Category Archives: Halong Bay

9 Days 8 Nights Northern Vietnam Tour – Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay – Day 5 (December 2014)

Day 5 – Halong Bay to Hanoi
Sleeping on the cruise boat was not much different from that of a hotel room and of course far better than the bed on the overnight train ride from Hanoi to Sapa. We did have proper sleep and woke up quite early around 6 am. 

As there was going to be a Tai-Chi class on the sundeck at 6.30 am, we made our way up to the deck and waited while enjoying the fresh air surrounded by limestone islands. It was really refreshing indeed as we took pictures of the bay and watched the activities that went on around our boat.
Oriental Sails 1 with supporting boat anchored nearby
Oriental Sails 1 with supporting boat anchored nearby
Fishermen up early to work
Fishermen up early to work
Soon the Tai-Chi master came up and gave us a briefing about the moves during this exercise. We spread out enough space for each of us and began to follow the moves of the master. It was some stretching with slow movements accompanied with a deep breathing exercise under the cool morning breeze on a calm bay with beautiful scenery which was such a fantastic experience. 

The movements were awkward at times when we failed to keep up with the master but it was quite fun. It was really a pleasure to be able to have some simple exercise under such favourable circumstance in a place of unique beauty. This first activity of the morning got us going to begin a brand new day of excitement and fun. This simple joy lasted only 30 minutes and then we descended to the restaurant and got ready for breakfast.

Morning exercise with Tai-Chi
Morning exercise with Tai-Chi





Following the master's moves
Following the master’s moves

Food was nice as we had our breakfast at our own table again. Watching the world go by during such a meal was another great experience while the boat began sailing to our next destination for our kayaking activity. After breakfast we went back to our room to refresh ourselves and changed to get ready for some actions on the emerald waters of Halong Bay.
Another boat nearby
Another boat nearby
Beautiful morning in Halong Bay
Beautiful morning in Halong Bay
We reached a bay with a floating support structure where many kayaks were kept. Those who didn’t wish to participate remained on the cruiser boat while the rest of us were transported to this floating platform on a smaller boat. 

We queued for our paddles and got onto our kayak. We were instructed where we could kayak and the boundary where we needed to stay within. Firstly, we would be kayaking into a cave where a larger lagoon was inside this cave. After that we could exit the lagoon and spend time kayaking around the islands near our cruiser boat.
Floating platform with kayaks
Floating platform with kayaks
Kayak storage facility
Kayak storage facility
So off we went and approached the cave opening. It was really interesting as we went through this dark cave and emerged on the other side to discover this still and calm lagoon inside the cave. There were also monkeys on the cliff next to the cave watching us. 

We spent some time enjoying this ecstatic experience as though we were actors and actresses filming in a movie scene. We kayaked around the edges of the lagoon and also rested in the middle of the lagoon looking upwards towards the sky turning 360 degree to enjoy being surrounded by hills within this lagoon.
Monkeys oblivious to tourists
Monkeys oblivious to tourists
Busy with monkey business
Busy with monkey business
Monkey coming down for a drink
Monkey coming down for a drink
Busy monkeys
Busy monkeys
Happy monkeys on the rocks
Happy monkeys on the rocks
It was really a great out of this world experience we wished time could stand still for a while longer. Unfortunately, we had to leave in order to spend time kayaking outside the lagoon before heading back to our cruiser boat. So with much reluctance and a bit of sadness, we turned towards the cave opening again and bade this lagoon good bye leaving behind precious and happy memories of our family kayaking in this natural wonder, a playground seemed to be meant just for us.
Kayaking in still waters in the lagoon
Kayaking in still waters in the lagoon
Having a great time on the emerald lagoon
Having a great time on the emerald lagoon
Heading towards the cave exit
Heading towards the cave exit
Once we exited the cave, we had a much larger area to kayak. We spent time kayaking around the edges of the islands to have a closer look at the vegetation, rocks and limestone edges before venturing out to more open area of the bay. As the sunrays pierced through the top of the hills of the surrounding islands illuminating the emerald waters with glaring reflections of the glorious sunbeams, we slowly kayaked back to the floating platform to return our equipment. 

