Saturday, February 27, 2010

Halong Bay Cruise

When you visit Hanoi, the most popular side trip is to Halong Bay.
First designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1994, it has been reclassified to include it's geological and geomorphological value in 2000.
Halong Bay encompasses an area of roughly 1553 square kilometers with some 2000 limestone karsts and islands of various sizes and shapes jetting high above the surface of the water. An incredible sight to say the least.

When we first visited Hanoi in 1998, we didn't make the trip to Halong Bay. When we returned home, we heard plenty of "you didn't go to Halong Bay?". Not sure if it's the same as "you went to Paris and didn't go to the Eiffel Tower?" but we didn't actually decide on Halong until we were persuaded by our hosts here in Hanoi.
It's all pretty structured. A few hundred cars, minivans, and buses shuttle back and forth between Hanoi and Halong Bay daily. There are roughly 25 tour operators and somewhere around 150 to 250 small cruise boats, depending on who you talk to, cruising in the bay.

We stopped at one of the many fishing villages on the Bay. Fishing, shrimping, oyster farming are still a big part of life for the people here, but I suspect shuttleing tourists around the bay can be just a lucretive.

Pollution is a pretty big problem in the bay as evidenced by the amount of garbage floating around.
Not sure where most of it comes from but at least in the small fishing village we visited the people shuttleing us around were constantly netting up debris from the water.

No, I'm not part of the crew. Stop asking me for a coffee refill.
But I get this frequently. In Thailand, we rented an apartment, and the very first day we were there someone approached me and told me that the light fixture in his apartment was not working and demanded that I fix it. When I gave him a puzzled look, he just threw up his arms and walked away. I guess he though I couldn't understand English.

Cooking class (above) and morning Tai Chi (below).

Kayaking is another popular activity in the bay.

She sells sea shells.

Fishing boats all lined-up.

We opted for 0ne of the higher end tours on the bay.
The staff on board were incredible. The food was so so.
We would recommend them though. They have six boats in their fleet. One for day cruising, Three Classics, and two high end Legends.

Sails Up!

Although the sails are mostly decorative, in a moderate breeze they actually do some good.

*When you go:

-You can generally book a cruise a day or two in advance out of Hanoi. All the tour operators have offices in the central tourist area, or Old Town of Hanoi. There are also numerous private tour operators throughout the city.

-The two day, one night cruise is the most popular way to see Halong Bay. A second night will cost you about 40% more. We opted for the Bhaya 2day/1night cruise ($159 promotional price) which included the three hour shuttle to and from Hanoi.

-Check the weather reports for a "good weather day". It can be cold, foggy, and gloomy even during the mild high tourist season.

-Pack light for the overnight stay. It could get chilly at night so bring a sweater or light jacket.

-If you want to kayak or swim (probably not recommended as the water is pretty murkey) bring appropiate clothing.

*Halong Bay time:


Horror with Heart said...

Great Alan. Always love your photos and commentary.

Sue said...

Lovely photos. Ha Long Bay is a beautiful spot. Thanks for sharing!