Halong Bay! Halong Bay! That prized group of islands and limestone spikes with emerald green water, with a fleet of traditional and uber luxurious Junk boats floating around like a flotilla.
Halong Bay is located in the North East part of Vietnam.. The town of the same name is a sort of resort town, but the true resort feel can be found on the water. There are nearly 2,000 islets some inhabitable and a thousand Limestone Karsts. There is a bio diversity like no other here. There are 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species, and there is even an island filled with Monkeys.
Halong Bay is so massive, that it seems to go on forever . The Bay is broken up into two parts. Halong Bay, and Bai Tu Long Bay. Halong Bay can see anywhere from 400 – 500 boats and junks on its waters at a time. Halong has the most spectacular limestone and islet features, but it comes at a hefty price.. Peace. Bai tu long is regulated, and has drop dead gorgeous features as well, but is a more peaceful experience and the one we chose.
I knew that I wanted to see and experience Halong Bay, and while there are definitely hundreds of companies willing to take you on a journey there, I settled instead for the BEST.
Located about 4 hours drive from Hanoi, you have to make sure you hire the best company to get you there as comfortable as possible. However it does come with a huge price tag. When putting my Vietnam Itinerary together, I opted to spend only 1 night on the Bay. A mistake I totally regret, as I could’ve done another night easily. But we will get to all that shortly.
After weeks of research , I decided to hire the elegant Indochina Junk Company . After filling out my initial request, the company quickly responded back to me and answered all my millions of questions. I was concerned about the water being too rough as my mother suffered occasionally from Vertigo. I was assured that it wouldn’t be much of a rock as the waters in the bay are typically very still. But should there be rough water, the company would immediately cancel the trip. The company also has a few boats to choose from, and we of course decided to splurge and ride on their best, The Dragon Legend Cruise
Indochina Junk Company has the exclusive rights to cruise the Bai tu Long part of the Bay, instead of 500 boats, there will be at the most, 12. We were picked up at our hotel in Hà Nội The Romantic Capital of Vietnam, and boarded a drop dead gorgeous Limo style Van . There was another couple traveling with us who just so happened to be staying at our hotel. A lovely couple from Singapore. The Van had beautiful Tan leather seats, tons of leg room, and well decorated interior. The air-condition was perfect and the ride was so smooth. We did stop about 2 hours into our journey at a tourist stop where people with disabilities make beautiful hand crafts as well as giant marble statues. We used this opportunity to use the restroom and stretch our legs, but did not buy anything.
Roughly two hours later, driving past 4 serious accidents, and beautiful lush countryside, we started to make our decent to the city of Halong Bay. With only a overnighter bag, a porter met us at our van, grabbed our bag, issued us a lanyard with our boats name on it, and I went to make my final payment for the cruise. Within 15 minutes we boarded a smaller boat, with life vests strapped on tightly as we made our way to meet our grand dame of boats, The Dragon Legend.
As we approached our boat, the entire staff was there to greet us all waving and cheering our arrival. It was quite a spectacle. We entered on the lowest level , and made our way up to the very top of the boat for an orientation , safety meeting, and room assignments. While the presentation was being given, I could see our boat slowly moving across the bay, with beautiful Limestone Karsts coming into display. It was just a mere taste of what was to come. ,Once we got settled into our room, lunch was to be served shortly there after
Our room was 306, on the second level of the boat. The boat has 3 well, 4 levels. The first level is where you get on and off from, and also consists of some rooms. The Second Level are all rooms and we were smack dab in the middle . The 3rd level has the Indoor and out door dining room, a small pool, a spa, and a Jacuzzi. the 4th level has sun beds and where we would do our morning Tai-chi. Our Room was gorgeous. The details and amount of teak wood they use is just beautiful. There was a large Jacuzzi tub in our room with both fresh and salt water intake. Found that weird but oh well. The room was so very comfortable and so pretty, it was the first indication that we should have spent more then just one night here. Here’s a video of our room
Lunch was served Al Fresco and featured fresh caught seafood . It was delicious and abundant. I mean they really pack it on. They must be used to American Tourists who want to much like its a buffet. I couldn’t even finish half of my food and I love to eat. At Lunch I noticed how empty our boat was. We were only 25% occupancy, and that made our experience even better. We were traveling in the off season. May is HOT and most tourist like to come around January and February. So lucky us. The boat kept moving while we dined and the scenery changed numerous of times. Some islands sat so lonely but so beautifully as if a statue on display. Other islands took my breath away. It really is something . The atmosphere is so tranquil here. We saw one other large Junk boat, the rest were local fisher men,
After lunch some people went kayaking , others went for a dip in the water, I decided to hang out with my mom up top reading, taking pictures and having a few ice cold Vietnamese Beer.
