Monday, October 14, 2013

Hanoi Day 2-3: Ha Long Bay Cruise

Day 2 and 3 is dedicated to the Ha Long Bay Cruise. If you went to Hanoi then you should definitely do this Cruise. Ha Long Bay <aka Descending Dragon Bay> is a very well known destination in Hanoi, it is a bay surrounded by a lot of big limestone formations. It reminds me a lot of our very own Coron here in the Philippines. But to get to this place you have to travel about 5 hours via bus from the city proper.  We purchased an all inclusive overnight tour from Halong Poseidon Sail via, PHP 4000. It includes the hotel pickup and dropoff, full board meals except drinks, island hopping activities, and accommodation. 

Van that picked us up at the hotel
Our day started with us being picked up from the hotel by coaster van at 7 AM. Then we went ahead and picked up the other people who will join us for this tour, some were doing a day tour while others are doing an overnight tour. The travel lasted for about 4 hours with our guide explaining to us the different things we say in Hanoi. One very cool fact he shared was that the reason why there are a lot of mini wall structures in the city was because it was used to keep the water outside the city; but when Hanoi created its dam... the walls were kept as a decoration. Then another was great bridge known to be admired by a very famous bridge-maker before. It was a good ride, weather was cooperating. 

Nice sights along the way
Dropped by a local factory for some souvenirs

Upon arriving at the docks, we then waited for us tour guide to come back from purchasing our boat tickets. There were a lot of mini boats docked around the port. When our guide came back with our boat tickets, he rode a small boat to take us to our "accommodating" ship. The ride took us 1 hour. The boat purchased was a 3 star boat and PHP 4000 is not bad of a price for the experience we had. Our group was 8 people, and the boat can accommodate only up to 12 people.... we were together with some guests from Vietnam and Germany. We had 4 rooms in total each with 2 single beds; the rooms were exceptionally clean and spaced the right way, the toilet and shower were nice too. We were given a few minutes to unpack then was told to meet at the dining area for our lunch, it was a SHARED plated meal so everything was served to us. It was quite decent for a ship meal. All beverages weren't included and you have to pay at least $1 for a drink.The only thing I did not appreciate was that the "staff" kept cleaning out plates and dishes even before you are done with them, so you have to stop them or else by the time you look at your sides...everything is GONE.
Boat that took us to our junk ship
Our beautiful junk ship

Rooms and dining area

Some views
Afterwards we rested for a bit on the ship deck and took pictures of the lovely view. Then after a few hours, we were called to "dress up" for our island hopping, sung sot cave hike and kayaking.  The island hopping was nice, we did see a lot of different islands but nothing spectacular. I cannot help but compare this caving experience with that of my Sagada trip, and I prefer our very own Sagada on a long shot. We then ended the afternoon with some free time to do kayaking, we were given 1-2 hours to roam around the parking boat area. I managed to wound myself here by not looking at the boat on my decent. :( It was painful and I still have a small scar. It was almost 6 PM when we arrived back to the ship. We cleaned up and prepared for dinner. But before that our tour guide asked us to meet him up deck, there he showed us how to make the traditional Vietnamese spring roll. It was fairly easy since all ingredients have been prepared beforehand. We only had to get the ingredients and place them on the paper and roll. Then dinner was ready. It was different from the usual food served, as it was our last night on board...the captain prepared a special meal for us. There were fresh shrimps cooked right in front of us via hot stones. After dinner, there were some "jellyfish catching" activities but it ended up as a failure since it was not the season for that. So my friends and I just hanged out on the upper deck to just chill under the stars, while being surrounded by the big rocks and kissed by the evening breeze. Some people drank beer, but us... we just talked and appreciated each others' stories. 

Morning came and I decided to wake up early to just absorb and experience the wonder of Ha Long Bay, so I went up the upper deck and took out my iPhone 4S to capture its beauty. <Note: All photos are owned by Learning to Compute. But thanks for the love.> The view and air was simply breathtaking and I can just stay there whole day if it wasn't for the stinging rays of the sun. Besides, breakfast was calling. Breakfast was bread, eggs, fruits, and coffee. 

A panoramic shot from the upper deck
Chillin' like me
Sturdy mast
My big rock from last night
Some junks
After breakfast, we were asked by the captain/tour guide for the day if we wanted to hike or to swim. Being the land lover that I am, I immediately said HIKE. My friends decided to join me. We were asked to pack up and moved to a smaller boat. Off we sailed to a small island that has a tiny "pagoda" on top. See images below, so we hiked for 45 minutes.
What we are hiking, look on top

Morning Hike

Hiked for the view

Wonder of Nature = Ha Long Bay
After the hike, we went back to the ship to pack up all our things and shower. Had our last lunch on board and we just waited at the upper deck until our ship was back where we started. So the PHP4000 we paid covered all meals, accommodation and the transportation back to Hanoi City via BUS.
Last Lunch
Its very reasonable right? Based on the quick narration above, you can clearly see that it was worth it. I would definitely do this again for a day. Ha Long Bay is very breathtaking, its very nice and just relaxing on the bay was surreal. An overnight stay for me is perfect, anything more than that will be boring. Try it out and visit Ha Long Bay. I'm sure you will love it as much too. 

Happy tripping. 

Read about my first day in Hanoi here: