Friday, September 28, 2012

Halong Bay: So you want to visit Halong Bay

Being tagged as a UNESCO Heritage site and a claim to fame by Vietnam by being included in the new 7 wonders of nature, don't be surprised that it is being flocked by tourist from every corner of the world. Most tavelers find their way to Hanoi just to be able to cruise in the emerald waters aboard a traditional boat commonly called 'junk'. When I started to research on Halong Bay and Hanoi, I was under the impression that Halong Bay is in Hanoi which is actually incorrect. Halong Bay is actually in Quang Ninh which is about 3-4 hrs bus ride from Hanoi. 

You might have pored over your copy of Lonely Planet and scoured the internet to research all about Halong Bay, so I would like to share my personal 'take aways' from visiting Halong Bay.

1. Being a prime tourist destination means you can get a myriad of choices for your Halong Bay cruise experience. They usually have packages that range from a day trip, to a 2 days or 3 days cruise which come with the on board accommodation in the junk, full board meals except drinks, pre-arranged activities like visit to Sung Sot cave, Ti Top Island and kayaking, tour guide services and the shuttle bus from Hanoi to Halong bay.Once you set your budget and junk type (luxury, middle class or budget) now is the time to collect and collect and collect information and package rates so you can select the best value amongst your choices.You don't want to be the loser guy who paid more than 50% than the guy beside you.

2. Do your research by looking for reviews and ratings on the junks that you have perhaps placed in your shortlist. Tripadvisor and travel blogs will come in handy at this time.
Make sure to check out real travelers photos and experiences so you won't get dissapointed expecting for a 5-star junk but you get a 'junk' instead (pun intended)

3. It's a long ride from Hanoi to the port where you will board your junk, it's either you listen to music, catch up on sleep, drain your phone or tablet's battery by watching the 17 episodes of Koreanovela collecting dust or just simply watch the roadside and keep on insisting that it's the same view when you drive in NLEX 

4.Eat a heavy breakfast since the next meal you will be having will probably be around 1pm

5. Bring some deck of cards or any card games , so you can have some evening entertainment with your group especially if you are travelling with a bunch of friends unless you want to belt it out in the karaoke and provide the acoustics night live session in your junk

6. Bring water but hide it in the deepest recess of your luggage if you want to save a bit but if you have the cash to splurge why go ahead and drink up. Remember most tour packages excludes drinks in their package rates.

7. Finally, enjoy the ride! As a famous travel quote says "take only memories, leave only footprints", you might just be passing by Halong Bay but do your part to keep this natural wonder clean.

Who knows, aside from the footprints you might leave your heart as well in Halong Bay

My personal review on the junk we took to cruise Halong Bay:

Halong Phoenix Cruiser - 2 days 1 night
Price: 105 USD
Meals: lunch, dinner, lunch, fruit snacks on the first day
Accommodation: room accommodation in the junk, ensuite toilet and bath with hot water
Activities: Visit to Sung Sot Cave, Ti Top Island for swimming, Kayaking (2nd day)
Includes: 2 bottles of Mineral water (complimentary) inside the rm, Shuttle service Hanoi to Halong and vice versa

The Good:
- we are lucky to have a Piolo look alike tour guide who speaks quite clear English (I think it's usually a case of hit and miss when it comes to tour guides)
- rooms are quite spacious and beds are comfortable
- clean rooms and toilets 
- "rain" shower heads
- bidet (no need for tabo)
- the junk is not old and rickety
- kayaks looks new

The Bad:
- it might be the wooden fixtures in the bathroom because there is a smell emitted in the bathroom that is kinda like wood drenched in water that was not dried
- cramped toilet
- opening and closing the room/bathroom door is quite tricky it might be because of the door hinge
- food is average the only standout dishes are the spring roll and the sweet and sour fish


Post a Comment