Before flying to Vietnam for our two week trip, we knew Halong Bay was going to cost more than the other 9 days of our trip combined. But we decided to go big, so we booked with Paradise Cruise, which is a more pricey company. This company offers cruises that take you far, far away from the congestion of the dock and immediate bays. Our cruise came with candlelit meals, kayaking, spelunking, beach lounging and exceptional food! Paradise also transferred us onto a small day boat that could take us where the larger, overnight boats are not allowed once we made it deep into the bay. We also chose to spend three days on the boat rather than taking a simple half-day tour. Further, we booked the nicest (and most expensive) cabin on the boat. All of those choices skyrocketed our bill.
However, I don't regret it one bit.
Our cabin had a very large deck that took up half of the bow of the boat. It came with two sun chairs and a table and the most amazing views. The two nights we spent lounging on deck watching the sunset and the stars made the price tag totally worth it. Likewise, we didn't bat an eye at the cost when we watched two sunrises while sipping coffee from our private deck.
The other rooms on board either had very small and cramped side balconies or no balcony at all. On the very top of the vessel was a large area with a bunch of chairs so everyone with those rooms could still lounge and enjoy the view, however, I like my privacy and I didn't really want to share those moments with 20 random strangers.
Our cabin also came with great amenities, and we seriously had the experience of a life time. When we go back to Halong Bay, we will totally spend that much again to have another great experience!
Because I was so happy to find my pictures after two years of them being missing-in-action, I am going to share them with you in three parts. The first part, this part, is all about that beautiful green-blue water and the tall crags that myths attribute to dragons. The second installment will be all about our adventures kayaking and spelunking (and monkey spotting). The last will be all about sunrises & sunsets (it is my favorite in the series).
So stay tuned for snippets of paradise coming soon!
- The drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay is going to take a lot longer than you think. Our van ride took a little less than 5 hours when it should have taken 3.5. The road conditions are not great, and neither are Vietnamese driving skills. I white knuckled it the entire time. Our driver drove in the middle of the two lane road at high speeds for the entire time, often passing cars on dangerous corners or stretches of highway. Also, our driver stopped at two shopping areas trying to get everyone to purchase stuff. I am sure he got some percentage of whatever his van load paid. Overall, it was a pretty rough trip out to the bay. I'm not even sure taking a taxi would improve the overall driving experience.
- Many, many cruisers were very displeased with the procedure for embarking. Luckily, since our cruise was more expensive, we got to skip this hassle. People easily waited in a cramped room for 2-3 hours before getting to step onto their boats. Overall, if you booked a less than luxury cruise, be prepared to wait a long time after actually arriving at the dock.
Check out Travel Tuesday for more travel stories!