Halong Bay is more spectacular than the countless postcards, images and video can portray. The sheer scale and natural beauty of the countless number of limestone karsts scattered throughout the World Heritage listed Bay defies words.
We started our Halong Bay trip with a four hour minibus transfer from Hanoi. Whilst only 140km in distance, the trip is along patched up roadways and through many rural towns and cities, as such the pace can be slow, but the views provide more insight into Vietnam daily life, a lot of it looks hard.
Arriving in the Marina, we were transferred to our boat – The Bhaya Legend 4. We had decided that this was the splurge part of the trip, lashing out for a private cruise for the 9 of us. As we watched the hoards of other tourists file onto the various other cruise boats we were happy with the decision, when we boarded our boat we were ecstatic. Our boat included a crew of 5, four course meals, luxury cabins and all to ourselves! Brilliant!
Our course wound past island after island, every view seemingly more spectacular than the last. You arent alone on the water, sharing it with around 800 other cruise boats, ships, coal barges, and many small fishing boats. Whilst it sounds crowded, the sheer scale of the Bay allows room for all (hopefully this can remain so as the huge growth in Tourism continues).
Having sat down for a 4 course seafood lunch, we cruised on. Our afternoon included a visit to a fishing village, once secluded and hidden but now visited by tourists. Their serenity is gone, but their economy is now supported by the visitors through entrance fees and shopping. We were taken for a lap of the village on a local fishing boat, expertly paddled by one of the local ladies.
We eventually moored for a chance to cool off with a swim in the warm waters of Halong Bay, and then another superb meal onboard. Later the kids had a chance to try their luck at fishing for squid before we all turned in for the night.
Early morning kayaking allowed us all to explore our surrounds, then we motored across to the Hang Sung Sot Caves, spectacular underground limestone caves and caverns. Another experience not to be missed. Then before we knew it we were back to the marina, all would have been more than happy spending another few days on the boat!
HaLong Bay is a must do for any Vietnam trip, if possible, recommend upscaling the experience with one of the more luxury cruises like Bhaya.