Favorite thing: Halong Bay will not be as beautiful as it is without the many boats and junks which sail its waters. These vessels are still very tradition despite now fully motorised instead of using the wind. The small vessels (usually one decked) are for day trips and the bigger multi-storey vessels are for overnight trips. You will see vessels of all shapes and sizes here, which is one of the beautiful experience of Halong Bay. More photos are at the travelogue section of this VT page.
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: Just when you think it is chaotic on land at Hanoi with all the motorcycles, it is chaotic on sea at the harbour of Halong City when you embark on your junk boat cruise. There are many junk boats of all shapes and sizes packed at the harbour, and there is so much activities and movement all around especially during the late morning where all the boats are setting off to Halong Bay. The photos here will give you a good idea of the chaos :)
Favorite thing: In Ha Long, there are thousands of islets but there are only a few with beaches. And we found one and got to own one to ourselves..for a few hours. After they parked the Chinese Junk in a middle of somewhere, we got to kayak around and then we kayaked to this small island with beach. Took a swim...etc. For once, we felt a little privileged.
Favorite thing: While you are cruising at Halong Bay, you will come across many local men and women in small boats loaded with souvenirs and other stuff which they will try to sell to tourists by approaching their junk boats. I was observing them on the top deck of my boat, and it is really tough job because they have to paddle their small boats which move very slowly in the water. Also, there are not many tourists which will buy from them, I guess the family members must have divided themselves whereby some of them are fishermen, pearl farmers etc while others are involved in selling such stuff to tourists on small boats.
Favorite thing: Once you leave the chaos of Halong city harbour, it will be open sea and you can see the many islands of Halong Bay at a distance. This stretch of the sea journey is very windy but the water is usually calm due to blockage of waves by the many islands.
Favorite thing: Soi Sim Beach is a very beautiful small beach at Halong Bay with magnificent scenery. There is a stairway which will bring you up to a very nice viewpoint of the surrounding areas. The entrance of this stairway lies a gate which resembles the Tori Gates which you can find in Japan.
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
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.
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.
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.
Favorite thing: My guide at Halong Bay managed to catch a few small fishes while waiting for us at Soi Sim Beach. He showed us the fishes (see photo) and told us that this type of fish is a delicacy at Halong Bay even though it is quite small and colourful. Very interesting indeed.
Favorite thing: While in the Sung Sot Caves, your tour guide will show you many interesting shaped rocks inside the caves e.g. dragon, snake, tortoise, buddha, elephant etc. There is one interesting protruding rock glowing in red colour in this photo which resembles a part of the human body, can you guess what is it (hee hee)?
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.
Here are a few practical tips in getting the most of your Halong Bay holiday:
1) Day tours are a no-no: don't even consider taking a day tour of Halong Bay. This enchanting place is best enjoyed at sunset and at sunrise when a thick misty fog envelopes the karsts. Better even with your favorite cocktail on hand (at sunset), or with a cup of freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee (at sunrise).
2) Spend a little bit more: at the time of my visit, I paid about 100+ dollars for an overnight trip. This is inclusive of cabin accommodation in a well-maintained, clean boat, meals (but not drinks) and tickets to the various sites in the bay. Cheap tours are always an option, but you don't want rats running around the boat or suffering from a bad case of food poisoning, do you? I have included a separate tip on the tour operator under accommodation tips.
3) Watch those valuables: we've been told by the operator to take care of our valuables while on board. The boats could easily be accessed from smaller boats that ply the bay, so better keep your valuables locked inside your cabin.