Halong Bay is well-known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. For better or worse, the tourism of this place nowadays is rather different than it was in the 90’s.
A remarkable journey to remember for life - Stellar Cruise
Small fishing boats are no longer used to
explore the bay. Instead, the majority of tourists who visit the bay today opt
for large junk boats charged with ferrying visitors around the bay on tours, it
is ranged from day trips to multiple-night cruises.
After having traveled ourselves, we feel fairly confident in telling you that a day trip is not a smart option as there are loads of other sceneries which help you fully enthrall the beauty of Halong Bay, and you can only have this when you book an overnight cruise.
Luckily, we got the offer for staying overnight from the Stellar Cruise which is one of the best 4-star cruises in Halong Bay. This trip included the 8-hour roundtrip bus ride from Hanoi. The morning of the cruise tour, we were waiting for the shuttle bus at Cho Gao Street which was the last pickup point. The bus arrived at once after the scheduled 08:30 am pickup time. As soon as seeing the guide, we hopped on right away and made our way eastward out of the city.
Very quickly the crowded, urban feeling was swept into the city’s outskirts, then into rural Vietnam. We’d pass through some villages on our way, and catch occasional glimpses of so many interesting things. After nearly 2 hours of driving, we then stopped at “Star Gems” shop. There are a number of souvenirs that you can buy there, no doubt overpriced. Some stuff was quite impressive, but we were so thrilled into Halong Bay trip and couldn’t focus on seeing anything.
The guide made us stand around there for almost 30 minutes for the driver to have his lunch as after dropping us off at the lounge of Stellar Cruise, he would have only 5 minutes for taking a rest prior to heading back Hanoi with other guests.
We got back on the road and, no more waiting, we had caught our first look at some karst formations in the distance. We would have seen one of the beautiful bridge in Halong Bay, but sadly after a quick nap, we missed a chance to capture it and arrived at Tuan Chau Harbor at nearly 12:00. The manager split everyone up into groups according to their boat, and after everyone had arrived, we made our way to the Stellar Cruise of Aclass Legend Cruise Group.
If you wonder why all the cruises are in white color, we have asked the same question to the guide in the bus and she said a few years ago, the government decided that the boats all needed to be paint white, so the former array of differently colored boats is gone, just white boat after white boat.
As we boarded, we were directed to the third floor which was a pretty restaurant and listened to the brief itinerary of the cruise. This is the high season of domestic tourism, so there are a great number of Vietnamese tourists on the Cruise, but the staff of the Cruise treated other tourists who were from some other countries so well and made them feel very relax and comfortable.Our room was quite small but appointed very nicely with local décor. Although there wasn’t either a closet or a safety box in our Deluxe-Room, the room was perfect for an overnight cruise on Halong Bay.
Knowing that we can’t expect for a great meal on the boat as everyone knows, it might be tricky for them to make the good food from basic ingredients when the boat was in the middle of the ocean. Surprisingly, the food was out of our expectation, and we were so impressed. Don’t take our word for it, take a look on our pics and see how delicious they were!
After a delicious lunch, we stepped out the deck and enjoyed the beautiful Halong Bay. Looking at those pics below and you will agree with us the scenery was epic. We were all amazed by the blue-green waters which soak in the sun and the various wonderful formations.
Most of the overnight tours in Halong Bay offer similar activities. The tender boat of the cruise transferred us to Titov Island where you can either swim or hike up the mountain. We approached Titop and saw a great number of tourists here. We agree about hiking up the mountain and hoping not many people there. But we were wrong, when we reached the top of the mountain, there was a waiting queue for their turns to take some pictures with a spectacular view behind them.
After witnessing the amazing view around us, we went down and went ahead to Luon Cave where we did Kayaking which was also a part of activities every cruise in Halong Bay. While we are thrilled to do this, one girl in our company said: “no matter how many times she is kayaked before, Kayaking amidst the outstanding scenery of Halong Bay will likely be her unforgettable experience still”. We were totally immersed in the rays of the sun sparkling over clear water. Sometimes, we just stopped and simply enjoyed a little bird flying over the blue sky. It was like paradise, nature at its very best.
Back on the boat after a full day’s activities, we had 45 mins relaxing in our rooms before joining the sunset party. The beauty of the sunset depends on how much clouds are covering up the sky. As the sun was blocked by clouds, we didn’t have a chance to witness the sunset. But in spite of that, we still enjoyed the peaceful beauty surrounding us. Since we have eaten so much at the sunset party that we couldn’t enjoy our dinner though the food was so good. We also got some glasses of red and white wine for free.
There are many caves scattered throughout Halong Bay, but only a few are accessible to tourists, and Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave) is one of them. Surprise Cave is the largest and the most beautiful cave in Halong Bay. Located in Bo Hon Island, Sung Sot Cave is a place where many rocky islands concentrated and having distinct and strange shapes, which cannot find in other ones. Getting to the cave required a pretty steep hike up the side of the island, but the view from the top made it more than its worth.
We’ve got back on the Cruise after more than 1 hour in the Cave and got ready for the Cooking class. The foods we created in this class were outstanding. On our boat, lunch and dinner on our first day were served set menu style, but both breakfast and lunch on our second day were served buffet-style. At all meals, there was more than enough food to go around, and it was all delicious. At noon, we safely made it back to Hanoi Old Quarter and said goodbye to each other to come back our home.
We’ve never been an ocean cruise sort of girls, but we all love what we have been through and looking forward to one day going back there.
Author: INSIDE TRAVEL Experts - The Real Local Experiences!
22 June 2018