2 day- 1 night 5 star cruise for $150? Sounds good to me. Halong Bay is close to Hanoi and it’s basically a huge bay full of beautiful limestone cliffs. Originally we booked our cruise with Cristina Diamond Cruises (A 3 star cruise) and about a week before our trip they emailed me saying that they upgraded us for free to a different boat, Viola Cruises owned by the same company but it is a 4-5 star cruise. The pictures look amazing and we are so excited to experience a different side to Vietnam!
So we woke up early yesterday and got ready for the day and packed up our bags again. We went upstairs and had a buffet breakfast which was included with our room. It was so good and I filled up on fresh croissants and gouda cheese 😁.
We were picked up right on schedule in a big bus and we rode about 2 hours to our first stop. The bus was very jerky and bumpy! At one point I decided to lay down on the big empty back seat and about 10 minutes later we hit a huge bump and the driver slammed on the brakes and I fell on the floor LOL. Me and dad got a good laugh out of that. We stopped at a big market/store half way and stocked up on some drinks and snacks for the boat.
We got back in the bus and on the next half of the drive our tour guide shared some great information about his country and culture. Some of the highlights were that the north of Vietnam, where we are, is the only place that was affected by the war. They also have 4 seasons like us unlike the south where there is only the wet and dry seasons. In the south they spend money and don’t care because they are safe and always have work. Up here in the north they are very protective of their money and save a lot because in the winter they do not have work, and also the effects of the war still last and they always fear for tomorrow. They also only use cash so that spending is not tracked by the government, when they buy a house or car they usually use cash only. Pretty interesting. He also spoke about worshipping their ancestors and when they have sons, everything is passed down to them in the same ancestry. A daughter marries and worships her husband’s ancestors. The houses here are so narrow because they share land with their sons. If they have 4 sons, the house has to be divided into 5 sections, one for them and one for each son and their family. Because of this, they build the houses narrow, deep and tall to make the most out of the land they own. He also mentioned that a house never has an even number of rooms, always odd numbers. This is because odd numbers represent luck and prosperity. The number 4 represents their life (birth, growing up, getting old and death), so that is why every pagoda has 3 or 5 doors and when they burn incense it is always an odd number of sticks that they burn. Pretty interesting stuff!!
As we were getting closer to the pier, the landscape changed to beautiful mountains in the distance.
At 11:45am my fitbit buzzed and said I hit my 8000 step goal even though I’ve only been sitting on a bus all morning. That’s how bumpy it was !! 😂 We got to the pier and there were cruise ships everywhere. We got into a little boat and they drove us to the Viola boat.
There were 20 people staying on this boat and our tour guide (still have no idea what his name is) checked us all in and gave us room keys then he went through our itinerary for the day. We went and checked out our rooms and got settled and then a buffet lunch was served.
Here are a first few looks of Halong Bay. It is very hard to choose which pictures to use because they are all so amazing.
Our afternoon activities began with taking a small boat to a fishing village named Vung Vieng. You could choose to either kayak or one of the locals can row you around in a small bamboo boat. We opted for the boat even though kayaking would have been awesome, but we didn’t trust ourselves with kayaking. We took a ride through the bay and this was my absolute favourite part of the cruise. It was the most peaceful hour of my life. Barely anyone spoke, we just glided through all of the limestone cliffs and took in the beauty of the bay. We rode past people’s houses on the water, fishing boats, and some other small buildings. Little jellyfish were floating by the boat everywhere. Everything was amazing. We were also the first boat to leave and me and dad got to sit in the front of the boat so it literally felt like we were the only ones there and that made it so much cooler.
We then were brought to a Pearl Farm where we learned how pearls are made from oysters. It’s amazing how long it takes and listening to the process and seeing an oyster get cracked open was really neat.
