Was impressed by the elaborate lacquered woodwork of the tables, chairs and walls inside the "dining hall" of the overnight cruise boat of Halong Bay.
Fun to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with such unexpected nice boat furnishing and seeing the islands of Halong going by outside.
Favorite thing: Guys, if you ordered a bottle a wine on your junk during your lunch or dinner moment. And you probably would like to keep some for the next meal, DO NOT ask the waiter to keep them for you as they DO NOT understand english. You will definitely not getting them back afterwards and they will open another new bottle. And you have to pay for the new bottle as well. JUST FOR YOUR INFO.
Favorite thing: Well, we all aware that drinks are double the price on board. And we probably like to bring one or two from hanoi before getting on board. BUT, BE INFORMED THAT ALL DRINKS WILL BE CHARGED AT THE GATE OF PIER. SO, IT'S ADVISEABLE TO HIDE OR KEEP IN YOUR LUGGAGE BEFORE ENTERING THE GATE.
I recommend that you book your transport to Halong City+Boat trip at a reputable agent in Hanoi. This will avoid a lot of hassle and delay when you arrive at Halong City - the point where all boats leave for Halong Bay.
Depending on your time available, you can opt for:
1) 1 Day - boat cruise on Halong bay and return to Hanoi same day.
2) 2 Days - 1 night on boat in Halong Bay - you can see sunset and sunrise
3) 3 Days - 1 night on boat, 1 night on land at Cat Bac Island
I took option 3 and it was just right for me.
Note: While the tour will pick up tourists from their different hotels but upon return to Hanoi, everyone will be dropped off at one location because of traffic rules to avoid city congestion. So just be prepared if this standard procedure is on.
Halong is great on a sunny day, it's truly amazing. But when the weather is bad... well, just couldnt blame anyone, the trip must be cancelled if the weather forecast says it's stormy.
Check with the up-to-date information near the departure date with your travel agent to make sure it's safe to cruise , especially if you are travelling on July, August.
If you're keen to do Halong Bay, go on a package trip organised by an agency in Hanoi. You'll be glad you've done so when you've reach Halong City. Yes, when I was there, I saw lots of enthusiastic local agents pouncing on hapless tourists. It sure looked traumatic.
How much you pay depends on your
3) the number of people in your tour group.
Our 3d2n trip with ODC was at $56*, pricier than Sinh but it was so well-organised that every bowl that we ate out of at every meal had the ODC stamp. Even in a small village in Viet Hai!
Tip Update: The price has increased to $89 as of Jan 06. Since Tiger Airways introduced cheap flights to Hanoi, this place has seen an influx of tourist so prices have risen dramatically.
For details, surf over to http://www.odctravel.com/home.php
On the way to Halong Bay, we stopped at the Dai Nghia Humanity Centre (Red Cross Association of Namsach District), where young girls learn embroidery skilfully and where local handicrafts were sold. We were amazed at how skilful and laboriously the young girls were at embroidering the art pieces.
Fondest memory: Beautiful traditional handicrafts
On the way by coach to Halong Bay, we passed through many, many beautiful rice fields and sceneries before reaching Bai Chay, the jetty where we were to board on the boat to Halong Bay. At the jetty, there were so many boats awaiting for tourists.
Fondest memory: Rural sceneries.
Boats and islands and emerald waters.
Favorite thing: One of the most peaceful nights I've ever had was on the boat in Ha Long Bay. It was a beautiful night, so we (there were 5 of us- all strangers before that day) slept up on the deck, rather than below in the small rooms. Dinner is included- it was fresh and tasty. I definitely recommend staying on the boat rather than in overnight in a hotel.
When we went to Kat Ba island and went for a walk along some of the roads we found some locals who obviously didnt want us there, in the form of a crab. Whenever we tried to walk out, these pesky crabs thought it would be really funny to try and grab our toes!! Even when we tried to defend ourselves this little crab gave us all for haha
Fondest memory: so mind yourself in those areas, they arent all scared of us haha
Favorite thing: With dozens of tour outfitters all vying for our business, picking the right one was a bit overwhelming. After tons of research, we chose Handspan and were completely satisfied. Others include Sinh Café, ODC and Kangaroo.
ODC Travel is equipped with best quality, US imported Canoe models. We have great time sea kayaking between islets.
If these canoes are not good, you would have hearing complains from me because my kayak pal is not too well verse in kayaking sport.
Most families living in Ha Long Bay lives and works in fish farms that they call home. Some of those even live on their fishing boat day in day out.
I spotted a young boy rowing boat confidently at very young age. The fish farm living conditions really shape him into someone who is dependable and prepare him for the future.
You can see quite a big gap of wealth distribution among the tourist operators and fishermen. Even the currencies that exchanged between the two are USD as compare to local Vietnamese Dongs.
I do not look down at their living conditions, instead am attracted to their simple lifestyle and it make me realized of many other things that more important than money. Like dignity, self-worth and etc.
Vietnamese consume huge amount of rice and many other rice products in noodles and many other forms that you can ever imagine. Ever heard of rice paper?
You will see very scenic rice fields along express ways, rail tracks all the way from Saigon to Ha Long. You may almost sick seeing so many of them, but you will still don’t mind seeing more of them because the scenes are so beautiful.