A tour from Hanoi to Halong Bay – 2013

I didn’t want to go at first, but my friend really wanted to go… So we decided on one night away. There were tours costing several hundred dollars, but we decided on one costing $138 each, with V Spirit Classic Cruise.  I had read in a guide that if you paid the absolute minimum the tour would not be so good, but alternatively, paying a lot would not get you very much more than an average price. I think the price was right, and I was happy with the quality.

The schedule was that we were picked up between 8AM and 8.30AM, and taken by bus to Halong Bay, where we would board the board for a two day, one night cruise of the bay.  All meals were included, but drinks not. Then, after lunch on the second day we were returned by bus to our hotel, at around 5PM, but dependent on traffic.

We were picked up at 8.20AM, stopped for a break around 10.15AM, and arrived at the dock around 12.30PM.

Picked up on time - about 8.20AM. Quite a comfortable bus.

Picked up on time – about 8.20AM. Quite a comfortable bus.

It was interesting seeing Hanoi as we drove out towards the country. Most of it was like this.

It was interesting seeing Hanoi as we drove out towards the country. Most of it was like this.

And it didn't take so long to leave the city - around 9AM be were crossing this bridge. It was Sunday, however.

And it didn’t take so long to leave the city – around 9AM be were crossing this bridge. It was Sunday, however.

The countryside was nice.

The countryside was nice.

About halfway to Halong Bay we stopped at the tourist trap for half an hour - arts and crafts for sale - I had coffee

About halfway to Halong Bay we stopped at the tourist trap for half an hour at about 10.15 – arts and crafts for sale – I had coffee

Underway again

Underway again

School children going home.

School children going home.

another river

another river

More school children. The red bandanna means that their parents are Communist Party members, and thus have special privileges.

More school children. The red bandanna means that their parents are Communist Party members, and thus have special privileges.

The railway line to China.

The railway line to China.

One of the interesting houses seen on the way.

One of the interesting houses seen on the way.

A small forest.

A small forest.

We see the sea at last. Almost there!

We see the sea at last. Almost there!

We arrived at the dock about 12.30PM.

Now we are at the dock, which has nice new facilities. As you can see, this is a model of what they are planning - selling lots and lots of tourist houses and apartments.

Now we are at the dock, which has nice new facilities. As you can see, this is a model of what they are planning – selling lots and lots of tourist houses and apartments.

Where we board the small boat to take us to our larger boat.

Where we board the small boat to take us to our larger boat.

We had to wait for a bit over  an hour to board, but it was comfortable there, and they had a coffee shops and bar.  We were on board before 2PM.

Approaching our boat

Approaching our boat

The room was as advertised, with an ensuite and private balcony.

Our cabin, onboard.

Our cabin, onboard.

The ensuite.

The ensuite.

And our balcony.

And our balcony.

And then we had lunch. Good food, and so much of it!! Drinks were expensive by Vietnamese standards, but not by western standards. e.g. Beer was about $2 from memory, and cocktails about $4 or $5 depending on the cocktail.  We were told if we bought any drinks from the boat vendors you see floating around, we’d have to pay a surcharge to the tour.

The dining room - on the same deck as our cabin.

The dining room – on the same deck as our cabin.

One of the views.

One of the views once we get underway.

two fellow passengers

two fellow passengers

They kept us busy with activities, and there wasn’t much time for relaxing.  Kayaking was fun!

we went kayaking from the boat into a lagoon in the middle of an island

we went kayaking from the boat into a lagoon in the middle of an island

floating shop

floating shop

After kayaking we were off to the beach!

"Soi Sim Beach Island"

“Soi Sim Beach Island”

First we climbed to the top of the island for the views.

sunset from the summit of the island

sunset from the summit of the island

sunset from the summit of the island

sunset from the summit of the island

Then we swam – a little cool, but refreshing. It was March, so not unexpected.

we went for a swim - there was also a bar on the beach, but we hadn't taken any money with us

we went for a swim – there was also a bar on the beach, but we hadn’t taken any money with us

After a shower it was about 8PM, and time fro drinks and dinner.  Then some entertainment, and it was soon bed time.  We were pretty tired, and I wanted to be up at dawn for sunrise – but there were also predawn activities for those so inclined – I declined.  Tai Chi etc. was available.  Crabbing, too, I think. Or was it catching squid?  After a huge breakfast we were off to a cave complex.

the next morning we went to a cave complex on another island - along with every other tourist in Halong Bay

the next morning we went to a cave complex on another island – along with every other tourist in Halong Bay

the hordes cliimbing up towards the caves

the hordes cliimbing up towards the caves

one of the views

one of the views

in one of the caves

in one of the caves

another cave

another cave

another view

another view

Then our “cooking lesson”, after we’d returned to the boat.

Back on the boat we had our "cooking lesson" - making a vietnamese roll. The ingredients...

Back on the boat we had our “cooking lesson” – making a Vietnamese roll. The ingredients…

put a bit of each on the shell...

put a bit of each on the shell…

roll up and serve with dipping sauce

roll up and serve with dipping sauce

relaxing on the deck before lunch

relaxing on the deck before lunch

Many of us thought that the product of our cooking would be our lunch, and we ate a lot of spring rolls. But no, next was a proper lunch, after a short time to relax on the upper deck.

our last meal - lunch - onboard

a few dishes from our last meal – lunch – onboard

Then, after lunch we headed back to the dock, onto the bus, and started back to Hanoi.

stopping at the same tourist shop on the way back to Hanoi

stopping at the same tourist shop on the way back to Hanoi

leaving one of the towns on the way back to Hanoi

leaving one of the towns on the way back to Hanoi

almost back at Hanoi - the end of the tour

almost back at Hanoi – the end of the tour

Overall, I was very happy with the trip, and glad to have done it. I do think once is enough, though. The company was well organised, most things went smoothly, the facilities were good and as promised, the food was good and plentiful, the staff friendly and helpful, and the driver drove safely.
Lunch

Cabbage
Squid
Dragon fruit
Soup
Sesame seed salad
Chicken
Crab
Rice

Dinner

Pumpkin soup
Papaya salad
Chips
Pork schnit
prawns
Bok choy
Ginger fish
rice
Beef
Nashi pear

Breakfast
Bacon
Egg
Toast
Jam butter
Watermelon
Coffee tea
Roll cake

Lunch

Partly pictured

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