Welcome to part two of my travel diaries to Vietnam! Hanoi was such a fun city to explore, but we were excited to get out of the city and head to Halong Bay for our overnight cruise. We spent two days and one night on a little 14-cabin cruise ship with Halong Phoenix Cruiser. If you’re interested in knowing our exact itinerary and which option we booked, click here!
There are hundreds of different cruise lines and many offer itineraries as short as day trips and as long as 4-5 days. We thought our two day, one night cruise was the perfect amount of time in the bay. Again, our entire vacation to Vietnam and Thailand was booked by Indus Travels, including this Halong Bay cruise! We had an excellent experience with the trip and the agency, so let me know if you have any questions about booking your vacation!
Halong Bay is a three hour drive from Hanoi. This may seem long, but I actually really loved the drive and looking out the window to take in the scenery. Sure, I may have rolled my eyes back, mouth open, drooling slightly at some point. But for most of the drive, I was wide awake taking in the sites. We passed city scenes, rice patty fields, and at one point we saw an entire dead cow strapped to the back of a scooter that was driving next to us. I really wish I had a picture, but the scooter zoomed by too quickly for me to snap a shot!
As a UNESECO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay has become famous for its beauty and it has definitely a must-see in Vietnam. This means the place is inevitably crowded with tourists. We passed countless Halong Bay cruise companies lined up on the marina before we reached ours. The docks are so crowded with ships that the cruise companies have to load you and your luggage into smaller boats which then transport you to the cruise ships anchored further in the bay. However, once you’re out on the water, you immediately feel relaxed and serene. With the crazy crowdedness of the marina behind us, we were ready to enjoy our cruise through Halong Bay!
We didn’t have the best weather during our cruise in Halong Bay. It was foggy and chilly on both days and it even rained. Regardless, the view was amazing. The fog simply added to the mysterious aura of Halong Bay. It kind of felt like I was on the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean, sailing through the mist…minus having eye candy Orlando Bloom and Jonny Depp on board.
After getting settled into our small cabins, Kevin and I spent the afternoon on the top deck of the ship taking in the views as it sailed through Halong Bay. It was a breathtaking site! It was definitely a mistake to not bring more warm clothes. I was a bit chilly in shorts, but I only brought one pair of leggings and no long pants for the trip. Woops!
Whenever our boat was at a stand still, women on bamboo boats would row over to the ship calling out “Buy Something?!” Their little boats were filled with oreos, pringles, wine bottles, and even jewelry. I always smiled at them and just shook my head no, but I wonder if they were actually able to make a living off selling snacks and jewelry to cruise goers. I didn’t see a single person make a purchase from one of these women.
First on the agenda – kayaking! A guide took us on kayaks through the lagoons of Halong Bay. It was so fun to be active while seeing little caves and limestone formations up close!
At one point, I snapchatted a woman on another bamboo boat trying to sell me some snicker bars. I will say, it might have worked if she had some spring rolls on board…
Next on the itinerary was a trip to Titop island! There was a lovely beach here where people usually swim, but given the chilly, drizzling weather, the water was quite empty. Kudos to the five ladies in bikinis who ventured into the water. Ya’ll get mad respect.
Another fun part of Titop island was going up a 10 minute stair climb to the island’s summit. Though it was quite crowded both on the ascent and on the summit, the view was spectacular. And it was nice getting to throw in some aerobic activity from going up all those stairs!
The next day, our cruise took us to Surprise Cave. Like everywhere else in Halong Bay, the cave was crowded with tourists. Regardless, it was an amazing experience exploring the caves which are lit up beautifully with colored lights for people to take in its splendor.
Surprise Cave was way bigger than I thought it would be. There were separate caverns you could walk through and I kept thinking we were at the end of the path until we’d go even deeper into an even bigger cavern! One of my favorite parts of the cave experience was when our tour guide from the cruise pointed out some of the famous natural rock formations that look like certain shapes.
Can you guess what this one is called? Our tour guide called it “the man’s happy thing.” If you follow the path that this lovely phallic limestone formation is pointing towards, you can see the “happy hole” in the upper right. I had lots of fun making some R-rated snapchat illustrations with these rock formations. Still giggling at my cleverness. hehe. hehe. (If you missed my snaps and don’t want to miss any future cheeky snapchats from me, follow me on jennwang22.)
The cruise ended up being a wonderful way to explore Halong Bay. We were provided with DELICIOUS food (all meals included with the cost of the cruise), knowledgeable guides and crew, and fun excursions.
We loved our time in Vietnam, but we were quite ready for some sunshine and beach days. After making the three hour drive back to Hanoi, we spent one more night in the Old Quarter before jetting off to Phuket, Thailand the following day. Stay tuned for my Phuket travel diaries!