Red Dragon Boat Cruise in the Islands
The boat was pre-booked from London, complete with shuttle bus from and to Hanoi. After much painful research, we deemed the best and most luxurious boat company to be the Red Dragon Boats, run by Indochina Junk (beware the many companies and web sites with copycat names). Our tickets came from their Hanoi sales office.
They run a fleet of boats and we chose the Prince II, one with four cabins only, of which we needed two. We chose the three-day, two-night tour, which took away any "rush factor" we'd heard about for the shorter cruises. It takes half a day each way for the bus ride to and from Hanoi, included with the trip. Our van had a maximum capacity of about 12 passengers. This cruise covered part of Halong Bay but spent most time in the less crowded Bai Tu Long Bay.
This company lived up to their promises and this was a truly luxurious cruise. Only one of the other two cabins was taken, so there were 6 staff for 6 passengers.
The Prince II junk was beautiful. It was tourist-tacky, but done up with much better quality than we saw from any other fleet of junks. Our cabins each had individual air-conditioners and large en-suite bathrooms with hot showers. They were nicely decorated and in very good shape.
The service was good, equivalent to a 5-star hotel, though not quite at the Leading Hotel of the World level. Meals were eaten together with the other guests on the top covered deck, and most meals were special affairs created by the chef from local seafood, with the chef providing cooking demonstrations at our tables. The food was delicious the first two days, but it did taper off dramatically in quality the last day. Meals were included in the price, but drinks were not, and they were expensive - maybe US $4 for a mixed drink, $5 for a cocktail.
The guide was excellent, as were the shore excursions, the sampan ride through a floating fishing village, and the kayaking. We could choose either single or double kayaks early in the trip, and these were towed behind the junk for the duration of the cruise.
The junks found secluded bays to anchor for the night. One night there were no other boats in sight and the other night there was only one other Red Dragon junk. It was quite peaceful.
I would definitely use this company again. Next time, I would put this cruise at the end of the holiday, rather than the beginning, to finish off with a truly relaxing three days.
- Luxury Travel
Halong bay-Poseidon cruise:3d 2 n
I have been to Halong bay at the end of March, 2011
I booked the Poseidon cruise by Little Hanoi hotel at 48 Hang ga' st.
They provide a great service.
The Halong bay cruise was great:
We were 10 guests
We - for 2 nights 3 days cruise: 1 night on the boat and 1 night in Cat ba island-at Holiday view hotel ( - great hotel)
The rest were for 1 night 2 days cruise.
The guide came with us to Cat Ba Island and for the 3rd day it was a private tour for us.
The Poseidon boat is a nice boat
Nicely decorated, clean and well kept
The A/c in the rooms is working from 18:00 PM
The food was fresh.
The room's size is about 12m which is not too small and quit sufficient
The service is very good
Most drinks are twice the price but it is not too expensive for westerners...
The official price was 125$ and that’s what we actually paid.
The price included all meals during the 3 days and all activities and the hotel in Cat Ba island.
I recommend this cruise.
Explore Surprise Cave
Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave is one of the largest grottoes in Ha Long Bay. The 10,000 square-meters space features large stalagtites and stalagmites. The cave is divided into three chambers, the first resembling an amphitheatre and the second is a large room decorated with multi-colored lights.
Near the mouth of the cave, there is a large rock that seems to resemble a horse with a long sword. As Vietnam is steeped in mythology, the story here is that after Thanh Giong (Saint Giong) defeated the An aggressors, he helped the population to chase away evil spirits and demons. After this feat, Saint Giong flew to heaven, leaving a stone horse and sword to continue to keep the demons away.
- Budget Travel
- National/State Park
2 day, 1 night boat trip on Halong Bay
There are many wonderful pages & photos describing trips on Halong Bay. Here is our description of a typical budget option. This cost us US$35 each. The price included return mini-bus from Hanoi, lunch & dinner on the first day, and breakfast & lunch on the 2nd day. Drinks had to be purchased seperately. Alcohol was more expensive than normal and BYO was not encouraged. In fact there might have even been a sign stating that it was a no-no.
