When we started planning our itinerary of Vietnam, a Halong Bay overnight cruise had always been on our list. It was probably all those images of Halong Bay in brochures and reading about the idyllic evening cruise, you can be forgiven for letting your imagination get away from you. So, we were pretty excited to have finally booked our Halong Bay luxury cruise. After our Two Day Trek of Sapa, you can read more about it here, we were looking forward to another view of Vietnam.
With Hanoi as the starting point, you can learn more about things to do in Hanoi here,we were looking forward to our Victory Star cruise of Halong Bay.
How to Get from Hanoi to Halong Bay
As part of our Victory Star Halong Bay Cruise, we were collected at the hotel at 7.30am for the 4-hour road trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay. The private van for ten of us had nationalities of French, Indonesians and Kiwis.
It can be a mystery sometimes when booking tours as to what you expect and what actually happens. So when a half hour into the trip the driver received a call to say a bus had crashed on the motorway, we knew the trip may take a little longer. Next thing we knew, the van was driving down a steep, narrow off ramp and we were back in the suburbs, or so we thought.
The driver then detoured again and next thing we knew we were driving along the concrete pathways between the rice fields. Great for photos and a chance to view another part of the country until the driver found out he had missed the turnoff back into a small town.
A quick three-point turn worried our group at the back of the van when the reverse manoeuvre had the end of the van hanging over the edge of a canal below. A few shouts of concern, a laugh from the driver, the turn completed and back on our way.
After three hours into the trip, at last, we had a 25min refreshment at what only can be described as a typical tourist trap. It felt like we had entered a large warehouse filled with every imaginable tourist item at exorbitant prices, including snack food at three times the price.
We were dropped off on one side of the building and told to meet the driver on the other side of the building 25mins later. At least the coffee was good, there were plenty of toilets for the various tourist groups and the experience interesting.
Halong Bay Cruise
Around 12noon it was good to finally see Halong Bay and the boats waiting for their customers. But first, another wait at the local cafe owned by the cruise firm before it was confirmed we could board.
Walking down to the wharf, we had to first board a small tender boat to take us to the awaiting boat. It actually took longer to put on the life jackets than the 1-minute ride to the Victory Star.
Wow, was all we could say when at last we boarded the Victory Star. The interior of the boat was fantastic with a decor of wood panelling, and then we saw our room. A large comfortable bed and after our single night sleeps in Sapa, a welcomed surprise.
The bathroom was decked out in marble panelling and the view from the toilet is the best so far on this adventure. But it was the balcony which was the perfect spot as we cruised off. It felt like your own piece of paradise cruising the quiet bays taking in the spectacular scenery.
Lunch is served
As we entered the beautiful dining area, we saw each table was identified by the flag of the country the guests were from. So, it was with amusement when our New Zealand flag created some confusion amongst fellow travellers trying to work out where we were from. Yes, you guessed it, some said Australia, but oddly most said Britain due to the Union Jack!!!!
Time to revisit your referendum vote New Zealand people to give New Zealand flag our own identity.
All was forgiven as we left the harbour and were served a sumptuous eight dish lunch with food far superior to our expectations. It only meant we were already looking forward the dishes they would serve for dinner this evening.
Things to Do in Halong Bay
At 3 pm we anchored at a small bay to explore a local cave, have a swim or go for a kayak. Even with a boatload of people, the bay was very peaceful and gave us a chance to cool off in a temperate sea.
Everyone back on board a couple of hours later for showers, we cruised to another bay for the evening.
Pre-dinner drinks and a chance to chat with South Africans, French and Columbians about interesting travel destinations to visit. But first, we joined an activity of making fresh Spring rolls. And the secret is, to use Vietnamese rice paper not Chinese paper as it is thinner, especially for the fresh version.
Cocktail hour to enjoy the setting sun on the beautiful Halong Bay.
After dinner, we found ourselves at the back of the boat to do some squid fishing. We watched while others were fishing without luck. But when Terry was handed a rod and showed patience for about 2 minutes, he had hooked a squid on the line. It was the only squid all evening. Go Kiwis!
A Morning in Halong Bay
We rose this morning at 5.30am to catch the sunrise but found there was too much sea fog. So, instead, we watched as the anchor was raised, standing in the bow of the boat as we cruised to the next place on our Halong Bay cruise.
Luckily the weather cleared as we approached a floating village. Time to have a quick coffee and croissant at 7 am before we were transferred to a pontoon. Here we climbed into a small boat rowed by a Vietnamese woman who had incredible arm and leg strength to row 6 adults.
The boat ride took us through a floating village with the most beautiful scenery in an area with calm waters and no wind. And as our boat glided very close to the rocks we got some up-close views for photo opportunities. It was so serene as we moved along the water taking it all in on the 45-minute ride.
Back on board the big boat, a brunch was served as we made our way back to the harbour.
Can we recommend a Halong Bay cruise? That’s a big Yes.
For prices for a Victory Star Halong Bay cruise, you can click here.
Cruising the beauty of Halong Bay 2 days 1 night gave us a glimpse of another must-see of Vietnam. And giving us time to reflect on our month in Vietnam before we head to China.
Our final night in Vietnam, once we were back in Hanoi after another 4-hour road trip from Halong Bay to Hanoi. We ventured out into the local old quarter alive with people eating and drinking to enjoy our last Vietnamese dinner.
We have enjoyed our time exploring Vietnam and encourage you to visit this very interesting and diverse country.
Check out Vietnam page for other must-see places to visit in Vietnam.