The biggest must do in northern Vietnam has to be a junk boat cruise of Halong Bay. It’s on every organised tour and gets rave reviews all the time. There are a myriad of options but fortunately my friend Cory had been before and helped us cut through the overwhelming amount of choices by highly recommending Alova Gold Cruises (part of Go Asia Travel). In Hanoi, we were even more satisfied with our choice when our street food guide recommended the same company.
We opted for a two day, one night, tour for USD 110pp which includes all food and accommodation. It’s about a four hour drive out to the coast from Hanoi and at 12.30pm we boarded our boat. The highlight of our choice was that there were only 16 people on board. Some boats pack in 40 people and the small size of ours meant everyone chatted to each other which really made the trip.
We drove out for about an hour before we dropped anchor for the day. All the boats follow the same path so you’re surrounded by other boats which makes the pictures even better in my mind.
Our first excursion was to Titop Island where you can climb to the top of the mountain and get a great view of the area. There are close to 2,000 mountains in the bay, which spans for miles, and the mountains and boats make for a stunning site. Unfortunately the time of year didn’t quite produce the postcard quality shots we were after but it’s still an incredible sight.
After that it was back to the boat with an option to kayak. Still being ill we opted for a nap, but our friends that went out and braved the cold said it was a well worth it.
Before dinner we had a short cooking class and learnt to make fresh spring rolls, before feasting on a massive meal. We got stuck into happy hour and really enjoyed hanging out with our new friends Tim and Holly (UK) and Jesper and Willemijn (Holland).
The next morning it was an early rise to visit the Hang Sung Sot caves. These were actually a lot more impressive than we expected and they’ve done a great job and lighting and preserving them. Our guide Minh pointed out a lot of stalactites that resembled buddhas and dragons before it was time to head home.
We cruised back to shore on a really foggy day but the fog created a great atmosphere on the mountains.
It was a fun cruise, mostly because we had such a great group, but I can imagine with great weather a longer cruise out here would be awesome! We definitely recommend it.