Vacay in Vietnam Part 1: Ha long Bay Overnight Stay
I thought I'd kick off the Vietnam blog series with one of the most beautiful places JD and I have ever visited, Ha long Bay!
Many of my friends and even some of the tour guides during our trip stated that a trip to Vietnam is nothing without a pit-stop at Ha long Bay (a UNESCO World Heritage site). If you've never heard of this spot, I hope after reading this that you'll consider adding it to your lists of places to see!
We booked our trip through Trip Advisor and planned to go after a full day of getting acquainted in Hanoi. This 2 day, 1 night trip was one of the most unique excursions we took during our stay! A coach bus picked us up early from our hotel; the ride was about 4 1/2 hours with a stop on the way for a break and a chance to grab snacks. There are no hotels or bungalows throughout most of the bay which meant that our home for the night would be on board a traditional junk boat! (The name has nothing to do with it's stability rating) The junk boat was owned by a local company (Royal Palace Cruises), and built using beautiful dark cherry wood, and even had dragons engraved. Fun fact: Ha Long means descending dragon.
We were welcome aboard with eager waves and smiles from each crew member. There was even someone playing the drums, while another person threw rose petals at us while we went up the stairs! I guess they called it the Royal Palace cruise for a reason.
Rooms with a View
We were really impressed with the rooms we checked into! It was much more spacious than our boat stay in the Galapagos, and quite frankly bigger than our current bedroom in Seoul. The bedroom even included a mini-fridge, and it's own bathroom with a shower.
We had a great view of the bay outside our window as well.
Kayaking through the Bay
Day 1 consisted of cruising around and exploring the bay. We stopped at a pearl farm where we got to further explore the bay by kayak.
Kayaking through the bay is something we will not soon forget! It was really peaceful, and we got to see a couple of cool birds who were living among the rock formations.
As we kayaked around the farming area we could see a range of set-ups.It was neat to see how the Vietnamese workers organized the oyster farms. On deck we observed some of the workers trying to clean and extract the pearls too. Located inside the small building, we were given the chance to purchase jewellery featuring the harvested pearls for an amazing price.
Hiking and Swimming at Titop Island
After kayaking around, our boat made it's way to the popular TiTop Island. This small island was named after Ghermann Titov, who to the Vietnamese, was known as a former Soviet Union hero in the second World War. We did a short hike up the hill on the island and were met with amazing views.
The island was surrounded by the tall limestone karsts that jutted out. Various junk boats and small cruise boats speckled the waters. The water was so blue and perfect!
After getting some light exercise a couple of us decided to swim at the beach there. Others, played soccer or just hung out marvelling at the view.
The sun was going down so we headed back to our boat for the night. We were served dinner and got to enjoy a happy hour on the sundeck above. This is where JD and I enjoyed some liquid courage before practicing our Vietnamese skills, or lack thereof. After dinner a few of us awkwardly tried to Karaoke. Jd and I ditched soon after. It just wasn't the same noraebang vibes as in Seoul, and more importantly, no soju. A few of the people aboard even got to try squid fishing which is best done at nighttime. We felt really tired after the long day so we just relaxed. It was really peaceful at night looking out over the deck at all the other boats in the bay.
Early Morning Rise
For once in my life I was somewhat eager to wake up at 5:30am! For a change, I willingly woke up early to attend a 6:00am Tai Chi class on the sundeck of the boat. I had always wanted to try Tai Chi, and what better place than Ha long Bay? Jd and about half of the other guests opted to sleep in instead. One of the crew members had led the class. Afterwards, we got breakfast and got ready to head out for the day's excursion.
Exploring the Surprising Cave (Sung Sôt)
We took a brief ride to visit the largest cave in Ha long Bay, aptly named the Surprising Cave (Sung Sot Cave). Apparently, many of the limestone formations in the bay are hollowed by caves.
It was really neat to be able to walk inside and see the stalagmites and stalactite formations. These features are unique to the cave.
The cave was HUGE and well worth the small trek through. The cave is well lit, and is also well structured with comfortable steps.
Our tour guide got us there on the early side before many of the other boats arrived. If caves aren't your thing, the hike through is still worth it for the great views of the bay!
Once we finished at the caves, we got back on the boat to have our last lunch together. We also got to make our own spring rolls during a cooking demo. Sadly, it was time to head back to shore after. However, the boat ride back provided some much needed down time and a last chance to take in the panoramic views of the bay. Thankfully, Ha long Bay is a protected space with strict limits on development in the area. Ha long bay seemed for the most part untouched, and I hope it remains that way in the future. We were also feeling really grateful that the weather held out on us; no rain!
The scenery is seriously breathtaking so if you are planning a trip to Ha long Bay, I would recommend at least visiting for 2 days. We felt we honestly could've stayed a week. There are so many other islands and caves to explore in Ha long as well so it's worth taking your time. If being on a boat isn't your thing, I recommend taking motion sickness medicine and seeing it anyways ! The boats were never really too rocky and we had smooth rides. There are also bungalows you can stay in at Cat Ba Island. If you can really only go for a day trip, just plan on the visit being the only thing on your itinerary that day since the drive alone amounts to about 7hrs round trip.
After a particularly unhealthy air quality week in Seoul, I'm wishing we could go back to this place and take in some fresh air again.
Thank you all for checking this out! Please reach out with any questions or comments. I love hearing your feedback!
Here's hoping you get to experience Ha long bay soon! :)
If you want to see more photos, checkout my story highlights!
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