Saturday 9 July 2016

Ha Long Bay One Day Tour

The 8-hour train ride from Lao Cai was comfortable and surprisingly bearable, despite the leg pain I was experiencing because of the trekking I did in Sa PaI arrived in my hotel at about 6:00 am and then had a shower before having breakfast. Oh dear God I remember the coffee again! At exactly 8:30, the guide arrived to pick me up. The van made a few rounds around the Old Quarter to pick up other travelers before we started the journey to Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a very popular travel destination in Vietnam. Tom, our Tour Guide (and that's not his real name by the way), gave a few information about Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is located in Northern Vietnam, 170 kilometres east of Hanoi. It took us about 4 hours to get to Tuan Chau Tourist Wharf, with a stopover in a shop that sells handmade souvenir items and refreshments. The ferry was already waiting for us at the wharf when we arrived. Tom made sure we were all seated comfortably before the lunch was served - seafood overload it was! My cousin and I were seated together with 4 other travellers, 2 Americans and 2 Hong Kong Nationals. The six of us got along together well and in an instant we became a "team".

I took as much photos as I can while cruising before the “team” decided to move to the ferry’s deck, without minding the terribly hot weather. The deck was the perfect spot to watch the other ferries and the other travellers while drinking local beer. A few minutes later, we arrived at the first stop. Ha Long Bay is a home to floating fishing villages and we visited one of them. To explore the beauty of Ha Long Bay, we paid 130,000 Dong (each) to experience “kayaking” along the bay. We got back to the ferry after 45 minutes and continued the journey to the next stop, the Thien Cung Cave.

I have never seen a really amazing and beautiful cave before. Perhaps it was because of the beautiful multicoloured lights installed inside the cave which made it more interesting and dazzling. Thien Cung Cave, also known as the Heavenly Palace Cave, is considered as the most beautiful primitive cave in the Bay, and I couldn’t agree more. There were magnificent stalactites and stalagmites formation which definitely challenged my imagination. The cave was full of tourists that time, and I suppose it always is every day. Tom was trying to explain and show us the most remarkable formations around the cave but it was pretty difficult to hear and understand what he was trying to say because of the background noise. Actually, it seemed like we (our team) were the only ones who were paying attention. We headed for the exit. The viewing point right next to it was crowded so Tom took us to another viewing point; the view was not as good but there was no one around. It was, at that moment, just ours! Tom automatically became a part of our team - basically because we were the only ones who stuck around during the entire cave tour. The guys smoked and we (the girls) took photos. A lot of photos - silly and funny ones! That was the best part of the trip.

The ferry was heading back to the wharf. We bought another can of beer for each of us and moved to the ferry’s deck again to be silly and admire the beauty of the bay for the last time. It was still hot but no one cared. At the wharf, the mini van which took us back to Hanoi was already waiting. We exchanged numbers and promised to contact each other for when any of us decided to visit Hong Kong or the US. I love meeting new friends! I really do.

I booked the tour from Sapa Pathfinder’s website (US $35.00). I initially thought of doing the Ha Long Bay tour by myself since I read that was doable. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to do that. The following were included in the package : private car (two-way), ferry ticket, seafood lunch, tour guide and entrance fee (cave). The itinerary includes cruising along Ha Long Bay, visit to the fishing village, kayaking (this is optional and you have to pay additional 130,000 Dong if you decided you want to give it a try), and a visit to Thien Cung Village. Drink wasn’t included in what I paid for, so I had to pay extra for that.

Travel tips when visiting Ha Long Bay:

It was terribly, terribly hot when I visited Ha Long Bay (mid of June). Don’t forget to bring tons of sunblock and more importantly, use them. Wear a hat or anything that covers your face as well. Bring bottled water too (it will save you a few Dongs!), unless you prefer drinking local beer instead!

Personally, I don’t suggest doing a one-day Ha Long Bay tour. It was pretty exhausting because the travel time from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay already consumed half day. There are a lot of tour companies around Hanoi where you could find cheap package tour going to Ha Long Bay, so I think booking in advance isn’t really advisable. Check with your hostel because most of the hostels offers tours as well.

Happy Travels!

Ha Long Bay Photos Here!

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