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Published: April 14th 2008
Cool view of the Bay from the entrance to the "Amazing Cave"
Halong Bay is a very popular side trip for those visiting Hanoi, Vietnam. It's a 3 1/2 hour drive between the capital city and this bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Halong Bay contains almost 2,000 limestone karst islands. There are a few islands with lodging for tourists, but primarily the islands are uninhabited, largely due to their topography. There aren't many flat areas to develop, and very few natural sand beaches. The view is striking, however. For those who have been to Thailand's Phang Nga or Krabi provinces, it is very similar. Many tourists opt to see the bay aboard Chinese style "junks". These boats are used by daytrippers and overnighters alike, and they're all over the place.
It seems like every travel agency in Hanoi offers trips to Halong Bay, and as I mentioned in my previous blog, there are a lot of travel agencies. I selected Ocean Tours since they have a good reputation, and provide a moderately priced 2 day/1 night package. The cheaper packages are as low as $40, and the more expensive ones can exceed $300 per night. Mine was $80 plus an extra $15 charge (single, not sharing a room).
Hai Au Guests
on our Ocean Tours overnighter on Halong Bay (April 1-2)
package included lodging for 1 night on a Chinese style "junk" boat, 4 meals (lunch, dinner, breakfast, & lunch), kayaking, a short hike through a large cave, and all transportation. The only thing not included were the drinks (water, soda, tea, coffee, wine, etc), which can add up. Several customers planned ahead (including me) and brought their own bottled water aboard.
So, what did I think? Consider me impressed. Our boat (Hai Au) seemed to be well maintained and clean. The food was fairly good (not great, but hey, better than expected). I was particulary surprised by the size of the cabins - quite large for a boat (I was in cabin #02), which included A/C (not needed at this time of year) and a private bathroom (hot water but very basic).
Although my expectations weren't that high, I found myself enjoying the trip. There were 10 passengers (not including the crew or tour guide). The other passengers were interesting, which is a plus, considering there is a lot of time for socializing (meals are shared with others - tables seat up to 6). I spent most of my time talking with the 4 Canadians, but also spoke
The Hai Au
My Ocean Tours boat in Halong Bay
to the rest of the passengers too (French, Polish, and Filipino). The tour guide was nice, although he struggled with keeping us informed. We'd usually have to ask such things as, "when is breakfast tomorrow?" or "where are we going now?"
The only real negative of Halong Bay for me was the weather. It was overcast the entire time, and often cold. Still, it's a beautiful place, and I'd prefer cold to blazing hot.
So there you have it...a short update on Halong Bay. I'm a bit behind on the blogging...so that's going to wrap up my trip to Vietnam. I definitely would like to go back. There is much more to see.
Where am I now? I'm in Trang, Thailand (southern Thailand). I'm visiting Saai's family for Songkran (Thai New Year).
More on that later!
Look! There goes Dave!
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