Two day cruise in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

A 2 day one night trip to Ha Long Bay

Limestone Karsts in Ha Long Bay
Beautiful Ha Long Bay beckons

 

At 7:40am the front door of the Skyline Hotel opened and in bounded the diminutive bundle of energy that was to be our guide for the next two days in Ha Long Bay.

“Martin & Leanne?” and we were off.

Our hotel was down a narrow alleyway. The bus was parked just a little way down the main street so we were soon on-board.

We spent the next hour navigating the blizzard of scooters whilst we collected the rest of the tour group before leaving the city behind.

Hanoi Traffic
Hanoi traffic

It’s just short of 4 hours to Ha Long Bay once you leave Hanoi. Unfortunately the bus was not built for western bodies. We grabbed the front seats, so at least we had some legroom, but the width of the seats did not lend themselves to a comfortable journey.

The trip was made bearable in part by some beautiful scenery but mainly by our excellent guide. And I’m not just saying that because she referred to my Yorkshire accent as being sexy! Now there’s a first.

Quy, aka Cookie Monster, spoke excellent English and was bursting with interesting information about both Ha Long Bay and the rest of the county. She also provided a free language lesson.

The transfer passed remarkably swiftly and soon we were boarding the boat that would be our home for the next 24 hours.

The Oasis Bay cruise ship had 18 cabins spread over 3 decks as well as a restaurant, sundeck and a hot-tub. We were pleasantly surprised by our double cabin which was well appointed with a small balcony a comfortable bed and a decent bathroom with a nice hot shower.

No sooner were we on board we were off to the restaurant for the first of our meals that were included in the price of the tour.

After a very satisfying lunch and a brief return to our cabins, we were off to the first of our activities. A hike to the top of Ti Top island for panoramic views of Halong Bay, and a dip in the ocean at the small man made beach.

Ha Long bay Vietnam
View from Ti Top

The climb to the top of Ti Top was much more exhausting than it should have been. I’m putting this down to the 5 course lunch we had just consumed rather than an indictment of my general level of fitness. The view from the top was definitely worth the effort.

We didn’t bother with the beach. Having had the good fortune to enjoy a number of tropical paradises on our recent travels, a small patch of imported sand liberally covered with a noisy rabble of day trippers didn’t have a great deal of appeal to us.

Once back on the boat a spring roll making competition preceded dinner, which though not as good as lunch was still OK. Afterwards there was karaoke and board games for those who wanted to partake. We retired for the evening and enjoyed a good nights sleep.

Ha Long Bay by Night
Ha Long Bay by Night

We failed to make it to the 6:30 Tai Chi, but did make the early 7:00am breakfast. At 7:40 a runner boat left the main ship and we were taken to the secret cave. Not a very well kept secret it appears, judging by the thousands of people snaking their way through them. The caves were very pretty, and the coloured lighting used to good effect.

Secret Caves Ha Long Bay
Sung Sot “secret” Caves

At 9:15 we were back on the main boat and checked out of our rooms at 9:45. At 10:30 we ate our last, and easily our best meal on the boat, and at 11:45 we were back on dry land.

A hour later our bus picked us back up and we were set of back to Hanoi.

So was it worth it?

The trip cost us $150 dollars each with everything included other than drinks on the boat. We thought was good value considering both the size and quality of the meals, and the impressive accommodation. On the down side drinks we’re excessively expensive to the extent that if you had a couple of drinks with your meal it worked out just as expensive as it would have been for a meal with drinks in Hanoi! This left a bit of a sour taste in our dry mouths.

Once you take into account the time it takes to pick up from all the hotels you are looking at 5 hours each way for the transfer. Ha Long bay is very beautiful, and we did enjoy the tour, but I’m not convinced I would be happy to spend that much time travelling to see it had I been on a short break. For us it’s a little different as our travels are somewhat open ended. That said, as pretty as Ha Long bay is, we probably enjoyed the days we spent wandering about in the old quarter of Hanoi just as much and that didn’t set us back $300.

The more we travel, the less the “must see” attractions are a highlight for us. I have no doubt that this in in part due to invariably having to share them with 1000’s of other people, however, in this case I believe it was more to do with having a regimented schedule. For us one of the best things about being a traveller is being able to set your own agenda…..

And then ignoring it….

 

 

2 thoughts on “Two day cruise in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam”

  1. The pictures are stunning, and I bet that the views were even more beautiful from the boat. The secret caves look cool, but I know what you mean by the colored lighting effects. We went on one cave tour in Tennessee where they did a dramatic play halfway through and had music and lightning/thunder effects- very silly. It is nice to go to places unspoiled by tourists, and I completely agree with you on the “must-see” attractions becoming less and less appealing. Beautiful article, adding this to the bucketlist. 🙂

    1. It was very beautiful, and I don’t want to sound dismissive. We had a similar reaction to the Grand Canyon. It was awesome for about 5 minutes, but as the bus took us to one viewpoint after another that initial wow faded very quickly. It’s difficult to find the right balance. Obviously you don’t want to travel for 5 hours to take a handful of photos and then get straight back on the bus, but one limestone karst soon begins looks very much like another…..
      Clearly the tour companies recognise this, hence the busy schedule of activities.

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