Having stayed at the same nice hotel as Max’s parents the previous night we had the luxury of being driven to Halong Bay in a private minivan, three hours east of Hanoi. We were taken to a touristic tapestry shop mid way through our journey for a tea break. Here rows and rows of women were working away making tapestry paintings to sell. On the way we passed green blanketed rice fields and wood carving shops displaying their intrinsically designed furniture and sculptures. We only had to wait around 20 minutes before we were called to board our cruise, the Bhaya Classic Junk Boat.
We were quite excited about this two day cruise courtesy of Max’s parents as we had heard such great things about Halong Bay from other travellers. The staff greeted us from the front deck as we walked on board and we had an introduction at the restaurant before being shown to our cabins.
The cabin was very cute with a compact shower room, all walls and floors made from wood which added a cosy touch to it. The cruise boat was wooden with the first two floors for cabins and the upper floor for the restaurant. Lunch was buffet style so we made sure we made the most of this. For some reason it was warmer here in comparison to Hanoi which was a relief as we were able to enjoy the breath taking landscape of the endless karsts from the top deck. The sail into the bay was so quiet and relaxing, passing karst after karst surrounded by calm blue water along the entire way.
Enjoying the scenery from the top deck
That afternoon we visited a floating village on a locals boat which was amazingly picturesque with karsts enclosing the bays. Individual or clusters of three to four brightly coloured floating houses congregated at different areas of the bay.
Four floating houses congregated in front of one of the breathtaking karsts…beautiful colours!
It’s hard to imagine what life must be like living in one of these villages, how children play, boats selling goods and when the weather is not so favourable it must not be so pleasant. It’s such a basic lifestyle, confined to such a small area in this natural surrounding but they still seemed so happy with what they have.
All of us on board the local tour boat…don’t forget your life jacket hehe
The karsts were covered in vegetation but we didn’t think there was much life apart from birds as animals would be confined to that karst only but in fact we were told that there are Langurs that habitat there.
Perfectly positioned cruise with the sun setting in the background
Back on board we watched the sunset behind the boats with their sails flying high from the top deck before watching a Springroll cooking class at the restaurant. That night we enjoyed a lovely five course meal and then attempted squid fishing at the rear end of the boat where a large light was meant to attract them. Neither of us had much luck catching any using the fishing line and ‘fish’ like bait but just as we were about to give up Max had some luck and caught a small squid which inked all over his hand. Feeling sorry for it we threw it back and watched it swim away into the dark waters.
The next morning we missed the 6am sunrise as we didn’t fancy waking up so early but Max’s parents made the effort. Max enjoyed a buffet breakfast whilst I spent more time in the comfortable luxurious bed. By 8am we were ready to jump on a boat to visit Surprise Cave located at the top of a long climb of steps. It was a nice long cave but after having visited Paradise Cave in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park it’s hard to find something to match up to it so unfortunately it didn’t impress us as much but nevertheless was worth a visit.
There are many caves in the Halong Bay area and just twenty years ago another cave was discovered by a langur hunter. The view from the exit of this cave was a highlight as it overlooked the bay and all the cruise boats which is a signature picture of Halong Bay. Following this we relaxed on the deck and had brunch as it made it’s way back to the port for a 10:30am arrival.
The minivan was awaiting our arrival and we left promptly after receiving our luggage. On the drive back we stopped once again at the tapestry shop to have tea.