On the 28th of February we got picked up really early and driven to Halong Bay. We decided to book an overnight trip with Carina Cruises, as they seemed to offer the compromise between quality and price and they had consistently good reviews on Tripadvisor. The drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay is nearly four hours, and it passed by fairly uneventfully. We stopped a large shop on the way, which it said was a workplace for disabled people and that the proceeds also went to further their cause. However, something smelt fishy with the whole place…
After arriving at Halong Harbour, we were taken to our boat, which although okay, didn’t look quite as good as on the pictures we’d seen before booking. The crew was really friendly and helpful though, and the main event after all wasn’t the boat, but the spectacular scenery Halong Bay is famous for. The morning had been somewhat misty, but as the boat steamed into the harbour, the sun broke through, the fog cleared and we had a magnificent view!
The remainder of the evening was spent on deck, watching the beautiful scenery, smelling the clean air and relaxing – which was great after having spent 5 nights in two hectic and polluted, large cities. One of the evening’s highlights was a couple of hours of kayaking around a floating village.
After the kayaking, it was time for a swim. However, since the temperature was closer to 10 degrees, no one felt like jumping in. The evening ended with happy hour, a “party” and a beautiful sunset.
The next day started with the sunrise at 5.30 am, followed by some Tai Chi. After breakfast it was time for some more R & R, before we got to go ashore and climb a tiny hill to see some caves + a nice view of the surrounding area. Then some more R & R before we disembarked and headed back to Hanoi. Unfortunately we were put into a different kind of minibus on the way back, and I found myself longing for a seat at a Ryanair flight instead of the cramped seat we were given.
We have to compliment Carina Cruises on their chef. Food was excellent – and plentiful. We also got to make our own spring rolls for lunch!
All in all, we had a great time at Halong Bay and it’s a place we would recommend to anyone visiting Northern Vietnam. Do some research concerning which company to travel with, though. It seemed to us that every overnight tour gives you the same itinerary, but the way the trip is executed may vary greatly..
Of course, we have A LOT of pictures from this trip.. Enjoy!