AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Halong Bay

We booked a tour online to visit Halong Bay and this has been the highlight of the trip so far. The bay is huge and has almost 2000 islands, very sharp cliffs of limestone rising a fair height out of the water and usually covered in trees.

We found some huge differences in prices between one company and another. Our hotel was offering two days one night for $150, some websites offered this for well under $100. Annemarie went hunting and found a pretty good and cheap looking company. All the tours pick you up from Hanoi and the transfer time is around 4 hours. Pickup is around 8am from the hotel in Hanoi, meaning midday arrival. The sun sets at not long after 5pm here. The second day had a visit to a cave then food then drive back to Hanoi, giving only about 5 hours on the boat. So, we decided it was better to do three days two nights on the boat, otherwise we’d spend almost as long on the bus as we would daylight hours on the boat. This turned out to be a very good decision, but quite rare. Out of about 24 we went with only six of us did two nights. In the second group of about 20 no-one did the two nights.

So all the cruise ships (most only have about 10-15 cabins) sit just out of the harbour waiting for the new arrivals. Here we are approaching the ship:

The first activity was to visit a floating village. All the buildings in the village are on rafts and float in the calm water of a quiet part of the bay. They make their living from fishing.

We had a choice to kayak or sit in a boat and be rowed around the village. Us and a two other couples chose the kayak, everyone else opted for the boring option.

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The rest of the day was taken up with relaxing on the boat, drinking and meeting other people. That was a decent evening.

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The next day a small boat came and took us off the main ship (it had to go to port and swap the passengers). The first excursion was to a pearl farm. We saw how pearls are formed and saw the workers cleaning the shells. The shop at the end was obviously filled with pearls but they were a little out of our price range (or would’ve brought the trip to an abrupt end). We then had a great hour or so kayaking into a bay which can only be reached from a tunnel under the island at sea level. So we kayaked through a couple of these tunnels and found ourselves in a secluded bay. That was good.

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After a large lunch we had a chance to swim. Annemarie was the only taker on this option,  but the water was filled with litter and had slicks of fuel and oil on the water, she sensibly changed her mind, so we cruised around the bay.

We finally rendezvoused with the main ship in time for the evening meal to find it filled with Polish and Brazilian travellers, who were enjoying the wines and spirits on board.

The next mourning we visited the cave if surprises. Surprises because each cavern is larger than the last and this was apparently a surprise.

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Then it was back to harbour for the 4 hour drive back to Hanoi.

We are very glad we did the two days and really enjoyed it.

A few videos from the bay:

All our photos of Halong bay can be found on Flickr.

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