Halong Bay, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a popular tourist destination in Vietnam. Halong is a breathtaking travel destination and a must travel place on our bucket list. We finally toured the Halong Bay last week.
For our Halong Bay Dream Cruise, I booked the 3 days – 2 nights tour package. The cost of the trip was $250 for meals, entry fees, accommodation, and hotel transfers. There are cheaper cruise options for as low as $100 for a 3-day tour. We opted for a more costly trip because I have heard horror stories about some of the cheaper cruises.
Some things like cruise passengers didn't get food and had to share beds on the budget cruises.
After booking our trip through the hostel I headed to the room for an overnight rest. DO NOT book a cruise online. You will pay 2 to 3 times more for the same cruise. The hostel owners earn a big part of their income booking these and will get you the best deals for any budget.
Halong Bay Day 1
We left the hotel room around 8 AM when the tour company came to the lobby to pick us up. Halong Bay is about a 3 to 4 hour trip from Hanoi through the fields and villages of Vietnam. We had a great time on the trip with our tour guide ‘Tam'.
The minivan took us to Tuan Chau Port where our cruise was waiting. This is the largest port for the boats to leave from. We would like to add that the online cruise images are very deceptive. There are no oriental junks with sails etc. These are all small white boats that are motor driven.
We arrived at the port after about four hours and registered with the company workers. , We purchased some refreshments from local ladies while we waited to board. We were so excited because the limestone karsts were visible in the distance. This Halong Bay cruise is something that we had always wanted to experience. After around 15 minutes, the cruise's staff welcomed everybody on board and off we went across the bay.
We deposited our belonging in our suites, then gathered back for a safety briefing in the dining area. The staff served an early lunch as we began our journey. A couple from South Africa who were on their honeymoon visited with us as we enjoyed our meal. There were 30 passengers and a 5 member staff including the boat's tour director.
Sung Sot Cave
Our first stop was at Sung Sot Cave on Bo-Hon Island. We all had to disembark from our boat to explore the cave. Note that we didn't have to pay for an entry ticket since all the tour expenses were included in the booking. The Sung Sot cave is the most popular cave in Halong Bay. One of the members of the cruise team served as our guide.
The cave is a unique site with its large limestones, stalagmites, and stalactites. We spent around 1 hour inside the cave. I wish we could stay in for a bit longer but there were other tour groups waiting in line.
We got back to our boat, relaxed and enjoyed some refreshments. I changed into my swimwear and went kayaking. While other passengers opted for a boat ride to Soi Sim beach or chose to remain at the boat. The honeymoon couple and I opted to Kayak rather than the ride to the beach. John had taken the trip to the beach instead.
It was fun and thrilling and we spotted several monkeys playing on the limestone karsts. I love monkeys but I was too scared to get close to them so I settled for some snapshots of them. We got back to our cruise, late in the afternoon and after an hour, we ate our dinner. I mingled with a few more passengers before heading to our room.
I loved this Halong Bay Dream Cruise, not only was it a relaxing tour but an exploring and learning tour as well. It was also an interactive excursion where we engaged with people from various walks of life. We travel all the time and an integral part of that is meeting and greeting other travelers as well as locals.
The boat's cabins are well furnished and each passenger had comfortable beds. I took a hot shower to wash the bay water off and drifted off to sleep.
Halong Bay Day 2
We woke up at 7.00 AM took a quick shower and headed upstairs for breakfast. We had milk, yogurt, white tea, coffee, scrambled eggs, oranges, hot rice, and bread
After breakfast as we got into small boats and headed into the fishing village of Vung Vieng. The village consists of about 200 fishing families living in about 50 residences. The fishing communities here make a living through fishing, government aid, and tourism. After getting out of our large boats, we split into groups of five people. and each group got into a traditional row-boat. We paddled around Vung Vieng village and explored the village. We spent some time with the villagers learning about their daily lives. After two hours of rowing around, we went back to the boat.
Note that the Halong Bay Dream Cruise comes in multiple packages. Different passengers had booked different packages. Apart from the 3-day/2-nights tour that I had booked, some passengers had booked the 2-day/ 1-night tour. They had to start packing while they waited for another boat that would take them back to the port.
Cat Ba Island
We ate another great meal for lunch. We prepared for the Cat Ba Island trip while the other passengers (around ten) left. Cat Ba Island is a busy tourist Island with beautiful spectacular views. We rented bikes and enjoyed the morning biking around the Cat Ba National Park. Later we all went for a cave trek in the jungle. We did not see the rarely sighted and endangered Cat Ba Langur. There were plenty of bats, horses, goats, birds, water buffalo, and even spiders!
We headed back to our boat and we opted to relax in the cabin for the rest of the afternoon. Later we went to the upper deck for photos of the island and other cruising boats.
Since this was going to be the last meal during the trip, the cruise staff prepared an amazing dinner. We enjoyed seafood, salads, fruits, vegetables, rice, meat, fruit drinks, and desserts. After dinner, we had a happy hour during which I had a little chat with the honeymoon couple. I was sad that my Halong Bay Dream Cruise was almost coming to an end as they were also.
Halong Bay Day 3
We woke up around 6:00 am and went for a morning visit with the other passengers. After finishing the session we headed back to the cabin for a long relaxing bath before going for breakfast at 8:30 am.
As much as I wanted to extend my trip, it had now come to an end. We cruised through the remaining part of Halong Bay before heading back to the port. We arrive at Tuan Chau Pier at around midday.
My Halong Bay Dream Cruise had come to an end and I had to say goodbye to this spectacular bay. The sights and Islands around the bay, the activities are the best experiences I've had in my life. and if you are thinking of a place to tour, then take a trip to the Halong Bay.