Ha Long Bay Tours
A trip to Ha Long Bay is definitely recommended as one of the must-do activities in all of the guidebooks on Vietnam. SoI had to check it out for myself.
Ha Long Bay Tours – how Many Days?
Ha Long Bay can be a day trip from Hanoi, a two day/ one night trip, or even a three-day trip. Ask around a number of travel agents about the tours that they offer and bargain for the best price (yes it is quite alright to bargain with the travel agent in their shop).
Ha Long Bay Tours – Ticket Inclusions
The price of your ticket will include transportation (a few hours from Hanoi by bus), the entrance fee to Ha Long Bay itself, kayaking for a short time around a small area of the bay as well as some food. Drinks are expensive on board and the food in my experience was not overly great, so I would recommend anyone taking this trip to pack some bottles of water and some of your favourite snacks in a day pack the day before you depart (as the bus trip is long and the stops along the way are a bit hit and miss in regards to food).
Ha Long Bay Tours – I Opted for A Day Trip
I opted to do the one day trip, which was a long day but I was glad I chose the one day as I was not a huge fan of the bay itself, or the boat, or the tour in general. The morning pick up from the hotel was early, and we were left Hanoi by 7 am in a minivan, fighting our way out of the city amongst a crazed and chaotic motorbike filled morning traffic. The day starts early in Vietnam that's for sure.
There was one toilet stop along the way, which was at a souvenir shop, that also sold lollies and some drinks. Prices here were definitely not aimed at the ‘backpacker' crowd that is for sure.
Once we arrived at the big pier and departed the minibus, we were amongst thousands of travellers from all walks of life, all scuttling around following their tour leader to find the right boat to board. Large groups of Chinese tourists, older couples, big groups of loud backpackers with beers in hand ready for a ‘party cruise', school groups and everyone else in between. The pier sure is a busy place.
Ha Long Bay Tours – the Boats
We boarded our boat, a small group of girls aged 20-28. The boat was a double story, with restaurant-style tables and chairs filling the covered lower section and some sun lounges up the stairs on the top section. The boats have toilets that are clean and had soap and toilet paper (if you have been travelling through Asia for a while you will get excited about things like this too!).
Ha Long Bay Tours – the Sights
On the one day trip, we stopped at a small fishing floating village that was nestled between some of Ha Long Bays huge rock islands. After visiting the village we all were given life jackets and moved into smaller wooden rowboats and were taken through a cave area and into a closed-off area of the sea surrounded by the rock formations. After this, we boarded the boat again and had lunch while viewing the huge rock formations, vegetation and ocean around us.
Ha Long Bay Tours – Lunch
Lunch was a mixture of rice, fish, stir-fried vegetables, a fried tofu dish and a chicken fried dish. We sat in groups of around five people and shared a large plate of each of these dishes at each table. I was lucky being the only vegetarian in the group that most other people at the table chose to eat the meat-based dishes so there was plenty of tofu and vegetables for me. If you are a vegetarian, you could politely inform the tour guide once on the boat so he can ensure you do not miss out.
Ha Long Bay Tours – Kayaking
After lunch, we stopped at another smaller floating fishing village and were able to do some kayaking if we wished. This was done in pairs, and life jackets were supplied. Most of the people who took part in kayaking ended up fairly wet from all the splashes from their ores but soon dried out in Vietnams hot sunny weather.
After this, it was back to the pier to wait for our bus to arrive. At the pier, there is an ATM, some small restaurants and a small convenience store, with everything from drinks to biscuits, chips and noodles (although the prices are much higher than in Hanoi), so if you are hungry it is a good idea to get something here if you have time for the bus trip back to Hanoi.
Ha Long Bay Tours – Getting Back to Hanoi
By the time we reached Hanoi, it was dark, and I was tired. It was good to see local Vietnamese people going about their daily life either on their way to work on motorbikes, or working on their farms that we passed on our way. The one day tour sure is a very long day, but it suited my preferences and was US$17. I had seen this same tour advertised for many different prices so I think it comes down to what company is taking the tour and what travel agent is selling it to you.
There are other companies that aim for a party cruise type overnight trip. If this is more your style and you are looking for a booze-filled time onboard then ask around at hostels and travel agents to find a cruise that suits what you are looking for.
Ha Long Bay. Worth a look.