Once on board there is really not much to do. The first minutes you will be doing photos as crazy, of every island, every boat passing by and so...
But after a while, you better take a hamoc, lay down, relax and enjoy the landscape. After 2 hours you won't be so amazed at the magnificient landscape, you will pay more attention to the other passengers, will play cards with them, or read a book or listen to some music.
Once in a while you could see floating wooden houses where locals cultivated pearls.
Some locals came on board selling pearls and jewels with pearls on them. I was not interested, so I didn't pay much attention to shapes, quality and prices, but they must be really cheap, I guess...
To have a great time in HaLong Bay and too see and do as much as you can in a small amount of time you should do a tour. There are excellent and cheap tours of the Bay from anywhere from 2 to 4 nights +. If you stay at the Manh Dung GH they can arrange the best private escortd tour from their private family company. Here is the basic itinary of their great tour:
II/ Ha Long Bay?Cat Ba island
3 Days - 2 Nights
Kayaking? Snorkeling? Sleep on Boat
Day 1: HaNoi?HaLong
7.00am pick up at hotel, 4hr bus trip to Ha Long city. Board the boat and enjoy a lunch with lots of fresh seafood while the boat cruses HaLong Bay. Experience stunning scenery, and Surprising Cave, on the route. Stop at Lan Ha Bay, near Cat ba island for swimming snorkeling and fishing. Dinner with lots of Vietnamese fresh seafood on boat. Sleep with the sea atmosphere on cabin deck under a sky of a thousand stars or in a private room.
*** see next tip, it can't all fit............
Day 2: Kayaking? Swimming? Snorkeling
A morning cruise in a private junk on the crystalline emerald green waters of Cat Ba (LanHa Bay) and HaLong bay, among the 3000 spectacular limestone islands. The boat stops at an ideal location for sea kayaking as we paddle through a maze of islets amid dramatic natural scenery. With our kayaking equipment, we are able to maximize speed and maneuverability as we paddle through the open sea and explore the many hidden lagoons and stalactite caves that are difficult to access by any other means. Return to Cat Bat town. Overnight in hotel.
Day 3: Return to Hanoi
After breakfast, take another boat trip to visit another part of HaLong bay. Enjoy lunch on the boat, then take the bus to visit the Bai Chay Ferry, the most important traffic point of HaLong city. Bus back to Hanoi 5.30pm.
Company: AAA Small Group Travel?Green Autumn Private Enterprise Ltd. (by Manh Dung)
All-inclusive tour with air-conditioning on boat: UD$89.00
Tour company contact :
Address: 2 Pho Tam Thuong, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
After a while the landscapes turns out to be erather monotonous, as the shapes of the islands are very similar.
Just once in a while you would find a rather different island, like this one that had a little pagoda on top...