This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Vietnams most iconic features and understandably a very popular tourist destination. Situated in Quang Ninh Province it is easily accessible from Hanoi. The only way to visit this magnificent bay is via cruise, whether it be a day, overnight or a weeks voyage. From the top deck you are able to enjoy the breath taking seascape of endless limestone karsts. The two day one night Bhaya Classic Junk Boat was our cruise of choice.
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
There were various activities available such as visiting caves, hopping onto a local’s bamboo boat and paddling around the floating villages or simply enjoying a relaxing kayak or canoeing trip around the bay. Visiting the local floating village of Cua Van was one of my highlights. We were paddled around by a local wearing his traditional straw hat. Young children played around, confined to their floating home or boats and locals sold goods from their small paddle boats loaded up with fresh fruit and vegetables. These brightly coloured clusters of homes were beautiful and the Karst backdrop created a very picturesque scenery.
It was moving to witness the daily lives of these local Vietnamese families. 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. With an incredibly basic lifestyle and so little available to them it was inspiring to see them all so happy!
Four floating houses congregated in front of one of the breathtaking karsts…beautiful colours!
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.
We watched the sunset lowering behind the boats with their sails flying high from the top deck. That night we enjoyed a Springroll cooking class at the restaurant before a lovely five course meal. The entertainment for the night was 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 e were ready to jump on a boat to visit Surprise Cave at 8am. It was a nice large 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 only twenty years ago a 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.