We were then transferred back to our cruiser boat by a smaller supporting boat. This was indeed the real highlight of our Halong Bay cruise and an unforgettable experience to be cherished for a long time.
Returning to kayak storage and launch site
Returning to kayak storage and launch site
The next thing we needed to do was a quick shower. We had to pack up and check out and then get ready for lunch. When we were all ready, we went back to our favourite spot on the sundeck and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Halong Bay as our cruiser boat sailed back to the wharf. Unlike the day before, this was a sunny day and great time for picture moments for our family.

Soon it was time for lunch and we went back to the restaurant and had one last enjoyable meal on the cruise. It was still the same arrangement and our table was full of food as four of us opted out of seafood dishes. Finally, enjoying another great meal with great scenery watching the world go by on Halong Bay, we were approaching the wharf not far away. 

Near to noon, our cruiser boat came to a halt as the anchor was lowered. Everyone then queued to settle their bills for drinks consumed which were not included in the cruise package. With the transfer on a smaller boat we were back on shore to board our awaiting minibus to head back to Hanoi. 

It seemed our Halong Bay cruise came and went so quickly these two days. What we acquired was an experience with so much fun and joy spending quality family time together on one of the natural wonders in the world we were privileged to have a part of during this vacation.
Near the wharf
Near the wharf
Like the trip to Halong Bay, the bus stopped after two hours for a break with the same arrangement for tourists to spend some money on souvenirs in a huge established workshop. It was a hot day during this winter season so some tourists indulged in having some ice cream during the break. Soon we were on our way again heading towards Hanoi. 

We arrived the busy Old Quarter in Hanoi near to 5 pm. Ken arranged for the guests to alight near their respective hotels and we were last to alight next to the Ministry of Defence building again. We then made our way through the back lanes and went back to the office of Halong Sapa Tours.

We met up with Tien and collected all our luggage. Tien walked us out to the main road and flagged down two taxis for the six of us. He paid for the taxi fares and told the drivers to send us to our hotel back in the Old Quarter. The streets were busy and with some roads blocked by the police, our taxi had to make a detour. 

Finally, we alighted opposite our hotel, the Eclipse Legend Hotel. The road was so busy and we had trouble getting across the road to our hotel. So I walked across the road on my own leaving my family and all the bags behind to approach the hotel staff to help.
 
Immediately, their staff sprang into action and escorted my family and helped carried our bags across the road to the hotel. It seemed so effortless for them just to jaywalk across the road carrying heavy bags with them. They were professionals in the own right.
Busy road junction at night
Busy road junction at night
We were offered towels and welcome drinks as we got our rooms sorted out. We were told we were upgraded to the honeymoon suite for two of our rooms and all the three rooms were the same unit one floor above the other. 

The rooms were very clean and nicely decorated. In particular, our honeymoon suite came with a round bed with two swans folded with towels decorating our beds. Our girls were giggling when they saw their bed and our younger girl naughtily pushed the swans down on the bed and let them sleep. It wasn’t their honeymoon at all but perhaps was a good preparation for their future honeymoon. 



Our boys got the room on the higher floor with a big sofa set next to the bed. This hotel was rather new and we were very happy with all our rooms and the performance of the hotel staff as well.
Deluxe room
Deluxe room
Deluxe Room with sofa set
Deluxe Room with sofa set
Wall mounted TV
Wall mounted TV
Swan Bed
Swan Bed
Honeymoon Suite
Honeymoon Suite
Shower cubicle
Shower cubicle
Clean Toilet
Clean Toilet


It was already dark and we asked the hotel staff about restaurants for dinner. We were recommended to try the Pho shop just a few shops on the right of the hotel. So off we went and we ordered our pho noodles with beef and they were really good. It cost around 50,000 VND for each bowl and we had a great dinner of Vietnamese pho.

