A few years ago, I have this part-time job of writing online articles. One of the topics I wrote was about Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, never did I imagine that I will see it in person one day! All I did before was rely on Google to get information about this popular UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Huyen, the helpful front desk staff of the Santa Barbara Hotel in Hanoi, helped us book a day tour to Ha Long Bay. At first, she handed us a catalogue where we can choose which travel agency to book. There were a lot on it so we asked her which is better. She then suggested a trusted agency as it is cheap and said they provide good services. I can’t remember the name of the agency, my bad. We paid $42/person which included: the coach (back and forth), day tour cruise, lunch and ticket to see Thien Cung Cave.
We were informed to wait at the entrance of the hotel around 8:00 AM for the coach to pick us up. The next day, the coach was on time. When we boarded, it went to different hotels to pick up the other guests booked for the tour that day. The travel time from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay was approximately 4 hours. The tour has provided a guide who speaks English well. He narrated the folklore of Ha Long Bay that kept us entertained for a while.
After a few hours of travelling, we had a stopover in a craft shop where tourists can buy things and see how crafts are being made. The guide told us that some workers in this shop are people with disability. This was the beginning of my shopping spree in Vietnam!
Aside from the hand-made fabric products, the shop also sells jewelries, lacquer items, figurines and many more. The also have good quality shawl items. If you are hungry, there is also a grocery shop in the area. Plus, a toilet room if needed.
We arrived in our destination around 1:00 PM. There were a lot of tourists waiting to hop on to one of the boats and start the cruise. We were told to follow our guide who was holding a flag so we can still follow him. We boarded on a boat which is far from my expectation. I expected a boat like the Red Dragon Junk as what I always see in their tourist sites! Most boats I saw were just like the usual ones.
When we boarded the boat, we searched for a table where we can sit down and relax. We were accompanied by a European couple and 2 women (I believed were Malaysian and Vietnamese). The tables have already been prepared for lunch. I haven’t taken photos as I was really hungry and just wanted to eat. It was also my first time to try the Vietnamese spring rolls which I really love. This dish is what I always order in restaurants in Vietnam and my favorite next to Pho!
After we had our lunch, we were told we’re free to get out of the room and go to the front part of the boat to get a better view. The view was quite picturesque! The bay is worth to be recognized as a world heritage site.
The boat stopped to a fishing village where we transferred to a smaller boat, for a fee, and delved into different lagoons where we can see a much better view. We were also told to wear life jackets for safety purposes. If you opt to go kayaking, there are available kayaks for a fee.
After visiting the different lagoons, we we went back to our boat and continued the cruise. The last stop of the cruise that day was Thien Cung Cave.
We just kept on climbing to reach the entrance. Honestly, it was really tiring. You can’t just give up because the exit is on the other side of the island! So you just have to keep on walking or else you will be left alone. When we got in the cave, it was really big with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. There were lights that highlight the different rock formations. The guide explained to us the different formations and the folklore behind it.
After the trip in Thien Cung Cave, we went back to the boat and headed back. We spent 4 hours for the entire day tour cruise and another 4 hours going back to Hanoi. It was a very tiring day but we were glad we have availed the day tour cruise as it was truly a great experience.
If you plan to visit Hanoi, the day tour cruise in Ha long Bay is so worth it!
Hanoi to Ha Long Bay — approximately 4 hours
Ha Long Bay cruise (fishing village, lagoons, Thien Cung cave) — 4 hours
Ha Long Bay to Hanoi — approximately 4 hours