Ha Long Bay

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Ha Long bay is one of those things that you just have to do in Vietnam.  All over Hanoi we saw posters, tourist agencies and flyers showing the beautiful karst cliffs rising out of the sea and advertising the fact that it was recently added to the list of the New Seven Natural World Wonders (similar to Sabang and the Underground River in the Philippines).  We were sort of thinking of skipping it but after hearing the glowing reviews from our new friends and because Ha was able to help us get super cheap tickets on a good boat, we decided to go for it.

A packed minivan picked us up at 8am where we met our guide “Sleepy”.  He earned his nickname because he was…sleepy…from drinking way too much Bia Hoi.  We made a quick pit stop at a place selling enormous marble statues (not sure how many sales they get from the vans full of backpackers coming through), then drove a few more hours to the pier.  We had already been warned that the actual boats looked nothing like the beautiful, luxurious sail boats in the brochures, so we weren’t  super shocked when we pulled up to our dilapidated splintered junk.  The best advice we got was “make sure that you actually go to the boat with deck chairs on the top”  That’s how you know you they are putting you on the right boat”.  Our room and the interior of the boat were nice enough though.

Our first stop was the “Surprise Cave”.  I won’t ruin the surprise but it’s a pretty big cave that is lit up like a rave.  You get in a line of roughly 1000 other tourists and slowly walk through it like you are in line at Disneyland.   Second excursion was kayaking.  Because the cave took so long, we were told we had 30 minutes to kayak. Because we were one of the last couples to get a Kayak, it was more like 10.  It was still pretty cool and we rowed over to one of the cliffs with a small beach and cave before rushing back.  Final excursion was to watch the sunset from a beach.  We had about an hour on the beach it was a great sunset but unfortunately Amanda cut her foot on a barnacle when she tried to get in the water.  Luckily it turned out not to be that bad and we taught our guide how to say “band-aid”.  Then we went back to the junk, ate a great dinner, and drink beer all evening on the roof of the boat.

We had been advised to get the midrange boat for the company of the other passengers. The budget boats were supposed to be filled with teenagers that want to drink and party all night, and the luxury boats were full of older families.   The midrange turned out to be the right choice.  They had a nice bar on board, but not an over-the-top booze cruise vibe and we met some great people and had some good conversations.  We got to bed at a decent hour, woke up early, had a good breakfast, and then got back on the van back to Hanoi.

All in all, I’m glad we did it and we had a good time but we definitely wouldn’t rank it as one of the best things we have done.  It could have been that some of the novelty was lost on us since we had seen the magnificent and much less crowded karst cliffs of El Nido in the Philippines.

  • Halong Sunset
  • Kayaking in Halong Bay
  • Kayaking in Halong Bay
  • Looks like Brocolli
  • Big Cave Chamber
  • Surprise Cave!
  • Boats in Ha Long Bay
  • Front of the boat
  • Adam and Amanda in Ha Long Bay

Posted: June 3, 2012

Author: Adam and Amanda

Category: Asia, Blog, Continents, Vietnam


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