After that we roamed the streets at night and went for some desserts which were also recommended by the hotel. We had egg coffee and other desserts just a few streets away from the hotel. The cafeteria was doing brisk business when we were there and this cafe seemed really popular, especially with young people. Next we walked a few more streets just to orientate ourselves before returning to our hotel to call it a day.
Nice and popular Cafeteria
Nice and popular Cafeteria
Famous egg coffee over here
Famous egg coffee over here

Night scene in Hanoi
Night scene in Hanoi





Busy street at night
Busy street at night

Shopping streets at night
Shopping streets at night
At night in Hanoi
At night in Hanoi
Plenty of motorbikes in Hanoi
Plenty of motorbikes in Hanoi


We had a great day in Halong Bay and a nice evening in Hanoi and were particularly happy with the hotel rooms we were given. The hotel staff were really friendly and helpful. Our children all enjoyed themselves thoroughly and returned to their own rooms for more IT related entertainment via their smart phones.

So we went to our rooms, showered and stretched out on our clean, lovely and comfortable bed. Watching TV, catching up with friends and keeping updated with news via the free wifi provided by the hotel kept us busy during the evening. Before we knew it, we were dozing off soon entering another exciting day of adventure in Northern Vietnam.
Continue to Day 6 ...


9 Days 8 Nights Northern Vietnam Tour – Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay – Day 4 (December 2014)

Day 4 – Sapa to Hanoi onward to Halong Bay
It was after 5 am when we arrived at the train station in Hanoi. The trip seemed shorter this time. Perhaps we were too tired and managed to catch a bit more sleep this time and time passed faster than we realized. When we exited the train station, Tien, Cham’s husband, was already there waiting for us. He walked us out to the main road and we boarded a minibus to head for his office while he rode his bike back to meet us there.

The roads in the city were still dark and quiet as we drove through the Old Quarter. There wasn’t much activities in the city and very quickly we reached the main road outside their office building. After alighting, we walked through the dark and quiet back lanes and went back to the office. 

Our Australian friends were given a room upstairs to rest while we were given a room inside the main office and sitting area. The room was the same high quality standard of a 3 star hotel room. We took turns to shower and rested until breakfast time. Some repacking was done to prepare for our upcoming Halong Bay cruise.

Around 7 am we could hear some noises outside our room and Tien was actually frying eggs for our breakfast. Our children went to the kitchen to help bring up the food and plates with cutlery. Tien also made us a big jug of coffee and another jug of tea. The breakfast was good and filling. While waiting, we caught up with news and friends with the free wifi provided by out travel agent.



Near to 8 am our Halong Bay cruise company arrived to pick us up for our cruise. We carried only the bags required for this 2 days 1 night cruise and leaving behind the rest of our bags in the office to be collected when we returned from our cruise. Ken was our guide for the trip and after picking up more guests from a few other hotels in the Old Quarter, we were on our way towards Halong Bay. Ken briefed us about the activities for the day and then let us rest while we made our way to Halong Bay.

After about 2 hours, we arrived at a rest area for a toilet break. This place was a huge souvenir shop with workers doing their handicrafts in the building. There was also a cafeteria in the building. A wide range of souvenirs was available and credit cards were also accepted in this establishment. Generally, the prices of the stuff here were more expensive than what we could get from the shops in Old Quarter in Hanoi. After 30 minutes, we continued our journey to Halong Bay and reached Hong Gai Tourist Wharf around noon.
Boats anchored near Hong Gai Tourist Wharf
Boats anchored near Hong Gai Tourist Wharf
Hong Gai Tourist Wharf
Hong Gai Tourist Wharf
We alighted with our bags and waited while Ken went to settle the boat tickets and entrance fees for the whole group. Soon he returned with all the tickets and we were ferried by a smaller boat towards a bigger boat anchored further off shore. We were told we had been upgraded from our 3 star Oriental Sails 1 to this 4 star Calypso Cruiser boat. It was a pleasant surprise to all of us and we happily boarded this cruise boat when we arrived.
Sailing out to main boat anchored off shore
Sailing out to main boat anchored off shore
Sailing passed boats anchored near wharf
Sailing passed boats anchored near wharf
Sailing away into Halong Bay
Sailing away into Halong Bay
We were given 2 inter-connecting rooms for our four children while we took another room next to their room. The rooms though not very big were nicely decorated and clean. Each room has its toilet and shower facility. Bottled water was also provided in each room. No TV in the room though as this was supposed to be a relaxing cruise to get us to stay away from many other distractions in the world.
Cabin Room
Cabin Room
Having checked our rooms and with everything in order, we went to the restaurant to wait for lunch. The tables were arranged nicely for each group of guests and we had a table just for the six of us. Lunch was really nice as four of us opted not to have seafood, we had other meat dishes to replace the seafood dish. So our table was full of food and we were really filled up after lunch. 

