A Ha Long Bay Long Shot – Will Our Second Attempt At Cruising Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Pay Off?

by Marc Valentine

After our first doomed attempt to visit Ha Long Bay… we headed North to Sapa for a few days of trekking before returning to Hanoi…


Never A Dull Moment In Ha Long Bay

Ice Berg Dead Ahead...! Sorry, Sorry It's Actually Just A Massive White Boat

On our way back to Hanoi, Anna & I decided we would push our luck one notch further, and have one final crack at out-maneuvering the crappy weather that had plagued our time in Vietnam, and attempt another visit to Ha Long Bay.

This being our maiden voyage to Vietnam, who knows if we’d ever return…?

… plus the only thing we really have on the line is 1 day of our time…

1 day out of the 3 – 4 months we planned to spend backpacking around SE Asia… so it’s not like we were betting the farm.

We phoned ahead to our home base in Hanoi… the Red Dragon Hotel, & asked the manager David to double check…

No… triple check.

No… infinity check.

That the weather was favourable & if so book us onto an overnight boat trip if there was a very strong possibility of the damn thing actually leaving the harbour this time.


Never A Dull Moment In Ha Long Bay

Nice Beach To Catch Some Rays... Shame About The Fog

Embracing the familiarity of loading our bags onto a minibus in the wee hours of the morning…

… for the second time in less than a week, we made the 4 hour bus trip to Ha Long Bay and boarded the very same boat we had been forced to leave after only a few hours a couple of days earlier…

We then enjoyed the exact same mouthwatering seafood banquet, and tempting fate (maybe a little too much) even retired to our cabin for a snooze – eerily following the exact routine from our first ill fated attempt to cruise around the Bay.


Our Boat Cruise Ha Long Bay

The 'Galaxy' Our Floating Home For The Night

To our joy, this time we awoke to the sound of the engines under power and enthusiastically surfaced from our room to take in the magnificent sights of The World Heritage Listed Ha Long Bay.

We steamed out into the Bay and headed directly for Sung Sot Cave under a light fog… the fog hanging lightly in the air creating an unexpected but dramatic backdrop to the Islands as we cruised out to the cave…


Panorama Ha Long Bay

A Light Fog Hangs Over Ha Long Bay

… to be honest, the fog didn’t concern us that much… we were very grateful just to be out on the water.

Yet Another SE Asian Cave

Everyone likes a good cave right? … they’re in the “top visited tourist attractions” category right next to Temples & Waterfalls…


Sung Sot Cave Vietnam

The Extraordinarily Large Sung Sot Cave

… if you haven’t been, you’ll have to take my word for it (or if you don’t trust me… you could just look at the pictures & see for yourself) this cave really is something special.

Sung Sot cave is certainly one of the most impressive caves I’ve seen – if for nothing else, just it’s immense scale alone had my jaw scraping along the floor…

There are 2 sections to Sung Sot cave… the first chamber is well lit & very pretty but not all that impressive in scale… it’s the second chamber that really is massive.

Our guide enthusiastically pointed out a few recognizable stone figures… stone Buddhas, entire scenes out of the Lion King movie, and humorous male appendages lookalikes.


Penis Shape Rock Ha Long Bay

Does Anybody Else See A Pen...cil?

We then climbed the steps back out into fresh air looking past the lush green foliage & into the bay and the many boats floating far below on the bays surface.

Clambering down the steps back to our boat… we drifted over to a nearby floating Kayak hire shop, (apparently they do exist) where everyone awkwardly clambered into their very own Kayak & spent the next hour paddling around exploring the Bay.


Ha Long Bay From Above

With no idea how deep the water below us was, my mind kept drifting back to the only place I had ever visited that was kinda similar to Ha Long Bay…

Milford sound in New Zealand’s South Island, where I’d learnt that the water there was staggeringly deep (up to 512 metres) and often frequented by many different whale species.

Paddling around the bay (with one eye permanently scanning the waters surface for signs of killer whale activity) an hour flew by in what felt like 15mins.

Back onboard the The Galaxy… our captain steered us into a nice little bay & anchored our boat for the night… where we nestled in for our 1 and only night out on Ha Long Bay.


Floating Merchants Ha Long Bay

The entire boat gathered in the main dining room for dinner… a meal equally impressive as the lunch we had devoured earlier…

… all the while the staff were busy warming up the onboard karaoke machine. Yesss floating karaoke! 

I couldn’t hide my disgust when the other guests turned down my offer to participate in a messy all night binge drinking session… accompanied by cheerful karaoke music, including of course the compulsory slaughtering of Bon Jovi’s ‘Living On A Prayer’.


Karaoke Ha Long Bay

I Can't Speak For The Guests, But The Staff Were Thrilled With My Performance

So with only the crew for an audience, and mic in hand, I sung a shaky, high pitched rendition of Kenny Roger’s ‘The Gambler’ before retiring to my cabin for the evening.

In the morning, we had to be out of our rooms by 9am… so our ‘2 day cruise’ in Vietnam actually turned out to be ‘free run of the boat for 2 half days – and around 21 hours in an actual room’.


Navigating Ha Long Bay

Navigating Through Fog Is Tricky Business

Our overall impression of the Ha Long Bay cruise…

The bay itself was very beautiful, and I’m sure in more favourable weather conditions would be even more spellbinding.

Overall the cruise felt very rushed – 2 days is probably not enough considering we spent a big chunk (half) of the first day in a minibus – and the next morning we had to be out of our rooms by 9am so the crew could prepare them for the next guests.

Adding an extra day, allowing for a full day on the boat would be perfect.

I would encourage anyone travelling to Vietnam to make the effort to visit Ha Long Bay… just be sure to check the weather before booking and make double sure you only pay a deposit up front.

We didn’t pay anything up front on our first attempt to visit the bay – but there were others on our boat who had paid in full… and I highly doubt they would have seen their money refunded, once your money is in someone else’s hands, it’s extremely difficult to get it back.

Galaxy Boat Cabin

Our Cabin Room On The Galaxy Boat

The company we used for our Ha Long Bay boat cruise was Galaxy Cruises… the boat was only a few months old and the cabins were exceptional.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Starlight Cruises August 12, 2015 at 11:05 am

Really awesome place to visit…
Hoping for a tour to halong bay very soon


Join The Discussion - Leave Your Comments Below

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: