Halong Bay Cruise

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.

Halong Bay

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.

Halong Bay with a group of floatng huts where people who fish the bay live with their families

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.

Our family when we first boarded the cruise.

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.

Margaret enjoying some pho on the boat.

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.

You can see how calm the water is
And how beautiful the view was

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).

Jane on a bike ride on Cat Ba Island. Nolan and Margaret had to ride on the back of our bikes.
Views from the island
Bee farm on Cat Ba Island
One of the local farmers
Village kids playing. Our tour guide told us that without internet and cell phone reception, the kids here spend their time playing soccer and building things out of the pile of bricks.
Nolan enjoying the island views
Nolan hunting for frogs

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.

Start of the hike
Some parts were quite steep (but we didn’t have to carry Margaret at all!)
We all made it to the top in good spirits, mostly due to the fact that we had a can of Pringles and some snickers bars to eat along the way.
Jane, Ashley and Margaret at the top.
View from the top. There was quite a bit of fog.
Our family at a beach overlook on Cat Ba Island
Beach on Cat Ba Island
Beach on Cat Ba Island
Local fish market on Cat Ba Island
Local fish market on Cat Ba island

Our third and final day was spent on a boat exploring the bay and seeing the floating fishing village.

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.

View of Hanoi from our apartment after the cruise