So, I’ll be honest, there are probably cheaper ways we could have seen and experienced Ha Long Bay. From Ha Long city you can see the bay, there is no shortage of day boats to take you out for a few hours and there are also a variety of cruises.
Maximizing our time, money and energy
Our time in Asia was running out day by day but we were desperate to see the majestic views of Ha Long Bay. After a bunch of research (thanks, Andrew!) we decided a two night, three day cruise would ensure we saw and experienced all the bay had to offer and gave us the convenience of transport between Hanoi and the coast. Ha Long Bay is out of the way, so for most people, it means backtracking to a big city.
Getting to the bay
We were picked up and zoomed out to the coast in a minivan. There was only one 30 minute stop at a tourist shop. There you could buy all kinds of locally made stuff, including the likes of a 6 foot tall ‘Lady Buddha’ statue!
We resisted the temptation to purchase anything and instead had a nap in the minivan. Next thing we saw was the beautiful vista of Ha Long Bay.
We’re on a boat!
There is basically no waiting around, once you arrive in the Bay you’re on the boat and heading out to open waters. Our boat, the A Class Legend, had 14 rooms which were all booked. We quickly met some other travelers and before we knew it we were being given our instructions for the afternoon.
Ha Long Bay day one
Once on board, we were assigned our rooms. Having never cruised before we were delighted to find a very comfortable room on the bottom deck of the ship.
After settling in we were treated to a lunch of fresh seafood, fruit and some local delicacies. We stuffed ourselves and chatted to our new friends over a couple of beers.
Once lunch was done, we were ready for a rest but that would have to wait. We were told to get ready for kayaking, a small hill climb, and a beach swim. With togs and sunscreen on we were ready to go.
First up, kayaking. We hopped in a double kayak and cruised into a local lagoon. to get there you have to kayak through a small cave which was dark, but not too scary. We didn’t feel like we were kayaking for that long, but in fact, we almost missed our ride to the Titov Island.
Titov island is pretty small but has two alluring things; a staircase to the top of the island and a clean swimmable beach. We climbed the hill, took in the view then rushed down to swim in the cool refreshing water. By the time we had to head back to the A Class Legend we were pooped and ready for a beer.
Lucky for us once back on board happy hour begins! We enjoyed some cocktails, watched the sunset and got ready for another delicious meal.
Ha Long Bay day two
Many of our fellow travelers had picked the two day one night cruise option. That meant they went off for the final part of their journey, while a smaller group of us prepared for our second day.
There were only five of us who were sticking around for day two! We were quickly moved to a day boat so that the big boat could take everyone else back to land. It was a pretty big boat for just five of us!
On our new, smaller boat, the fantastic five took off to go on an adventure in a local cave. We climbed some rocks, crawled through some holes and played ‘rock music’! We also witnessed a huge tidal lake which was just beautiful.
Back on the boat, we zoomed across the bay to a local floating village. These villages used to be everywhere in the bay, but when tourism started booming the government intervened and sent many of the villagers on land. Now there is just one big village that is accessible by kayak. It was a pretty incredible ride.
On our small boat, we enjoyed the biggest lunch of all time and soaked up some sunshine as we moved to our next destination, the local cultured pearl farm. Did you know most pearls that are sold are cultured? We took a tour of the farm and watched the process of making pearls.
While interesting, we weren’t in the market to buy, so we wandered the gift shop aimlessly until we could get back on the boat.
Finally, we took a detour back to the beach and went for a long swim before heading back to the A Class Legend for a relaxed final evening aboard.
Ha Long Bay day three
Our final day was fairly relaxed. A long breakfast followed by a trip to the most incredible caves!
Once we had made our way through the caves we headed back to our cabin for the last time to pack our bags before saying our goodbyes to everyone over a cooking demonstration and a long lunch.
It was early afternoon by the time we were back on land. Before we knew it we were on the road back to Hanoi.
Was it worth it?
We were so pleased to have spent the extra money and do the three day, two night cruise. The people who chose to do only one night didn’t get to enjoy all the good food, and didn’t get the same chances to relax that we did. They also missed out on an epic sunset on the second night!
Have you got questions about how the cruise went? Hit us up with a comment below or on Facebook and we might have an answer!