It was so nice to have lunch on a cruise boat sailing calmly passing many islands on the bay and the lunch was indeed very enjoyable. How often do we have such occasion to have a meal as a family dining with such a nice view on a bay of thousand islands.
Overcast on Halong Bay
Overcast on Halong Bay
Incense Burner island
Incense Burner island
Incense Burner island found on Vietnamese Note
Incense Burner island found on Vietnamese Note
Sailing passed other boat
Sailing passed other boat
Another boat with nice islands in the background
Another boat with nice islands in the background
Twin islands on the Bay
Twin islands on the Bay
Island in the Bay
Island in the Bay
Cloudy Day in Halong Bay
Cloudy Day in Halong Bay
After lunch we went up to the sundeck to enjoy the fantastic scenery as we cruised along with limestone islands standing out in the waters. They came in different forms, shapes and sizes and it was a pleasure to behold these islands during this cool winter day on the bay. There are about 2000 islands here and Halong Bay is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The sky was cloudy at times but the temperature was just right for us to laze about on the sunbeds to while away the time. Being surrounded by islands on a calm bay with a cooling breeze blowing gently on our faces was such a wonderful experience and what more treasurable was all our children were now with us enjoying this time of our lives together. It was perfect indeed as we chatted and shared these splendid moments of our vacation together that would be etched into our memory for a very long time.
Calm waters in Halong Bay
Calm waters in Halong Bay
Overcast Sky
Overcast Sky
Floating Houses
Floating Houses
Floating Houses
Floating Houses
More Floating Houses
More Floating Houses
Sailing on the Bay of thousand islands
Sailing on the Bay of thousand islands
Many islands on the Bay
Many islands on the Bay
Floating Fish Farm
Floating Fish Farm
Sun beams breaking through the clouds
Sun beams breaking through the clouds
Of course snapping of pictures on the bay was something not to be missed. We passed other boats and floating farms and houses along the way on the emerald waters of Halong Bay. It was so peaceful out here and one could easily forget about the troubles and distractions we all had in the busy world where we eked out a living on a daily basis. This was really a timeless moment for us to indulge in a peace of mind venture to rejuvenate ourselves for other challenges in the coming year ahead.
Sailing on emerald waters
Sailing on emerald waters
Peaceful Halong Bay
Peaceful Halong Bay
Enjoyable cruise on Halong Bay
Enjoyable cruise on Halong Bay
Other boats in Halong Bay
Other boats in Halong Bay
Beautiful Halong Bay
Beautiful Halong Bay
Tranquility on Halong Bay
Tranquility on Halong Bay
Another Boat sailing Pass
Another Boat sailing Pass
Nice cruise with other boats
Nice cruise with other boats
Picture Perfect Moment in Halong Bay
Picture Perfect Moment in Halong Bay
Beautiful Oriental Sails nearby
Beautiful Oriental Sails nearby
Having had sufficient dose of luxurious tranquility on the bay, we went back to our room to rest before we were set to conquer Amazing Cave for our next activity. Not long after, we were requested to be transferred to a smaller boat as we headed for Sung Sot Cave with our cruiser anchored nearby.
Floating Jetty near Amazing Cave
Floating Jetty near Amazing Cave
Floating Jetty near Amazing Cave
Floating Jetty near Amazing Cave
Amazing Cave Signage
Amazing Cave Signage
To reach the cave, we had to walk up a flight of stairs which might be challenging for those who had knee troubles. As we ascended, it became apparent that the view of this part of the bay was very beautiful and so we took pictures of the surrounding at a few lookout points. The flights of stairs wasn’t that bad to climb with ropes and poles on the sides to secure the path for trekkers. 

