You can’t come to Vietnam and say that you didn’t visit Halong Bay. In fact, Halong Bay is the single biggest reason tourists and travellers visit Vietnam. There are plenty of companies that offer – Halong Bay full day cruise. However, there is a catch with most of them. Read on to find out.
Halong Bay Full Day Cruise – Options
When they mean full day, it’s essentially just 4 hours of actual cruising time in Halong Bay. How, you make ask. Well here’s the explanation:
- Pick up is 8 AM.
- It takes approximately 3-4 hours to reach Halong Bay terminal unless you take the expressway. Using expressway you can reach early but you need to pay extra for that.
- So roughly 11:30 AM you will reach Halong Bay, and your boat ride shall start at 12 PM.
- You will visit a cave during this trip and 1-2 more attractions.
- The ship will probably come back to the terminal by 4 PM. So you miss out on the gorgeous sunset.
Ideally, I would recommend staying overnight on a cruise ship, but since I had experienced something similar in Alleppey I wasn’t keen on it. Its also expensive – you would be spending minimum 160-200$ for 2 people for an overnight cruise. Costs can further go up depending on the type of ship. But if you have the budget, I would highly recommend it.
In my previous post, I had mentioned how we got a sweet deal for 35$/person for a 6 hour day cruise with lunch, sunset snacks & pick-up and drop.
We had plans to stay in an AirBnb in Halong Bay and then hike the Poem mountain early morning next day. So we just packed a day pack and kept rest of our luggage in the hostel storage room. Thereafter, we were picked-up from the hostel at 8AM.
The legend of Halong Bay
Legend says that long ago, when the country was newly formed, the Vietnamese forefathers had to fight against fierce invaders coming from the North by sea. The gods from the heavens watched on before sending the Mother Dragon and her children to help the ancient Vietnamese people to defend their country.
The dragons descended upon the earth, incinerated the invaders and spat jewels of emerald and jade that upon hitting the land, turned into great islands and islets that formed invincible defensive walls that the invaders could not overcome.
After the battle, The Mother Dragon and her children did not return to the heavens, but stayed in the mortal world. The dragon children lay on the lands that are known as Bai Tu Long which literally means Thanks to the Dragon children and their tails form the area of Bach Long Vi. The great Mother Dragon forms Ha Long Bay, which literally translates as Descending Dragon Bay.
Information Courtesy – This blog.
Halong Bay Full Day Cruise – 6 hours
We reached the Halong Bay around 11:30 and we were then taken by the guide to our ship. Immediately, as the cruise started we were served lunch. It was a good collection of seafood and traditional Vietnamese dishes. The food was sumptuous. We had traditional spring rolls, fried rolls, a big fried fish, lots of rice, some prawns and some fruits and salad as well. The food was served table wise and we shared it with 3 other folks.
After lunch and cruising for around an hour we reached our first stop for the day, The Surprising Cave.
Sung Sot – Surprising Cave
It’s the biggest cave in Halong Bay and depending on the type of cruise option, you might visit it or another popular cave called Trinh Nu. The boat drops you at one side of the cave and collects you from the other side.
The Surprising cave is huge in size and is broadly divided into 2 chambers, 1 called the Waiting Room and the other called the Serene Castle. The Waiting Room is filled with stalagmites and stalactites and has coloured lights. To reach the second chamber, you need to pass a narrow corridor. The second chamber is huge and it easily takes 5-10 mins to walk though the entire chamber.
We spent around half an hour exploring the cave and then emerged on the other side. The boat was already docked and waiting for us. We clicked some photos while waiting for others to join. Once, everyone was onboard it was time to head to the Kayaking spot in Halong Bay.
Kayaking in Halong Bay
Next up, after a short 10-15 mins ride we reached our kayaking spot. There are different options available like kayaking and a boat ride (if you don’t want to Kayak). We opted for the kayaking. We had to remove our shoes, wear life-vests and then get onto the Kayak. Canoeing or solo kayaking is comparatively easier since you don’t need to worry about a partner. However, that option wasn’t available.
Kayaking duo is fun. I had so much fun watching people going in circles or hitting other kayaks because they couldn’t control theirs. Initially it took us a min or 2 to get used to each others actions. But after that it was a cake walk. We had to return in 30 mins and we made use of every single minute of it. We kayaked around the entire lagoon.
Tip Top Island
After kayaking, we cruised for sometime in Halong Bay and then stopped at Tip Top island. There are 2 main things to do at this island:
- Go swimming in the water
- Climb to the top of the island to get panoramic views of Halong Bay.
The guide gave us 30 mins and recommended that we do only 1 of the 2 since, the climb is steep and can easily take 30 mins. My friend decided to swim while I decided to climb to the top. The climb actually took just 10 mins. I clicked some amazing photos and came down and jumped straight into the water. Best of both worlds.
Sunset Cruise Party
I think it was 4:30-5PM by the time we left Tip Top island and the sun had started to set. Now began the last part of the cruise – Sunset cruise party. Well don’t get your hopes high, we were served a mock-tail (or cocktail – I don’t remember) and given some snacks while we were feasting on the gorgeous sunset views from the top deck of the boat. It was a magical experience and the reason why I wanted to go for a 6 hour cruise and not a 4 hour one. The photos can help you decide if it was worth it.
The only part of the trip that didn’t go as per the plan
We had planned to stay in an AirBnb near Halong Bay as we wanted to hike up to the Poem mountain next morning. So once we were back at the terminal/plaza instead of taking the drop back to the hostel in Hanoi, we booked a cab to go to the AirBnb since no public transport was available.
We reached the place and since the near by shops were closed, he advised us to go the mall nearby for dinner. The mall was hardly 5 mins away. On reaching the mall, we found an outlet of Jolibee – Its Vietnam’s answer to KFC and frankly speaking the chicken was equally good. We feasted like crazy people. In fact a young 4 old year kid, came to us and offered his ice-cream. It turned out that he was watching us from a long time and his mother sent him to say Hii to us, instead the cutie offered us his ice-cream.
We politely refused and played with him for some time and headed back to the AirBnb. Now came the dilemma, since I had already climbed Tip Top Island today, I had no mood in getting up early next day and climbing the Poem mountain. So, I checked with my friend and even she wasn’t very keen on it.
This indecision did cost us some money (extra AirBnb cost compared to the hostel [700 INR for 2] + Taxi to reach AirBnb from Halong Bay [750 INR] + Taxi from AirBnb back to Hanoi [1800 INR] ). We could have either saved the money or spent it on an overnight cruise instead.
But we all learn from our mistakes and you can learn from mine for sure.