Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Mesmerizing Vietnam: Journey to Halong Bay.

*This trip was made in June 2013*

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

One of the must-see places in Vietnam is definitely the famous  Halong Bay. Halong Bay, referring to the "Descending Dragon Bay", was labelled a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist destination, located in Quang Ninh Province.

The usual way of visiting is to get a tour package, either before your trip, or during your trip when you are in Vietnam, so that mini buses will be arranged to pick you from your Hotel Lobby! 

We decided that it's a rare chance for us (in Singapore) to see such a beautiful scenic place. So, we definitely have to spend at least 1 night on the Junks!  Before the trip, we signed up for a 2 day 1 night tour on Agoda with Annam Junk. It cost about USD 120++ per pax, inclusive of 3 meals and all entrance fees in Halong Bay. The night before taking off, they called us at our hotel to confirm the pick up timing in the morning, and also checked with us if there's anything we can't or don't eat.

Got up early that day, had the Fiancé's favourite beef Pho for breakfast at the hotel before heading to wait for the pick up!

The journey took about 4 hours on road, with a 30 mins toilet break in between. We were told that the pick up was from Oriental Sails, apparently another Junk operator! And once we reach the Harbour, the Fiancé and I will join Annam Junk separately. We were a little worried as the current Tour Guide seem to be good enough and we were unsure about the ones from Annam Junk! 

However, when we reach the Habour, we were told to join them at Oriental Sails in the end! :) 

This is how the Junks look like! It's like a miniature version of a Cruise! And because it's cruising on a Bay, the current is very stable, so no worries about being sea sick on it! It does look a little old on the exterior, but it's really comfortable inside!

The bar & reception area upon entrance.

We were welcomed by a glass of fresh mango juice and our keys ready for check in! :) The tour guide gave the Fiancé and I a Honeymoon room instead. Very sweet of them!

The room isn't big, but it's decent enough for the 2 of us. And it's surprisingly clean! Very comfortable bed as well, so much so that I napped once I got onto the bed later. 

After checking in and having a short rest, we went up to the opened area for some views and photos before lunch!

The sky that day wasn't clear enough. The surroundings was a little foggy, adding onto the mystical feeling! 

Went down to the reception area for lunch shortly after.

The food was a spread every meal! We were all so very surprised. Our first lunch consist of sort of Papaya Salad as appetizer, tofu, fish cake, fried morning glory, crab, and rice! It's all included in price, and you can order drinks in addition, which are also reasonably priced!

Shortly after lunch, we marked the start of our tour! First stop was to the legendary "Surprising Cave" which the Fiancé wanted to go so very much! 

Everyone had to wear a life jacket on board the transfer boat according to regulations!

The Surprising Cave! 

If you follow your tour guide closely, he'll show you many limestones which shaped like animals -- chicken or elephants and more! It really depends on creativity to see them all!

I believe the lights are the reason why the cave looked so pretty inside!
Given the hot weather outside, it really feels extra cooling inside the cave!

It's said that the limestone in the far end looks really like the shape of Bodhisattva (Guanyin). 

This pretty view is what welcomes us as we exit the cave.
Everywhere in Halong Bay is so beautiful! 

After the cave visit, we headed for an 1 hour Kayak via the transfer boat before we headed back for dinner! To tell the truth, it's really my first Kayaking experience there! I felt really excited about it.

We kept our camera with the tour guide, and he helped us to snap a photo while we try to kayak out into the open area! So nice of him!

We kayak for almost an hour, with such a surreal surroundings and view! I really felt so relaxed and enjoyed so much!

Mini Floating Market everywhere along the Bay!

One thing to beware there is that sometimes the locals there will try to scam you of your money! Our tour mates sat on the old kayaks for a short while, and was accused of spoiling them and have to pay for it. The kayaks were obviously old and unusable. Luckily our tour guide managed to settle it some how! 

One must really be cautious about being in contact with anything in a foreign land!

It's almost night time when we return to our transfer boat and back to our junk!

Back to our boat, and we were given around 2 hours to rest and wash up before dinner! We headed back to the room, and I fell asleep after showering! After getting up, we decided to head up to the roof to watch the sunset.

I felt so glad I managed to get up from my nap and catch the sunset! Prettiest sight ever!

How beautiful is the night sky at Halong Bay!! The view makes the whole trip totally worth it. I have never seen such beautiful sunset in my life! The company makes it even more pretty definitely!

Dinner was another spread for us! 9 dishes with rice. I feel that I was not short changed from changing from Annam to Oriental Sails! We had all kinds of seafood, from clams to prawns, to squid, with many vegetables and pretty presentations!

After dinner, there was a mini demonstration on how the chefs onboard carve out pretty shapes from fruits and vegetables.

The final result!

It was free time after dinner, and you can choose to go squid fishing, or back to the room for a rest! 

Trying to fish for squids!

People are really hardworking over there!

The Fiancé and I decided to do some drinking instead! :) 
Ordered the must-try-everywhere Long Island Iced Tea! It was not too bad.

Night View of the roof!

After some chatting with fellow tour members and some drinkings, we head back to bed! Couldn't get up on time for the early taichi lesson though! Yes! They have taichi sessions in the morning!

Woke up to this splendid view, just outside our room's window! 

Today's itinerary was to go to a hill named Ti Top. It requires climbing up a hill with 420 steps in total. I was so tired even before half way up the hill! However, the view on the top of the hill makes every step worth it!

There was also a beach at the bottom of the hill. We were given some time to stay there and swim if we wish to. Fiancé and I just walked along the beach without stepping into the waters. :)

We saw a Golden Retriever which was super cute! And I managed to capture this heart-warming moment!

So cute, isn't it? :)

Another cutie!

Headed back to the Junk for final washing up and check out so that the crews have sufficient time to prepare for their next customers.

The sky was so much clear today than yesterday! Took some photos before we headed for last lunch and back to Hanoi!

This place is a really pretty place to visit. I feel like everyone should come here at least once! Especially for Singaporeans like us, who are not exposed to much of nature in cities!

1 day tour is definitely not enough to fully enjoy this beautiful place! You should at least spend one night so that you need to rush through the itinerary!

With this, I sign off our 2 day 1 night Halong Bay Tour & Stay! I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and feel free to ask any questions! :)

Btw, we came back and found that actually Oriental Sails is worth much more than what we've paid for Annam Junk! Totally worth it! :) Great Service and food, itinerary, crews, guide!

More information about Oriental Sails:
Cost on Agoda - US$190++
Itinerary - Click HERE