I squeezed this tour in on my last day in Vietnam. I booked it trough my hotel for around £56. It’s a full day (about 12 hours all in). From the book, this is definitely a more high end cruise. As you walk round Hanoi, there re many firms advertising day trips to Ha Long bay for as little as $25 but this involves loads of you crammed on a coach and a budget cruise boat.
We left Hanoi around 0800, the driver struggled to find the hotel which was tucked up a small road but all good in the end. The bus was modern and clean and there were 8 of us in the group. The tour guide was so polite and gave loads of information about local landmarks and food whilst leaving Hanoi and travelling to the bay. The drive to the bay is about 3 hours, with a 15/20 minute break half way at an indoor market. You can buy souvenirs as well as refreshments. We arrived at the port at around 1145, which was heaving with tourists and ships. We boarded and were away promptly. This is where paying a bit extra was worth it. It was mainly 2 to a large table (I shared with a Korean chap who spoke good English). You were given fresh lemon water on boarding. There was plenty of space and it all felt very relaxed. The staff were really polite and pointed out all the sights on the way round. A large, delicious 8 course lunch was served shortly after. They brought this dishes out in waves to ensure it was hot which was good. You have to pay for drinks, but it wasn’t too much ... a beer about £1.20, soft drinks £1 and coffee about £1.10.
After lunch we travelled through the bay until we arrived at a floating island where you could use a canoe or bamboo boat towed by a local (included in the fee). Really enjoyed the canoe, and was good to work off lunch! Got some good pictures and they hand out water proof bags for your phone and money.
After, we travelled round the bay some more, past some islands that resembled animals.
We then stopped at a lime stone cave. The tour guide took us round and gave information about how the bay is formed, local wildlife, plants and people. The caves were amazing to see! This took about 45 minutes.
We then got back on the boat and were served Jasmine Tea with Coconut Cake and Melon which was lovely. We then took a slow trip back to shore, arriving just before 1700, before heading back to Hanoi where you are dropped off at your hotel.
My only criticism was the driver! He had a heavy foot on the gas and brakes which made the ride ‘interesting’! Also, the seats weren’t ideal to sleep in (I am F6’3’’) so it was a little cramped.
That aside (and this is worthy of 5 stars) it was a great day with a very enthusiastic crew. I felt it worth paying extra for to enjoy the bay in a relaxed environment. Everyone on the boat were easy to talk to. Because they didn’t cram people on, it always felt relaxed and spacious and this was good to you could relax and take in the views.
I would recommend this tour and the staff were first class! Thanks for a brilliant day out!
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