If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, you are probably including Halong Bay in your itinerary. This is one of the most visited places in the whole country and Southeast Asia, thousands and thousands of people come to Vietnam every year to see and enjoy this wonder of nature.
I was fortunate enough to visit Halong Bay in July, and, hope it helps, want share the experience with you. We booked our cruise in Halong Bay through an agency and after communicating, we decided to go on a 2 day and 1 night trip aboard the Athena Cruise, a brand new nice sailing boat. We booked the most basic cabin, total cost was around $350 USD including transportation and sightseeing fees. It was a little expensive for us, of which we are not accustomed ourselves to spend, but we decided to “throw the house out of the window” for a day after reading countless comments in which they spoke of scams and disappointments to pay for the cheap offers. This is not to say that cheap cruises are all rubbish, but you should of research well before booking yours as experience of each traveler can be very different.
We arrived at Halong harbor after a three-hour drive from Hanoi, passing through peaceful rural landscapes. At noon, we were all on the boat, be welcomed by smiley staff in nice uniforms.
The first hours were about relaxing, enjoying a delicious meal and basking in the sun on the deck chairs, contemplating the unique landscape we had around. It is interesting to know that there are around two thousands of islands in Halong Bay. Most of them have no name and many were formed more than 300 million years ago. The story goes that these formations were created when a dragon came down from the skies spitting precious jewels that turned into limestone.
In the afternoon, we rode on a small boat that took us to the kayaking area. With the kayak we lost in the mountains. A wonderful experience to enjoy the sunset in a magical place where you can breathe tranquility all four sides.
Before dinner, it’s time to join the “cooking class”. We were excited to make a Vietnamese roll. Although we are not expert chefs, the ingredients were already cut, so it was just a piece of cake. There was still time for us to have some beers and cocktails on the deck after dinner. Until we realized we had to get up early in the next day, we had only a few hours to sleep.
We woke up with sun rays entering the window of the cabin and went up on deck to look out. The tai chi class was organize on sun deck, but we missed it.
After breakfast, we prepared to enter into one of the dozens of caves that are spread all over Halong Bay. We sat on a bamboo boat to navigate through the cave. I was amazed by the small lady who was able to row a boat with the weight of six adults.
And the trip was coming to an end. Meanwhile we return to harbor to finish our cruise. Back on the boat, another delicious meal was served while cruising back to the mainland. We spent our last moment on the sundeck, enjoying the atmosphere and stunning scenery.
All in all, Halong Bay is a place to see, at least, once in a lifetime. It is a real wonder that deserves to be enjoyed by five senses. I was sad to leave this place. But the images will stay forever inside my heart.