We were told we had to climb up this flight of stairs and will descend from another exit after visiting the cave. There would be no turning back from here once we ascended the stairs to reach the cave. So those who didn’t feel like visiting the cave could opt out and remain on the cruiser boat.
Sign Board of Amazing Cave
Sign Board of Amazing Cave
Another Sign Board of Amazing Cave
Another Sign Board of Amazing Cave
Description of Amazing Cave
Description of Amazing Cave
Actually it didn’t take very long to reach the top to the entrance of the cave though some steps were more steep than others. It was dry during our visit so it was very easy to walk but if it had been raining and wet, it could be a bit more troublesome. It was quite a relief for some with weak legs and knees that there would be no more steep steps to climb as we entered the cave.
Bay from above near the cave entrance
Bay from above near the cave entrance
Another lookout from cave entrance
Another lookout from cave entrance
The cave was all nicely lit up in different colours to bring out the special effects of different faces on the walls of the cave. There were three chambers within the cave. The first chamber wasn’t very big. The paths were well maintained and the cave was dry.
 
Ken our guide was busy pointing out different shapes of the caves using his laser pointer. You could let your imagination run wild with all kinds of pictures you could conjure from the different forms and shapes of the walls inside the cave.
Entering 1st chamber
Entering 1st chamber
Further inside 1st chamber
Further inside 1st chamber
Special lighting effects
Special lighting effects
Lights and shadows on walls
Lights and shadows on walls
Well maintained path
Well maintained path
Red lighting effects
Red lighting effects
Natural art piece in the cave
Natural art piece in the cave
Special ceiling in the cave
Special ceiling in the cave
Upright rock
Upright rock
After spending awhile in the first chamber with us busy taking pictures of the various forms of the walls at different angles, we slowly moved on to the next chamber. What greeted us was really awesome. The second chamber was so huge and it would take some time to explore. 

With Ken continuing his explanations and pointing of his laser pointer at different parts of the walls, we gradually made our way through this second chamber. It was quite cooling inside the cave and we took our time and took more pictures here. The lightings did bring out the beauty of the cave walls without which it would be pitch darkness inside and would be difficult to thoroughly enjoy what this cave had to offer.
Entering 2nd Camber
Entering 2nd Camber
Bright effects on wall
Bright effects on wall
Huge space in 2nd chamber
Huge space in 2nd chamber
Cave under lighting effects
Cave under lighting effects
Rough walls in cave
Rough walls in cave
Wide space inside second chamber
Wide space inside second chamber
Further into 2nd chamber
Further into 2nd chamber
Beautiful cave in 2nd chamber
Beautiful cave in 2nd chamber
More on 2nd chamber
More on 2nd chamber
Light effects on walls
Light effects on walls
Lights and shadows on walls
Lights and shadows on walls
Another artwork
Another artwork
Exiting 2nd chamber
Exiting 2nd chamber
Soon we reached the final third chamber which was just as pretty. All the fascinating features on the walls as well as the stalactites and stalagmites within the cave were simply awe-inspiring brought out by the special lighting effects. The cave was quite easy to navigate and after spending some time taking more pictures, we exited the cave looking out at the bay from a different vintage point.
Nice lighting effects on walls
Nice lighting effects on walls
Walls under white lights
Walls under white lights
Heart shape hole on wall
Heart shape hole on wall
Art piece of nature
Art piece of nature
Mouth cave
Mouth cave
Cracks on the ground
Cracks on the ground
Another cave within a cave
Another cave within a cave
More artwork of nature
More artwork of nature
Special effects under different colour lighting
Special effects under different colour lighting
Near end of 3rd chamber
Near end of 3rd chamber
Nice lighting in cave
Nice lighting in cave
Another view of cave exit
Another view of cave exit
Having visited the cave, we made our descend through well trodden paths. Along the way, we took some more pictures of the bay and finally boarded the waiting boat to bring us back to our cruiser boat. This cave visit was one of the highlights of the cruise. After returning to our cruiser, we were free to have our own activity till dinner time.
Bay view from cave exit
Bay view from cave exit
Another Bay view from cave exit
Another Bay view from cave exit
Bay view from another lookout point
Bay view from another lookout point