Time seemed to pass us by slowly. It was such a lovely time relaxing and soaking up our scenery. Although I sort of wished I was a bit more adventurous, I feel as if it was a good idea to just relax, especially since the day before I wasn’t feeling so well. I did though, book a nice hour long massage just to get all the kinks of traveling out.
As the sun started to make its decent , the boat turned and moved towards its final position where we will be anchored for the night. Theres nothing but peace, quiet, and beauty here. And it was worth all the money and time ….
Dinner was Served around 7 pm, so we got ready took a lovely spa bath in our gorgeous jacuzzi tub, and headed top side for dinner. Dinner was a spectacle. As usual, we were served a feast fit for 50 people for one person. Not complaining. While not exactly culinary, the food was decent enough and so was the wine.
After dinner started the entertainment portion of our cruise. The sweet staff put together many performances. Local and traditional music with instruments, songs of old, and some group participating magic tricks. All in all, dinner and entertainment lasted a good 3 hours. Content and so happy, we retired to our fully air-conditioned room, watched a few minutes of tv, and was out like a light.
I set my alarm for 5 am as I wanted to do some Tae-chi at 6 am and greet the day. It was lovely. There were a few others who joined in. After breakfast we will be heading back slowly but making a stop to an island to hike a cave , something I was so excited to do.
Unfortunately when we got to the shores and started our initial ascent into the caves, my mother slipped a bit on the uneven terrain, and I opted for her to stay down . I was terrified if something was to have happened. The hike into the cave was short but steep. I’m so glad she didn’t come. Once in the cave, I thought I would be blown away by the stalactites and stalagmites, but it was just average. Great exercise though it was, in hindsight not so worth it. But oh well I would have never known.
Lunch was served the minute we got back to the ship and we were now really making our way back to Halong Bay and Halong City. We said our goodbyes to our crew, left an anonymous tip in their tip jar, and quickly disembarked and boarded our lux bus back to Hanoi. It was really a beautiful experience. And I recommend everyone to use Indochina Junk as their provider.
Fortunately and Unfortunately, our trip was not quite over yet with this company, as they stop by a little village to break up the 4 hour journey back to Hanoi. A lovely little village, dedicated to tourists, it was a cute little stop. They do the traditional water puppet show, which bores me to death, but was still really sweet and cute and actually a lot better then what I saw in Ho Chi Minh City: Saigon Dreams. The village itself was quaint and pretty and I later learned that all the money they get from this tour company and if we buy anything goes to help out the village. It was a good 45 minute break. There are also amazing Lychee trees, mango, rice cultivation, and many other types of produce being grown in the village, and for a moment it reminded my both of home in Hawaii, and Japan.
The rest of the ride back was lovely as I got to talk to our new friends from Singapore. Per the norm I guess, there were more massive accidents on the road, some that looked absolutely deadly. I do hope those people were alright. Now back to Hà Nội The Romantic Capital of Vietnam for our last night in the city and last night in this country . Tomorrow we leave for Cambodia and the Ancient ruins of Angkor.
I really loved this little journey to Halong/ Bai Tu Long Bay. In Hindsight, I probably would have booked at least 2 nights. The journey there is tiresome, but the rewards of the bay in all its grandure is amazing. It was peaceful, beautiful, relaxing, and just lovely and there is no other way to do it than with IndoChina Junk.