No trip to Hanoi would be complete without visiting Halong Bay. It truly is 1 of the new wonders of the world. Halong Bay is simply beautiful but the only way to enjoy this nature is by taking numerous cruise offers by the local travel agent. You can choose one of the 300 daily tour boats that leave Halong port or you can take one of the 200 cruise boats that spend 1 or 2 nights on the bay. We had a 2day 1night stay with the Dolphin Cruise booked through our hotel. An enjoyable experience as fun group of people on board.
The boat was nice, but the bed was incredibly hard like a wooden plank. and i’ve slept on some very hard beds with no problem before but pity to my parents trying to make themselves comfortable on the hard beds. The three of us were put in a cabin with a 60 cm space between a single bed and a double bed but i think this is typical of most cabins on most of the boats as they all seemed about the same size. I wondered why the prices varied so much. Looking around, the Dolphin boat is definitely one of the nicer ones, of 3-star standard. The price included full board meals, however did not include drinks. You had to pay for can drinks that you want, and even mineral water is not provided. Luckily we bought lots of mineral water with us so we didn’t need to buy the pricey water onboard… hehehe.. The meals on the boat was reasonable. Main food served on boat is seafood, but they also able to arrange non seafood, and also vegetarian food for muslim like us. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful and the food was delicious, even the vegetarian option was great! We had a full course lunch when arrive at the boat, at night, a springroll cooking class with tasting and later a full course dinner…. The next day, breakfast was served early morning at 7am and full lunch was served before we depart back to the Halong Bay city Crews are friendly enough, though only a couple speak English. They are not too in-your-face though, so you have your privacy.
We spent 24 hours on the boat and the schedule was very tight, it depends on the personal preferences but for me it was too stressful, there was no leisure time, everything was planned. But it is ok as we have only 24 hours to see as much as possible.We were kept busy with a boat trip to a nearby floating village, kayaking, caving, hiking, nightly squid fishing, cooking spring roll demonstation (whoever wanted to participate did) while cruising. A short hiking to the top of tiptop hill on an island is my favourite, where you will get a mesmerising bird’s eye view of halong bay when you trek all the way up to the peak of the hill. Swimming, though, is nothing we would recommend since the trash and sewage from the thousands of boats has heavily polluted the water. If you ignore the pollution, i.e. keep your eyes above the water, you may enjoy the impressive scenery.
There is a magical quality about these strange rock formations of all sizes and shapes rising out of the sea. We stopped at one island and entered a magnificent cave with stalagtites and stalagmites of all shapes, some sparkling with quartzite. A lit path guided us through the winding passageways opening up to one strange vista after another.
However, getting there and back from Hanoi for our day tour was not enjoyable. We were very cramped in the rather stuffy mini bus for the 3 hour trip each way. We had a ‘refreshment’ stop at a different place each way and both sold very little choice of food other than quite expensive ‘western’ packaged food. I strongly suspect the reason for the half hour stop was in the hope of people buying handcrafts from the huge range available there.
Overall experience… recommended for a night stay in Halong bay cruise.. The views during sunrise and sunset was excellent.. Those who really into photography will definitely love it..