Once you get on to the cruise from the harbour, from distant, you can see some big pieces of rocks floating on the water vaguely. As you get deeper into the area towards the rocks, you realize that these are not rocks but small islands, and there are hundreds of them. These are islands made of limestone. With the emerald water and thousands of such islands topped with rain-forest, Ha Long Bay is one of the most amazing spectacles on earth.
The best way to experience Ha Long Bay is by booking a cruise. It is better to book it online before your travel since this is one of the busiest places in Vietnam. You can find a lot of cruise ships of different categories depending on the budget. Five-star cruise ships costing over $600 to low budget ships at $200 per night. We booked a mid-range cruise ship, Phoenix Cruiser, which cost us $320 per night. With the package, hotel pick-and-drop comes complementary. We were staying in a hotel in Hanoi, the capital. It was a two hours drive from the hotel to the bay. Once we reached the bay, we got inside the ship and checked-in. The crews were friendly and greeted us with a complimentary drink. There were around 40 guests inside the boat. We sat on the dining while the head of the crew briefed us the itinerary. It seemed like we had a heavy schedule on hand. My wife and I rushed to the cabin so that we can freshen up quickly and come back for lunch. And what a lunch it was!
One of the surprising things throughout the journey was the quality of food. Even though we were middle of a sea, every meal was served fresh. Notably, the kinds of seafood were mouthwatering. The best part of the cruise was its roof-top deck. It was open, covered with artificial grass on the floor, and had a comfy sitting area with sun loungers. Afternoon and evening were the best part of the day when we laid down and enjoyed the beautiful sunset with fresh air.
The cruise came with lots of activities as well. We went caving in one of the largest caves in Ha Long Bay – Sung Sot Cave. It was a thrilling experience. There was a guide accompanying us to explain the history and archaeological significance of the place. As went deeper into the cave, it got exciting with natural remains and full of terracotta on the walls. Because there are thousands of limestone islands, it is possible to comprehend that there might be several hundred caves like this. As of today, there are 59 caves listed in the official registry. All of these are preserved naturally in the distinctive ecosystem of Ha Long Bay. Besides caving, we did kayaking and fishing as well.
After the end of a day-and-half, our cruise finally adjourned with a complimentary gift from the crew. It was a lovely hospitable experience throughout the journey in one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Tips: 2-day 1-night is good enough for a trip to Ha Long Bay. However, if your objective is to relax further, you may extend it for a day. Also, it is better to stay in a hotel in Hanoi to make a trip to Ha Long Bay as most of the travel agencies provide pick-and-drop services from Hanoi.