Nov 26, 2017

Vietnam Travelogue: The Breathtaking Beauty Of Halong Bay.

Visiting Halong Bay, a UNESCO Heritage Site and also one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, was definitely one of the highlights of my Vietnam vacation. It was my first time on board a cruise and I had a wonderful experience at sea.

In every single trip I go for, I try to search for a wow-moment. It's quite difficult for me to describe this feeling in words, but it's sort of like a small voice in my heart that goes - hey! I'm finally here

In my recent trip to Beijing, my wow-moment came while I was climbing The Great Wall, overlooking the amazing sights of what holds beneath. In this trip, my wow-moment was during my first kayaking experience at Luon Cave, a scenic adventure not to be missed.

Traveling Time
I traveled to Hanoi & Halong Bay on the 28th Oct - 31st Oct 2017. I spend 2 days in Hanoi and 2 days in Halong Bay. On the 29th, I went on a 2D1N Halong Bay Cruise experience. The temperature in Halong Bay hovered at 23°C during the day. No jackets were required.

Read Part 1 of my Vietnam Travelogue: Exploring The Streets Of Hanoi.

Halong Bay Cruise Experience
At about a week prior to my trip, I booked a Halong Bay 2D1N Discovery Cruise (Deluxe) excursion, via, at RM450.00/person, for a twin shared room. All food (apart from beverages) and expenses were covered as part of the cruise. Tip: Bring extra bottles of water.

The cruise that I took was the Halong Phoenix Cruiser.

Halong Bay Tour
Day 1: Kayaking at Luon Cave / Sunset at Titop Island
Day 2: Hiking up Sung Sot (Surprising Cave) / Vietnamese cooking class

Photographs in this write-up was shot using Panasonic Lumix GF1 20mm f1.7 pancake lens, and Samsung S7 Edge.

*The holiday was paid for on my own. None of the travel experience was sponsored in this post*

It was a 4-hour long bus ride to Halong Bay. We were picked up from our hostel in Hanoi at 8am and chauffeured on a 30-seater coach, all the way to Halong Bay. The agenda included Hanoi-Halong Bay transfers, as part of the cruise package I pre-booked before. Luckily for us, we had a really jolly tour guide which made a seemingly uninteresting bus ride, much more enjoyable overall.

Upon arrival at the bay, we traveled across the bay on a boat before boarding the Halong Phoenix Cruiser, where we stayed for the night. Though amenities were average and food were mediocre, I enjoyed my first cruise excursion very much. The English speaking tour guide provided great hospitality.

On a side note, we were also told that the Dragon Cruise was the most popular and possibly the best cruise ship in Halong Bay. Though I'd usually prefer a smaller group and a more customized agenda, I'd liked to go on that cruise one fine day.

We checked into our rooms and had quick lunch after that. 

We had plenty of time to spare after lunch, so we went up to the deck, which offered spectacular views of Halong Bay.

The first agenda of the trip was Kayaking at Luon Cave, where I had my first wow-moment of the trip. 

Sadly for me however, no photographs were taken of my kayaking experience. It was my first time kayaking and I didn't want to risk dropping my phone into the great ocean. I will always remember the amazing feeling of familiarity nevertheless. 

Shortly after that, we were dropped off at Ti Top Island, where we went on a 427-step climb up the peak, and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in awhile. 

It was about 6pm when we departed back to our cruise for dinner. Dinner consisted of selected dishes of crustacean, meat and vegetables.

It was an undeniably fantastic first day at Halong Bay. We were tired and wanted conserve energy for the next, thus we decided to call it an early night-in, at about 10pm, in the best attempt to catch the sunrise at 5am the next day. 

In October, at Halong Bay, sunsets at around 6pm and sunrises at 6am.

After breakfast, we ventured into Hang Sung Sot, also known as the Surprising Cave, for a geology adventure. To be honest however, everything looked quite the same after awhile.

Outside the cave. There were plenty of scenic views to photograph also.

The last agenda of the tour was a hands on experience of learning how to make deep fried rice paper rolls. It was nice to be able to be able to spend some indoor time with the rest of the cruise mates. We enjoyed our handmade paper rolls for lunch after that.

It was about 2pm when we packed up and longingly left Halong Bay, traveling some 180km back to Hanoi.

The entire cruise excursion was a wonderful experience and it was an amazing, being able to appreciate mother nature's natural beauty in all it's glory. I would definitely recommend staying at least one night at Halong Bay, better still, if there's enough headcount, book the entire cruise for a more intimate staycation.

And no - I did not bump into King Kong nor James Bond throughout my trip.

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