Halong Bay

I got to spend the night on a boat in Halong Bay which was quite a treat.

After a four-hour mini-bus ride from Hanoi, we reached Halong Bay. I was surprised by the number of vessels serving the tourist industry on the bay. We were told that there are 500 tourist boats in operation – 200 overnight boats and 300 day-trip boats. As you can imagine, with that many boats operating, the bay is very busy.

I boarded the boat along with a bunch of other tourists from around the world. We were assigned our own cabins and then had a lovely lunch in the boat’s dining room.

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My cabin on the boat
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Preparing for lunch onboard
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Our boat is the one at bottom right

Whilst we were eating lunch, the boat left the dock and motored out into beautiful Halong Bay with its large rocky islands. Depending upon who tells the story, there are either 1969 rock islands (which rather coincidentally coincides with the year of Ho Chi Mihn’s death), or there are as many as 4,000.

After lunch, we visited one of the islands to see Hang Sun Sot (the Sun Sot Cave). I was surprised by how large the cave is, having three distinct chambers. The cave is well lit, making for nice photos. Following the cave visit, we returned back to the boat whilst it motored further along the bay.

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Sun Sot Cave
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Inside Sun Sot Cave
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One of the formations inside the cave

When we arrived in the part of the bay near to the cave, our boat was approached by several women in woven bamboo boats, each trying to sell us items, ranging from beer and wine to sea shells.

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After about 15 minutes, we arrived at Ti-Top Island, named after a Russian military friend of Ho Chi Mihn. The island has a man-made beach for swimming, but I headed up the 400-plus steps to the top of the island to see the sunset.

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Ti-Top Island with its man-made beach and viewing platform at the peak
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Our boat, viewed from Ti-Top Island
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Sun setting over Halong Bay

After an hour on the island, it was back to the boat to relax prior to a wonderful dinner that seemed to go on and on, as the wait staff kept bringing out new dishes. We remained anchored off Ti-Top Island for the night.

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The chef steams shrimp in the dining room

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Dramatic display steaming the shrimp

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The second day started early, with a 6.30am Tai-Chi class from one of the crew members.

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Crew member gives us a tai-chi lesson

After breakfast, we transferred to kayaks and explored an enclosed cove within one of the islands, where we got to see monkeys

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Some of the other boats moored in the same bay as us

After the kayaking, we returned to the big boat where we were given a lesson on making our own spring rolls (which we got to eat). That was followed a little later by a multi-course lunch, after which we motored back to the dock.

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Another four-hour bus ride got me back to my hotel in Hanoi for one last night.

There are many tour companies running boat tours on Halong Bay. My tour was operated by V’Spirit Cruises who did a great job. I can recommend a tour with V’Spirit to anyone who will be travelling to Hanoi.

The first week of my trip is done. Tomorrow, I fly to Cambodia for the next leg of the trip and the first motorcycle tour.

 

 

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