The trip from Hanoi took 3 hours. It was comfortable enough. We became tired of the Kung Fu movie that they were playing and they let us play one of the DVD's that we had brought. It was organised chaos getting to our boat at the docks, there were tourists and boats everywhere. Best pay attention and follow your designated leader! Seafood lunch was served after we had settled into our rooms and we ate while we cruised amongst the huge upright islands. We stopped at a huge cave called Hang Sung Sot and hiked up & through some spectacluar stagatites & stalagmites. I will put these photos on a seperate travelogue. Seafood dinner was also quite tasty. The seafood and fresh herbs were purchased from a boat selling to the tour boats. We shared the boat with 7 other couples (there were only 8 rooms). Before dinner, some of the passengers that got on at Halong City were dropped off at Cat Ba Island to stay the night at a hotel. It was raining when we woke in the morning and the kayaking was cancelled. Breakfast was good (bacon, eggs and a kind of sweet bread - brioche?) After breakfast, we went back to Cat Ba Island to pick up the other passengers and slowly cruised back for a pretty good lunch in Halong City. The bus returned us to Hanoi by around 5pm.
And we even had an added bonus on our budget boat - a huge white rat I saw scurrying around the dining room before I went to bed whilst writing up my journal. Not sure if it was pet or pest!!
IN LIGHT OF THE RECENT TRAGEDY INVOLVING A BOAT SINKING.....PLEASE TAKE CARE WHEN CHOOSING A BOAT. YOU MAY BE BETTER OFF SPENDING A FEW MORE $'S AND HAVING A SAFER EXPERIENCE.
- Budget Travel
This is a personal favorite of mine. The hike up the island's summit is good way to burn those calories from over indulgence from overeating and overdrinking (that comes with the tour); the summit provides the best vantage point to soak in the bay's enchanting beauty - including dramatic sunsets.
There is also a beach at the island - but it's clearly artificial with sand hauled over from other locations.
- National/State Park
Sung Sot Cave
Sung Sot cave is one of the biggest caves in Halong Bay. Consisting of three vast chambers, the cave is characterized by interesting rock formation including the very popular "*** rock" which is some sort of a local fertility symbol. Obviously, this is one of the cave's main attractions.
The other attraction is the very scenic bay at the cave's entrance - a classic Halong photo op that has graced countless tourist brochures. The bay's familiarity in these brochures has not diminished its splendor. In fact, visiting Sung Sot Cave and not taking loads of snaps of the bay is close to sacrilege.
- National/State Park
Cat Ba Trek
We came to Cat Ba Island on our second day to do some trekking and canoeing and to stay on the island overnight. We reached the island and walked to a village called Viet Hai which featured old wooden houses alongside piles of modern bricks that were ready to build new houses. We stopped by a family who were making square 'cakes' for Tet (the Vietnamese lunar New Year celebration) which included pork, rice and egg shaped into a square and wrapped in banana leaves. Anyway, we visited some old style wooden buildings that looked like temples but were in fact a community centre that some French guy had brought over from the mainland and built here. However, they weren't finished because the government had created the National Park whilst they were being built and so didn't give him permission to finish building them! We then had lunch served to us by a 70-year old woman in the village and headed back to the boat in order to do our canoeing. After this we came back to Cat Ba Town (the main settlement on the island) for our overnight stay at the Princes Hotel (see my accommodation tip). We had a nice dinner here and then hit some nightlife in the form of a nightclub before winding down at the Flightless Bird Bar.
Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Halong Bay and is commonly used as an overnight hotel stop if you decide to do a 3 day/2 night trip like I did. Half of its area is covered by a National Park, which is home to the highly endangered Cat Ba Langur and other mammals such as civet cats and oriental giant squirrels. The Park covers both land and marine areas and has a high biodiversity, although it is at risk from too rapid an increase in tourism. We came to Cat Ba Island on our second day to do some trekking and canoeing and to stay on the island overnight (see my next tip).
Peter, a Vietnamese now living in Sweden, decided to take a morning swim around our junk and said that the water wasn't that cold. I thought otherwise as the air alone was pretty chilly as it was January and rather grey and overcast. He had to be dragged along the side of the boat like a big fish in order to be able to reach the steps and climb back onboard.
After visiting the Amazing Caves (Hang Sung Sot), we got back onto the boat and made our way to Ti-Top Island which features a small sandy beach and a small pavilion at its peak which we climbed to for some good views even though it was still overcast and the light was fading fast.
