Halong Bay – the highlight of our time in Vietnam without question.
We arrived in Hanoi on the train just after 4am and went to Classic II Hotel for a sleep, shower and breakfast before heading off to Halong Bay. After a night on the train the 3.5hr drive to Halong Bay was tiring but we made it and were whisked off onto our boat, the Victory run by Bai Tho Junks.
Bai Tho Junks are one of the more luxuries cruise operators in Halong Bay. The kind of boat that retiree’s generally book, not backpacker families! Thank fully everyone on board was very friendly and didn’t seem to mind two noisy children crashing the party. The staff were also wonderful, particularly the cruise manager who went to great lengths to make the kids laugh. The boat can hold up to 46 passengers but thankfully for us it was only half full. We were really happy to see that the boat bought all its waste back to shore, rather than dumping into the bay like some operators.
Halong Bay lived up to its poetic reputation. A month could be spent exploring the 2000 mysterious jagged limestone pinnacles half drowned by glass like green waters and hidden bays, and still not see it all. In Vietnamese, Halong bay translates to Bay of the Descending Dragon. Cruising the bay from a classic junk it’s easy to imagine the karst islands, filled with fissures, caves and hidden beaches as the playground of dragons.
Our trip started with 4 hours of cruising around Halong Bay, dining on a 6-course seafood lunch. I?d forgotten to let anyone know I couldn?t eat seafood but thankfully they were able to arrange alternative courses for me at the last minute. Cooper – Colin and Noah took this picture of crabs for you…
After lunch we pulled up at a fishing village near Sung Sot cave with what felt like half the other boats on Halong Bay, and made our way up the stairs into the cave past all the floating snack stalls. The cave was monstrous and great fun to explore. The villagers living outside the cave lived inside it once upon a time, before opting to live on the water.
The view from the cave was well worth the climb…
Afterwards we returned to the boat and moved to a nearby bay with all the other junks. The only disappointing part of our trip was the tendency for this cruise to stick with all the other operators. We would have like more time exploring by ourselves.
A leisurely afternoon was spent swimming in the bay, with Colin and Wilson jumping from the back of the junk. The kids had an early sunset dinner specially prepared for them and went to bed, leaving us to enjoy our night on the bay.
The following morning we headed to a beach for swimming, rolling tyres down the beach and beach volleyball with the staff from a number of boats, before cruising back to the mainland. One night wasn’t enough but it was better than nothing. If you like cruising in style than Bai Tho junks were fantastic. The staff were wonderful with kids. Of course we would have preferred a little more time away from the hoards.
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We’d love to go back again. Next time we?ll try MummyT’s suggestions for heading to Cat Ba Island and using her tour operator. Sound like the perfect trip with young children… although we can’t complain too much about ours.