To get to Halong Bay the easiest way is from Hanoi. In Hanoi book a tour with one of the many tourist agents in the city. My friend and I chose to do the two night tour because we wanted to get the full experience but there are also one night and even three night options. On the day of your tour you will be picked up and driven four hours to the bay.
Once we arrived we jumped on the boat and settled into our rooms. Our room had two twin sized beds in it with a window view looking out at the ocean. These windows also have another purpose- vendors float around in paddle boats selling water and snacks to you through your window.After settling in we went up to the top floor of the boat to eat lunch. There were about 10 other people on the boat with us. I remember them serving a lot of seafood at lunch.
After lunch, we jumped into a paddle boat and were taken to Hang Sun Sot Cave. After having done my own real excursion caving in Laos I didn’t really find this cave all that interesting. The cave had staricases and lighting, clearly put in for tourists, which took away from the real experience of it all.
After the penis cave things got better. We got to go kayaking! We got into our kayaks and paddled towards Vung Vieng floating village-yes- a village on water! I couldn’t believe that these people actually lived on little huts floating in Halong Bay. It was cool to go for paddle around their neighborhood.
Around this village there were also some cool caves that you could kayak right into.
The next part of our tour was on land-or should I say limestone. We hiked up a million stairs to the top of a limestone cliff. It was a sweaty hike but totally worth it to see the view of Halong Bay from the top. When we got back to the boat we were greeted with platters of watermelon, star fruit and lychee. We sipped red wine and indulged in the sweet fruit as we watched the sunset from the deck of the boat.
Once the sun set we all went in for dinner which, of course, was more seafood. After dinner the crew offered to let people go fishing off of the side of the boat. I am a vegetarian so I declined and hung around talking to the other people on our boat before going back to my room.
The next day we went to Catba island. On this island we went on a hike. This was probably the hottest most sweaty hike that I have ever done. It was a hot day in Vietnam and it was right in the middle of the day. The hike itself was straight up and there were even parts where you needed to climb up a ladder to get up. In less humid weather this hike might not have felt so exhausting. Once I got to the top it was a beautiful view but there was absolutely no shade and the sun was beaming down fiercely. I took a quick picture and quickly hurried back down the mountain to get some shade.
Next we were dropped off at our hotel. It was nothing fancy- but we didn’t mind since we got a great price for our trip. There are more luxurious options to tour the bay if you wish. The hotel did give us lunch though as part of the tour package.
After lunch we walked to a nearby beach (about a 20 minute walk). There was absolutely no one on this gorgeous beach. We basically had our own private beach! When the sun started going down we packed up our things to leave. As we were leaving, buses full of Vietnamese turned. We realized that the Vietnamese don’t like the sun on their skin so they all come to the beach once the sun goes down- which worked perfectly for us.
The last day was very relaxing because it was essentially just going back to the wharf. We just relaxed on the deck reading our books taking in the view. From there we went back to Hanoi.
As much as Halong Bay is famous for it’s beauty I would only recommend going in good weather. If it is rainy and cloudy then it will be hard to get a good view of the scenery and to really appreciate the beauty of this place. You can see the contrast between the photo above and below.
I was very hesitant to do the overnight trip because I have extreme motion sickness. Since it was in a Bay I figured that there would be very little rocking of the boat and that I would be fine. In the morning, I woke up and puked out of the window. Don’t let this deter you though since I honestly don’t even know why I puked because I never felt nauseous. If I could do it then you can too.
In Vietnam there is absolutely no set price. During dinner on the cruise we went around the table and each said how much we had paid. Due to my amazing bargaining skills I had managed to pay less for two people than what other people paid for one. So really just go door to door from tourist shops and see who will give you the best price.