A few hours east of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, lies a body of water called Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.
In its 600 square mile area, the bay has nearly 2000 limestone islets. These little islands are cliff-faced with tropical jungle on top and are truly beautiful.
We booked a three day/two night cruise on the bay. As it turns out, this is the most expensive thing (by far) we’ve done on the trip. But it was beautiful, and fun, and so I guess it was worth it. If I were to do it again, I think I would just book a cheap cruise with good reviews.
With the Coronavirus scare, the ship which normally carries fifty passengers had fewer than twenty-five (with thirty crew members to serve those twenty-five). So, we almost had the place to ourselves.
All the reviews on this particular ship raved about the food, but it turned out to be mediocre food served with excellent presentation. The menu was set and featured squid in too many dishes to please my group. The second day was light on squid and was enjoyed more by all.
The sea itself was incredibly calm and the ship (tiny compared to an ocean-going cruise ship) barely pitched at all so none of our party, so prone to motion sickness, got sick at all.
We didn’t spend a lot of waking hours on the ship though as we went on multiple excursions each day of the trip.
We anchored at night in a harbor a little secluded from the hundreds of other boats that were in the bay. Had it not been overcast, it would have made for some incredible stargazing.
But with or without clear skies, from any place in the cabin or in the ship, you could look out over the calm emerald water and see in every direction those islets that make the bay so stunning.
Our first excursion was biking on Cat Ba Island to the village of Viet Hai. Located entirely in the middle of the sea, surrounded by high mountains and the jungle of Cat Ba National Park. The fishing village only has around 80 households. The island is also home to the Cat Ba Languar, an endangered monkey whose total population is less than 100 (we didn’t see any BTW).
On our second day, we headed to another part of Cat Ba Island for some hiking, a cave trip, a visit to the beach and a tour of a local fish market.
Our third and final day was spent on a boat exploring the bay and seeing the floating fishing village.
We then headed back to Hanoi for a few more days before leaving to our next destination.
On our bus ride to the cruise, we stopped at a complex that had a few restaurants and stores. Jane found gold fish crackers, so she was happy when we stopped at the same place on the way home so we could stock up.