Dad wouldn’t buy me a 16,000$ pearl necklace so I made a doggy friend instead :). Next stop was the beach! We got to Ban Chan Beach and walked up some steps to find this beautiful little bay hidden between the cliffs. We stepped into the water and it was the perfect temperature. Very carefully we walked in, keeping a close eye for jellyfish. Dad went under and I went up to my neck. We took a few pictures of the sunset and just stood there taking in the view. I said to dad “This is my favourite part of the trip so far, this right here.” I spun around and AAAHHH a Jellyfish swam right into me and stung me. It got my left hand, my stomach and my right thigh. I have never been in so much pain in my life. It stung so bad and burned so much. We got out of the water and I stood there freaking out what to do. Should i get someone to pee on me!? The tour guide gave me a lemon and I squeezed some juice on the burns which helped a bit. When we got back to the boat I used vinegar and rinsed off in the shower which helped a bit. I felt so tingly and my leg was numb. You can see on my leg the whole outline of the jellyfish’s head! By the time we were done dinner it felt much better and the next day the mark was still there. It definitely sucked big time, but looking back I guess it’s a pretty cool story to say I got stung by a Jellyfish back in ‘Nam. I have the worst luck! Anyways, here are some beach pictures.
When we got back to the ship after the beach, there was a little Sunset party with free red wine and snacks. It was cute and watching the darkness settle over Halong Bay was a neat experience. I wasn’t feeling great at this point so I went and laid down for half an hour before supper.
Dinner was very good and the plating of everything was fantastic.
After dinner we went up to the roof and enjoyed the view. We talked to a few people. I can’t believe how many different countries everyone is from. There were some from Korea, Spain, Scotland, Patagonia, Chile, and China. It was really neat talking to everyone and their trip itineraries.
Next we tried Squid Fishing!!! The guide said to shine a bright light which attracts little fish, which attracts the squid. He said it takes hours of jigging with the bamboo stick and string. We tried it out and were talking with some girls from Scotland. Then DAD CAUGHT ONE!!! All of the Scottish girls screamed and then he grabbed it and threw it back. He could have kept it and they would have cooked it up for him. It was so exciting and he was so happy.
We called it an early night after this, sat on our balcony for a bit and had a nice cool sleep with the air conditioning blasted. We woke up after a solid 8 hours of peaceful sleep and THIS was our view.
Still can’t comprehend it! There was the option to do Tai Chi up on the roof, but we showered instead and went for breakfast which was really yummy. Then we went back to the room and packed up our stuff. Then we went to a cave!! It was called Thien Canh Son Cave and it was super cool. We climbed up stairs and then walked through the two chambers and took some good go pro footage. There were SO many people. It was pretty crowded but I think we managed to get some good pictures.
We returned to the ship to check out. We enjoyed our balcony view for one last time. Then we sat up on the deck and enjoyed the cool breeze.
We then went to the dining room where we took part in a cooking class! We watched the chef create these beautiful flowers out of vegetables, a carrot net which was placed on the fish last night, and then we made our own fresh spring rolls!! They were very tasty.
We then completed a survey and were served lunch. Oh and we settled our bar tab.
We had arrived at the pier now and shortly boarded the small boat which brought us to our bus back to Hanoi. So sad to say goodbye to the amazing limestone cliffs, but it’s time to move on to the next stop on our journey. The cruise was a great experience. I am glad we chose the 1 night rather than the 2 night trip though. The 24 hours was perfect, short and sweet and we did many things in that time.
We were lucky because us and 4 other people got to go in a van instead of the bus back to Hanoi. No more bumps!! I’m assuming it was because of the location of our hotels. The van zoomed back to town and we got back early. We dropped our bags off and power walked to the Hao Lo Prison in time before it closed!!!! Yay!! (If you read the previous blog post you know that we had an uber fiasco which caused us to miss out on the museum.) Dad loved it and the coolest thing we saw was John McCain’s parachute and uniform that he was wearing when the Vietnamese captured him as a prisoner of war.
Super interesting to see how they lived and all of the jail cells. So glad that we squeezed that in. We checked into the same hotel and dad went for a swim while I worked on this post. We are about to go for an all you can eat Vietnamese meal and to explore some more shops then tomorrow it’s off to Cambodia!!!!
My favourite part of today/yesterday was for sure the bamboo boat ride through the fishing village. It was the most peaceful thing I’ve ever experienced. Least favourite part I’m sure I don’t have to explain. Dads favourite part was catching the squid! His least favourite part was the bus ride there.
Hope you enjoyed this one. I feel like the pictures just don’t do Halong Bay justice. If you have the opportunity you need to go!! And hopefully a Jellyfish doesn’t sting you!
Watch our footage from Halong Bay!! Click here to see the video!