A Night on the Waters of Halong Bay

One place that was often suggested at the mention of Vietnam was Halong Bay. I set forth on some research and discovered the best way to see the bay was not to get a room on the coast, but to take a boat cruise and sleep on the bay itself. One night, two day or two nights, three day tours are available from many different companies but we chose the one night trip with Halong Legacy Cruises. We were picked up early in the morning and driven almost four hours from Hanoi out to the coast of Halong Bay.

En route from the mainland to our cruise ship!

En route from the mainland to our cruise ship! Our tour guide Kevin Tran scans the waters behind me.

See that huge ship? Ours is the little one in front of it, called the "Halong Legacy Cruise 2."

See that huge ship? Ours is the little one in front of it, called the “Halong Legacy Cruise 2.”

Once on our cruise ship, we had a wonderful spread of food for lunch, then got checked into our rooms and given time to relax. After that we took off to the Cave of Surprise, also known as Hang Sung Sot to do some exploring.

On our way to the caves inside Hang Sung Sot (Cave of Surprise).

On our way to the caves inside Hang Sung Sot.

Our approach to Hang Hung Sot, or "the Cave of Surprise" in English. We'll be walking through the inside of this mountain!

Our approach to Hang Hung Sot, or “the Cave of Surprise.” We walked through the inside of this mountain!

About to enter the cave of surprise!

About to enter the Cave of Surprise!

Our fearless leader, Kevin Tran, as we assemble at the mouth of the cave.

Our fearless team leader, Kevin, as we assemble at the mouth of the cave.

Inside the Cave of Surprise.

Inside the Cave of Surprise.

Group shot of our shipmates inside the Cave.

Group shot of our fellow shipmates inside the cave.

From the top of Hang Sung Sot.

From the top of Hang Sung Sot.

Bal, Kamila and I at the top of the mountain.

Bal, Kamila and I at the top of the mountain.

Another view from the top.

Another view from the top.

Once back onboard the Halong Legacy Cruise 2, we got a lesson on making traditional fresh Vietnamese spring rolls from Kevin.

Kevin teaches our group how to make a traditional Vietnamese spring roll.

Our lesson begins...

Our lesson begins…

Then we are all judged on our efforts in hopes of being the best student. Bal seems happy, although she did not win the competition.

Then we are all judged on our efforts in hopes of being the best student. Bal seems happy, although she did not win the competition.

After an amazing dinner fit for a king, we were treated to some more cultural lessons from our team leader.

Kevin teaches us some traditional Vietnamese drinking games. We are all focused as we learn the rules.

Kevin teaches us some traditional Vietnamese drinking games. We were all focused as we studied the rules.

Let he games begin! This one was a hand-slapping game. We also learned one called "bang bang aaah!"

Let the games begin! This one was a hand-slapping game. We also learned one called “Bang, Bang, Aaah!”

The next morning we woke up early for some Tai Chi and got to enjoy the view of Halong Bay as the sun rose on the water.

The morning calm.

The morning calm.

After breakfast we were escorted via rowboats to see a village built on water. These villages used to be more common in Halong Bay and surrounding areas but over time the government has persuaded most villagers to move inland for better jobs and education. The water village we observed was one of the last.

On our way to see a water village in Halong Bay.

On our way to see a water village in Halong Bay.

Our view on the way to the water village.

Our view on the way to the water village.

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Eventually we docked at a pearl harvesting building where we learned about the world of clams and other aquatic money-makers that the water village people have perfected over time.

Our lesson on harvesting clams in search of pearls.

Our lesson on harvesting clams in search of pearls.

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Back to the cruise ship, it was time for lunch and checking out while the ship pushed towards the mainland. On the bus ride back we were discussing the famous Vietnamese hot pot meal (similar to shabu shabu in Korea) when Kevin suggested a place that made some of the best in town. We talked with some other shipmates and those who had the time were able to join us for one last meal back on solid ground.

A restaurant known for fantastic Vietnamese hotpot, recommended by Kevin.

Some of our shipmates having one last meal together.

The contents of Vietnamese hotpot part one.

The contents of Vietnamese seafood hotpot part one.

Contents part two.

Contents part two.

After dinner we had some drinks at a bar. Seats spilled into the streets until no pavement could be found. Yet still, motorbikes managed to wade through the crowds.

After dinner we had some drinks at a bar. Seats spilled into the streets until no pavement could be found. Still, motorbikes managed to wade through the crowds.

On our way out to the ship our tour guide Kevin said wanted us to be like a family. By the end of the 48 hours, I think he got his wish. It was a wonderful adventure packed into two days and one so amazing that we kept it going even after the tour was over. We made friends from Germany, France, England, Australia, New York and Brazil. Considering our shipmate assignments were pretty much a random draw, we all felt lucky to have been paired up with the folks on our ship.

The captain, crew and chefs were all amazing so I highly recommend Halong Legacy Cruise if you’re looking for a trip out to Halong Bay. We booked with their company and had a wonderful, knowledgable tour guide who took fantastic care of us for the entire two days.  Ask for Kevin and tell him Karli in Korea sent you!

3 thoughts on “A Night on the Waters of Halong Bay

  1. I wish I could’ve gone with you guys. It looked like really special times. The scenery is beautiful. You pack so much detail into your work but it doesn’t feel like an ‘information dump’. Smooth and engaging prose.

  2. Yet another Excellent commentary on a great 48 hrs. Karli!! Your pictures and descriptions are very visual so they stir us to want to go to these places!! But for now……I’ll follow you!! Thank you! :-) Pat

  3. Hey Karluchi!

    What can I say about your remarkable adventure. How wise to see the Bay from a touring ship rather than a hotel room! Wise choice.
    Take care –remember them wooden nickels
    nana and gramp xxxxxoooo

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