When you look up places to visit in Vietnam one of the top spots to visit is Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO site in Northern Vietnam which is made up of thousands of limestone islets offer some spectacular sites. The best way to see Ha Long Bay is to hire a private plane and fly over them, as our lottery numbers have yet to come in and we would like to continue our travels past Vietnam, we took a more cost effective approach and decided to explore the area by boat instead.
Most of the boat cruises include a pick up and drop off from Hanoi and they all vary in price, duration, location and the quality of food and accommodation etc. You can book these tours online in advance but it is considerably cheaper to book through one of the local agents in Hanoi which we decided to do. We had booked a one night cruise on a boat that seemed to be of good quality in a lesser travelled part of Ha Long Bay known as Lon Ha Bay. A big complaint from the more popular tours to Ha Long Bay is that there can be around 500 boats with you which can ruin the tranquillity of the place. Lon Ha Bay has only recently permitted boats to start visiting and the permits costs more than in Ha Long Bay.
As our pick up was scheduled for 8am, we awoke and enjoyed breakfast whilst we waited, an hour passed and there was still no sign of our pick up. I had a bad feeling about this so I sent our agent a message, after a bit of back and forth it turned out that there had been a problem with our boat and it had cancelled its tours. This was a nightmare as we didn’t have time to do the tour on different day, the agent gave us some options of alternative tours we could still get signed up to. We picked one which seemed as close to what we had originally booked, but the downside was that this one didn’t include drinking water, I was a bit put out by this and the general inconvenience of it all so in true Kilroy fashion I began airing my complaints, the agents kindly agreed to provide us with drinking water for the trip at their expense. They may have taken it a little too far as they provided us with a box of 24 bottles of water for a 1 day trip!
Stocked up with water our limousine bus arrived, it was incredibly comfortable with large seats, quiet the contrast to our usual travel. The journey was smooth and we arrived on our boat without an further issues.
Our room was lovely, with amazing views out over the bay. The food was amazing and plentiful, it was like staying at a 5* hotel but on water.
After lunch we went kayaking and swimming around the bay, we explored oyster fishing nets and secret coves, then enjoyed jumping in and swimming around the surprisingly warm waters of the bay.
That evening after the sun had set, we took part in a cooking class, it was basic and quick but led nicely into a several course dinner. We then rounded up our evening with a go at squid fishing off the side of the boat, Andy and I were unlucky at catching squid but a few of the others on the boat managed to catch a couple. Andy did almost catch a rat which was swimming along in the water ewwww!
The next morning we awoke bright and early for morning Tai Chi on the sundeck for sunrise, it was our first go at Tai Chi and it was incredibly hard, we kept finding ourselves facing the wrong way or standing on the wrong foot. The final activity on board was a boat ride through the light and dark cave, from what we could tell it is so named because it starts out dark and then when you leave the cave into the cove on the other side it gets light, original.
After that it was time to pack up and head back, we enjoyed a calming cruise around the bay before boarding our bus back to Hanoi. We had an amazing time on board the boat and it was a welcomed step up in luxury from our usual hostels and cheap eats.