 hour bus journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay for our Halong Bay Cruise. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Halong Bay is famous for its towering limestone formations and peaceful inlets.
There is a legend that Halong Bay was created when a mountain Dragon flew down to the coast, as he dashed about his tail gouged out valleys that filled with water when he descended into the sea.
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Hanoi to Halong Bay Cruise
Leaving the city limits of Hanoi we were rewarded with sights of a more rural landscape.
Men ploughed rice paddies with water buffalos, women wearing traditional conical hats called Non La planted rice in the muddy water of the rice paddies. Farmers chatted and rode bikes along the thin raised tracks that bordered the rice paddies like patchwork as far as the eye could see. We passed duck farms where hundreds of white ducks shared their ponds with large fish traps.
We arrived at Halong Bay along with the rain, through the mists we could see the pinnacles of the limestone formations that make Halong Bay famous.
Cruising on Halong Bay
Because it took 4 hours to reach Halong Bay we decided to do an overnight cruise. This meant we would have 24 hours to enjoy the delights of Halong bay.
At the wharf we were picked up by tender and taken to the boat that would be our home for the night. Our cabin was comfortable, with a big picture window that took in the view and a good sized bathroom.
As the boat set sail we sat down for a four course lunch that was delicious and filling. Drinks are not included in the price of the cruise (not even water) this is something we were aware of so we took a large bottle of water on board with us.
After lunch the sun came out and we had a short time where we could take in the beauty of the area. The limestone islands that rise out of the water are covered in thick vegetation and the home to families of hawks. It was such a pleasure to watch the hawks soar and play on the air currents and swoop down into the water.
Sung Sot Cave – Halong Bay Caves
As you approach Sung Sot Cave by tender you can see the stairs and entrance high above you. It is a very busy place with lots of boats dropping off tourists. The stairs are steep and in some places quite slippery. The caves are spectacular opening into three chambers, well-lit and massive. The highlight of any Halong Bay cruise.
Kayaking in Halong Bay
Another activity on board is kayaking. Kayak through the green waters of this glorious bay. Glide through a limestone archway thousands of years old and get a closer look at the vegetation and rock formations that make up Halong bay.
Happy Hour & Dinner on board Vietnamese Junk Boat.
After an action packed afternoon, it’s time to sit back on the top deck, relax and enjoy Halong Bay spectacular scenery during Happy Hour. Pretty soon it’s time to sit down to dinner, another delicious four course meal.
After dinner it’s time to throw a line in and try your hand at squid fishing. The crew turn on a light which attracts the squid. We were unlucky that night we only attracted small fish but we had a lot of fun trying.
Room with a View
Pretty soon it’s time to retire. I will never forget turning out the light and looking out the cabin window, the full moon shining across the water, silhouetting the towering formations and the coloured lights of the other boats reflecting across the water, a magical experience.
Tai Chi Class
We woke early to greet the day and watched the sun rise while taking the Tai Chi class, it’s a lot of fun, a lot harder than it looks, and we had a lot of laughs. A wonderful way to start the day.
Breakfast & Swimming
After a huge breakfast you can go to Ti Top Island to cool off with a swim or for the more adventurous you can climb up to the view point and take in the spectacular views overlooking Halong Bay. Ti Top Island was named after a Russian astronaut.
Cooking Class & Brunch
After returning to the boat it’s time for a cooking class, we learnt how to make spring rolls, which were cooked and served as part of our 4 course brunch (we were never going to starve on this boat).
Halong Bay to Hanoi
Around lunchtime it was time to disembark and we were taken back to shore by tender to start our 4 hour journey back to Hanoi.
Halong Bay Cruise Options
There are many Halong Bay cruise options, Day Cruises, 2 Day I Night Cruises and 3 Days 2 Night Cruises all with different levels of luxury and some with different itinerary choices and optional extras such as spa treatments. With around 600 boats to choose from there is something for every budget.
We enjoyed our trip to Ha Long Bay, it was unforgettable experience in an absolutely stunning part of the World.
Have you been to Halong Bay? What was your experience like? What cruise did you go on? We would love to hear your story.