Ha Long Bay – 2 Day, 1 Night Tour
Ha Long Bay is truly amazing. Being designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994 and more recently being named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, Ha Long Bay should definitely be on your ‘must see’ list for South East Asia. The area consists of around 2000 prominent limestone islets rising out of the gleaming turquoise, Gulf of Tonkin waters.
We decided while we were in Hanoi that we would book a Ha Long tour through our hostel – Central Backpackers. The hostel offers two tours; 2-days, 1-night and 3-days, 2-nights. We went for the 2-days, 1-night tour, at a cost of $89 each. In hindsight, we would have definitely gone for the longer tour because it was such a brilliant couple of days, a lot better than expected. The tour was with a company called ‘Ha Long Party Cruises’. A bit cheesy at times, but definitely recommended!!
The day began with an early start, at 8 am in the morning we were picked up by our coach to make our way to Ha Long Bay. After a few stops at other hostels around Hanoi, we were on our way. The drive took around 3-4 hours in total, which seemed a lot longer with all the terrible Vietnamese music that was played by the coach driver, not to mention the cheesy jokes made by the tour guide (which thankfully did stop after around 20 minutes).
We arrived at Ha Long Bay at around 12 pm and after a few minutes of sorting tickets, we made our way to our boat. It’s probably a good idea to stock up on beers and bottles of spirits from the shop nearby before you set off to the boat. The boat did have a bar, so they mentioned to us all, that if anyone has brought alcohol they must put it behind the bar and pay a service charge. That was fair enough I suppose, paying the service charge was a lot cheaper than buying drinks on the boat, however, the majority of people just kept it in their rooms and filled up their drinks every so often.
The first thing we did when we got on the boat was to sort out who was in which cabin, we ended up in a double cabin on the lower deck, which was basic as you’d expect, but it wasn’t too bad and it was en-suite.
After all the cabins were sorted, we had an amazing lunch. You definitely will not go hungry on this tour! We had an absolute feast. There was about 6 of us on each table and they carried on bringing plates of food out from the kitchen and just as we thought they had brought all the food out, more food was carried out!
After we were absolutely stuffed from lunch we made our way to the ‘Heavenly Palace Cave’. The cave was somewhat of a disappointment, especially after going caving near Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng. Heavenly Cave had obviously been modified for tourists, from young children to the elderly. There was a man-made concrete path all the way through the cave with concrete steps and they’d even made a turtle shaped concrete rock in the cave. It’s more than likely you’ll get a tour guide that will attempt to make several cheesy jokes about the rocks. It was like our tour guide was sexually frustrated, with all the innuendos he was making. He was actually an alright guy though.
After ‘caving’ (not too sure whether it can be called caving or not), we went kayaking, which was a huge contrast from the cave, this is exactly what we wanted to do, explore the natural untouched Ha Long Bay. We kayaked into a huge lagoon and through a limestone tunnel to explore Ba Hang floating village. Kayaking lasted about an hour, which flew by. For that hour we were in awe of the towering limestone which surrounded us.
With the cave and kayaking ticked off, we made our way back onto the boat for the night. We relaxed on the top of the boat while dinner was prepared for us, which was another huge feast! Then we settled in for a night of heavy drinking and jumping off the boat. I can honestly say, the night on that boat was one absolutely fantastic. I suppose your night on the boat will depend on the people you’re with, luckily for us, we were with a great group of people.
The following day, we woke up at around 8 am, very hungover! Everyone said they were going to get up for sunrise, which would have been great to see, at 5.30am. Not surprisingly, judging by my own hangover, no one got up at that time.
After breakfast, as most people went for the 3 days, 2 nights tour, it was time to say goodbye to the majority of people as they made their way to an island to stay the night on the beach. We said bye to them and lay on the top of the boat nursing our hangovers for most of the morning. Some others that had just spent the night on the beach came onto the boat and the boat workers showed us how to make spring rolls, then we had a go ourselves. After that, it was a gigantic pile of spring rolls for lunch.
At around 1 pm, it was time to make our way back to the pier and then back to Hanoi. Not before one last leaving present from the tour company, as we got on the smaller boat to go back to the pier, someone saw a rat on it. I’m guessing the locals are probably used to rats, as the boat driver took this shoe off and whacked the rat with it, half killing it, then got it off the boat holding its tail and dangling in front of everyone, perfect when you’ve got a hangover.
All in all, the Ha Long tour with Ha long Party Cruises was absolutely brilliant! I couldn’t recommend this tour company enough, don’t get me wrong they weren’t perfect, but that’s to be expected, we were in Vietnam after all. We arrived back in Hanoi at 5 pm, still hungover and dreading a night train to Hue, which awaited us.