During our stay in Hanoi, we decided to get out of town on a one night / two day trip to Halong Bay, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. After researching tour companies and their prices online, we decided to book through our hotel. They were cheaper ($AU125 each) and claimed the tour we were going on was the ‘Executive’ option. The photos looked fantastic and the tour included bus transfers to and from the hotel, lunch (x2), dinner and breakfast, a visit to the Hang Dou cave, a swim on the beach of one of the islands, and some kayaking.
Unfortunately looks can be deceiving. Don’t get me wrong, the junk (the type of boat, not the state it was in) was fine, the room was adequate and the food was ok (although breakfast was a real shocker), but we thought we were getting an ‘Executive’ tour, and this didn’t quite measure up. We saw some amazing junks in the bay and I’m not too ashamed to admit I had junk-envy.
The highlight was without doubt kayaking around Halong Bay. After exploring the caves with hundreds of other people, everyone funnelled through at snail’s pace making the experience quite unpleasant, and swimming with hundreds of others on a tiny beach (also not particularly pleasant), kayaking around the bay with just Sarah, Jack and I for an hour or so was absolute heaven. It was so quite and calm, we were able to unwind and relax away from the hustle and bustle of both Hanoi and the tour itself. I really didn’t want to go back in, but dinner was about to be served and I’m a sucker for food!
Another disappointing element of the trip was seeing so much rubbish in the bay around the inlets where people live on the water. I understand that people live there and sometimes it might be difficult to prevent rubbish from entering the water, but this is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and there was so much of it. Either the people living there, or the Vietnamese government, should take more pride in such a special place and keep it clean.
After all that I must say it was an amazing experience. Halong Bay is a truly incredible site and deserves its place among the Wonders of the World. If you are in the north of Vietnam, then you must take one of the many one or two night cruises available at all budget ranges. Just do some heavy research first, and remember, once on board drinks prices are roughly 2-3 times higher than anywhere else! Good luck and safe travels…
MUSIC: ”Sail Away” by Stray Dogg