Descending from cave exit
Descending from cave exit




So another round of lazing around on the sundeck to enjoy the beauty of Halong Bay was the order of the day. It was great to just do nothing and enjoy the serenity on the Bay of thousand islands sailing on calm waters. 

We waited till sunset to capture the moment of the disappearing sun descending into the distant islands painting the sky with a tint of light blue slowly turning to dark blue with hues of pink in the clouds bidding us good bye for the day. It was a great day no doubt and the time spent as a family together to enjoy this natural wonders on the bay was an experience of a life time to be treasured for a very long time.
Sunset moment in Halong Bay
Sunset moment in Halong Bay
As it turned dark, we went back to our room to shower and to get ready for dinner. Diner time soon beckoned and we were back in the restaurant but this time we assembled outside for a cooking demonstration. 

Ken introduced the chef who was going to teach us how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. The chef showed us the ingredients and the process of making the spring rolls. After that, he invited us to participate and make our own spring rolls for the dinner. 

It was quite fun as we put on gloves and had a go at trying out this spring roll making activity. Once the fillings were all used up, the chef began to fry the spring rolls to a crispy brown and we had a great time tasting the spring rolls which was very delicious.
At night in Halong Bay
At night in Halong Bay
Preparing spring rolls fillings
Preparing spring rolls fillings
Guests making spring roll
Guests making spring roll
Making the sauce for spring roll
Making the sauce for spring roll
We were then ushered back into the restaurant to our respective tables. It was about the same arrangement as lunch but the dishes this time seemed to be more and better. Of course we also had the spring rolls made earlier. We took our time to enjoy the Vietnamese feast on the cruise and chatting happily enjoying one another’s company.

When diner was over, Ken asked if anyone would like to remain in the restaurant to join him for a round of karaoke singing. None did and some preferred to try out squid fishing. 

We went up to the deck again to enjoy the night and watched the stars in the night sky. We also saw other boats anchored nearby. Very near us was the newly renovated Oriental Sails 1 beautifully lighted up and we began to wonder whether this Calypso Cruiser was indeed an upgrade albeit free. Anyway, the price for Calypso Cruise was still higher than that of Oriental Sails so we were comforted. Perhaps our food quality and quantity was more superior than that of Oriental Sails as well. So we didn’t really take it to heart.



Oriental Sails 1 nicely lit up
Oriental Sails 1 nicely lit up

Another boat nearby
Another boat nearby
Boats anchoring nearby
Boats anchoring nearby
Night view from deck
Night view from deck
Beautiful Oriental Sails 1 nearby
Beautiful Oriental Sails 1 nearby
Another view of beautiful Oriental Sails 1 nearby
Another view of beautiful Oriental Sails 1 nearby
As the night grew older, we went down and checked on those who had tried squid fishing. They were not successful but had fun though. 

Finally we went back to our rooms and called it a night. The children were very happy and they left their inter-connecting door open so they could do stuff together. Though no TV was in the room, the children had their own TV via their mobile phones and watched movies from their phone snuggled together on bed. It was a joy to watch them spending time enjoying activity together. 

We didn’t know what time they retired but we returned to our room and not long after, we were slipping into rest mode with many happy memories of the events of the day.
Continue to Day 5 ...