Sunday, April 17, 2016

cruising halong bay, part I: that green water & those towering dragons

Our three day, two night cruise through Halong Bay in Vietnam is hands down the most expensive adventure we have ever undertaken while on a vacation. Our three days cost us $1,200 USD. I know. That's an ungodly amount of money for three days. However, you can cruise Halong Bay for much cheaper. Our price tag was so high for three reasons: the company we chose, the duration of the cruise and the room we booked.

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!

NOTE:
  • 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! 

12 comments

  1. Wow it looks like an amazing cruise! I lived in Hanoi for some years during the 90s and went to Halong Bay several times but there was nothing like this boat back then. How wonderful to splurge on such luxury, I'd like to think I'd do the same. One thing that hasn't changed in 20 years is the drive. It's crazy that it still takes so long from Hanoi. #TravelTuesday

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    1. That drive. Next to my experience driving from Siem Reap to the border of Thailand, it has to be the worse drive I've ever had in Asia! And that's saying something!

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  2. Your pics are fabulous! I spent about a week in Vietnam and never made it Halong Bay. I regret it so much!

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    1. Halong Bay is the entire reason we went to Vietnam in the first place. However, I very much enjoyed our time in Hanoi and Saigon!

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  3. The pictures are gorgeous! Even though it cost more it looks like your cabin was well-worth it especially if you got an entire half of the bow to look out from! :)

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    1. I know, right? I was ready to move in :)

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  4. I've never been to Vietnam, but it's close to the top of my list! A lot of Asia is actually! The room might have been expensive, but boy is it lovely! Most of my cruise ship rooms have been little boxes with bunk beds and a bathroom. That balcony is to die for :D

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    1. I really enjoyed our time in Vietnam! And, after living in Asia for nearly four years, I can confirm that it is pretty awesome!!

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  5. This is just gorgeous! I would love to visit Vietnam, I heard it's such a beautiful place for scenery...on the bucket list! Thanks for sharing!

    Valerie
    #traveltuesday

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    1. Halong Bay was kinda like entering a fairy tale. It was that pretty.

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  6. Sometimes spending the money can really make a huge difference! It's perfect when you know it was worth it! Beautiful photos from a beautiful place and trip. Can't wait to hear more! Thanks for linking up with us on Travel Tuesday!

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    1. Yeah, money really can make a huge difference. We have learned when to indulge and when to cut back. Halong Bay should definitely be an indulgence.

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