Our travel agent booked us on a cruise for Halong Bay. Something I’ve been meaning to do my entire life. All those small island mountains protruding looked magical. Something I wanted to witness with my own eyes and feel what it’s like to be surrounded by them. It may not have been the best weather but I’ll take the overcast coolness. And thankfully there was no rain in forecast.
The day started with a taxi ride to the dock. We were to meet up and join a tour group, so we picked a meeting spot. Not too difficult to spot the tour guide who insisted to meet outside the restrooms. In his defense, “toilet” was something common to everyone no matter where they’re from. Fair enough. The ticket counter would have done fine. But the encounter did enlighten me to the fact that they charge people to use the restroom. 20,000VND if I remember correctly. I guess it was a good conversation starter with the group.
Soon we were led onto the boat. We took up only half of it. Off season? Not the most ideal weather? You pick the reason. I was just glad to be there. The tour guide sat everyone with similar languages at particular tables. English speakers with us, Chinese speakers a the other, and the rest in the remaining tables. Not a bad idea. Lunch was served as we departed. You’ll see below, not the greatest of meals. Again, I’m for cruising the bay. The tour took about 5 hours and included a visit to one of caverns. If you want a touristy thing to do, this would be it. Next time though, I’d go private tour with a smaller boat to check out remote spots and skip the caverns. And I wouldn’t do what the tour group did, which included a six hour round trip bus ride from Hanoi to do this cruise.
White Dragon Cruises
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Verdict: Do an overnight stay on a larger boat or on one of the islands. This shouldn’t be a day trip.
This place must be good to have three restaurants named after it, right? Well, I couldn’t disprove that theory. It was pretty darn good. Exactly what I was looking on a desolate cold night. Everything looked closed, that was, if it were open, it had nobody in it. This was the case for Hong Hanh 3 which our hotel recommended.
We were pretty skeptical walking in. They had about five restaurant staff sitting around talking among themselves. Not a good sign. But once they realized we weren’t lost or wanting to use the rest room, they were attentive, our waiter particularly. He catered a meal for us with questions all restaurants should ask. “What kind of meal are you looking for? A meal with rice, a light one so you can drink and eat, or a feast with all the seafood.” I was impressed, even with myself for understanding him. He was really cool and even spoke in English when he knew he went beyond my Vietnamese vocabulary. Now that’s service.
Our meal was great and I should have had more pictures for you, but some of the pictures didn’t turn out so well. Our total bill came out to 460,000VND between the two of us. And trust me, we were stuffed. The taxi ride back to our hotel should have drove us right into our bed.
Nha Hang Hong Hanh
Duong Ha Long
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Verdict: You can’t go wrong with this place. I’m guessing their selection will be larger on busy nights.
When booking a place in Halong Bay, you may get offered a resort stay on Tuan Chau island. We got a fantastic hotel, Paradise Hotels, who have their own ferries. Problem was, it’s far away from town. And the other resorts on the island were still being built. So yeah, we felt really isolated. But if you want a quiet getaway, this would be perfect!