Thousands of stunning limestone islands and emerald waters make up this beautiful UNESCO world heritage site. Halong translates to ‘descending dragon’, the name stems from legend that saw a mystical dragon descend into the sea then charge back towards the coast, its tail carving out valleys and crevasses in the process and when the dragon dove back into the sea this area filled with water leaving visible the towering limestone pinnacles you see today!
Halong Bay is about a 3 ½ hr drive from Hanoi, we booked with Stellar Cruises and our package included transport to and from Halong Bay, an overnight cruise including accommodation, activities and meals. I was a bit apprehensive about spending a night on the water opposed to just a day cruise as I get motion sickness but I had to take the risk, as spending only a few hours on the water to experience such a surreal place seemed pointless! Luckily for me the bay was extremely calm and they don’t actually keep sailing overnight, instead the boat is anchored out in the bay and stays in the same spot until the next morning.
After checking in onto our boat (which was the biggest of the Stellar fleet with 24 cabins) we had about thirty minutes to check out our cabins and freshen up before lunch. I was thinking the accommodation would be quite average but to my surprise our cabin was very cute and modern, furnished well and we even had a little balcony!
Unfortunately we probably chose the worst time of the year to experience Halong Bay, we had miserable weather, it was always grey and overcast with a constant hazy mist spread across the scenic landscape. This didn’t stop us from sitting out on the deck or exploring though! Our first activity for the afternoon was on a bamboo boat, we were taken along the bay to the floating village. The bay isn’t overly populated or anything like that but there are small fishing communities that live out on the water.
After an afternoon of exploring we were taken back to our boat and were invited onto the top deck for a sunset party before dinner, there was complimentary wine and tropical fruit and good company! Although we were unable to actually watch the sunset it was great to relax and unwind and meet some lovely people.
Dinner was amazing, five courses of traditional Vietnamese cuisine and our dietary requirements were taken care of! We were amongst such great food and company that I totally forgot to take any photos, sorry!…Except of dessert which was actually a let-down…a tiny cooked banana, with a drizzle of chocolate sauce! After dinner we went and sat out on the deck and admired the night sky before heading to our cabin for the night.
The next morning we got ready for an early Tai Chi session, it was the perfect way to start our final day on the bay. We sat outside while having breakfast, the crisp morning air lapping our faces. Talk about breakfast with a view!
After breakfast we were taken to Sung Sot (Surprising Cave) on Bo Hon Island, it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful and widest caves in the bay. The trek to the cave is a little steep but well worth it, the entrance lies 25m above sea level and makes for a great op. The cave itself really is beautiful and full of amazing stalactites and stalagmites.
When we returned to the boat we checked out of our cabin and were invited to watch a cooking demonstration before lunch. One of the chefs demonstrated how to make animals and decorations out of vegetables before showing us how to make traditional spring rolls.
Sanjay and I reminisced about our short time at Halong over lunch en route to the dock. Even though we didn’t have the best weather there was something mysterious, magical even, about being in the bay amongst the mist and haze. It was a beautiful experience that we’ll always remember, our only regret was not staying longer. If you have the time, stay an extra day or two and really make the most of the truly epic Halong Bay.
Happy Travels, Priti x