On 22 November 1962, this tiny island had the honour of receiving a visit from astronaut Ghermann Ti Top, a hero of the former Soviet Union, accompanied by Ho Chí Minh. To perpetuate the remembrance of their visit, Uncle Ho named the place Ti Top Island.
Amazing Caves (Hang Sung Sot)
After coming onboard our junk, we set sail and had lunch. We then came to a very busy bay area, full of other tourist junks and came onshore and climbed up some steps in order to visit the so-called "Amazing Caves" (Hang Sung Sot) which were pretty spectacular but not quite as good as ones I'd seen in Guilin in China. The caves are one of the 3 most popular caves in Halong Bay and were discovered by the French in 1901. It has three vast chambers, the second of which contains a pink lit phallic shaped rock, which is regarded as a fertility symbol.
Halong Bay is an extremely popular destination for tourists who want to, like me, spend a night in the bay on board a junk - a traditional wooden Asian boat that used to be sailing boats but the tourist ones are now powered. We set off from the tourist pier area of Halong City onboard the Sun Cruise - our junk and we got our first views of the amazing Karst limestone scenery. We came to a busy bay area full of other junks that were docking, in fact one of them collided with another! You'll see loads of them dotted around.
Part of my tour involved a bit of paddling in canoes - the first time I'd been in one since I was in the Cub Scouts! We transferred into canoes and made our way into a small lagoon that you entered under a natural stone bridge where we heard the rustling of trees by monkeys that we couldn't see. We then paddled past floating fishing communities complete with barking dogs back to the boat and then set off for Cat Ba Town and our overnight stay at the Princes Hotel.
Halong Bay is one of those unmissable natural wonder places that should be on everyone’s list when in Vietnam. The Bay has an area of around 1,553 sq km, including 1,960 islets, most of which are limestone, that form what is called a Karst. Meaning "Bay of the Descending Dragon", it's become a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its geological uniqueness as well as cultural and historical importance - it has been mentioned in poems and verses for centuries. Home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species, it features cave systems, striking caverns, as well as other geologically interesting formations, such as uniquely shaped massifs.
I had already seen Karst landscapes along the Li River in China, in Vang Vieng and along the Andaman coast of Thailand but Halong Bay beats them all!
ODC Travel Tour - Day 2
Day 2 started with breakfast on the junk with eggs, loads of toast, fresh fruit, coffee after I slept very well in my cabin. Peter, a Vietnamese now living in Sweden, decided to take a morning swim around the junk and said that the water wasn't that cold. I thought otherwise as the air alone was pretty chilly. Myself and two Dutch women then transferred to the Cat Ba Prince 3 and we made our way to Cat Ba Island to do some trekking and canoeing and to stay on the island overnight. We reached the island and walked to a village called Viet Hai which featured old wooden houses alongside piles of modern bricks that were ready to build new houses. We stopped by a family who were making square 'cakes' for Tet (the Vietnamese lunar New Year celebration) which included pork, rice and egg shaped into a square and wrapped in banana leaves. Cat Ba Island has been made into a National Park due to its abundance of wildlife and topographical features and it was good to trek around just some of it while other tourists had hired bikes to see more of it. Anyway, we visited some old style wooden buildings that looked like temples but were in fact a community centre that some French guy had brought over from the mainland and built here. However, they weren't finished because the government had created the National Park whilst they were being built and so didn't give him permission to finish building them! We then had lunch served to us by a 70-year old woman in the village and headed back to the boat in order to do our canoeing. We transferred into canoes and made our way into a small lagoon that you entered under a natural stone bridge where we heard the rustling of trees by monkeys that we couldn't see. We then paddled past floating fishing communities complete with barking dogs back to the boat and then set off for Cat Ba Town and our overnight stay at the Princes Hotel (see my accommodation tip). We had a nice dinner here and then hit some nightlife in the form of a nightclub before winding down at the Flightless Bird Bar. All-in-all it was a good trip on a lovely boat with some fantastic food and a nice cabin made even more special by the wonderful scenery. The tour cost me US$146 (which included a single supplement) and included everything except drinks which I didn't think was a bad price.