You can take a one day tour to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi, returning the same day. Dale and I took a deluxe boat tour around the bay, costing around US$38. This included the mini bus transport, deluxe boat, deluxe lunch, guided basket boat ride, cave tour and return to Hanoi. Lush right!?
Starting fairly early, the mini bus came to pick us up from the hotel at 7:30AM. The trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay took four hours, however we did break at a road stop in the middle.
At the pier, our group was joined by another – making the total tour group number around 25 people. Upon embarking the boat, we were served a buffet lunch, including chicken, seafood, whole fish, salads and rice. Yum!
It was really quite surreal to have a story teller in your ears
We could sit on top of the boat as we made our way into the rocky outcrops jutting out from the bay’s water. I was listening to an audiobook at the time and the narrator was describing a scene on a boat – it was really quite surreal to have a story teller in your ears as you are in a similar situation. Of course, the story was action-packed with fighting and escape, but that thrill only added to the atmosphere I was soaking up.
There’s a story behind the formation of the limestone outcroppings of Ha Long Bay – even the name itself gives some clues. Long means dragon, and Ha Long Bay is where the dragon descended. The outcroppings of limestone rock are the body of the dragon.
The boat stopped at a floating pier. Here we were invited to board a guided basket boat with a local to steer the boat for us.
This was a really nice way to get up close and personal with the limestone formations that (at this point) surrounded us in looming majesty.
We met a Filipino couple in our boat and it was really nice to share the experience with them.
About an hour later and we were on our way to see some special limestone formations. There are animal shaped outcroppings of limestone that resemble mythical and real creatures.
This formation is said to resemble the head of a dragon breaching the surface of the water. Others resembled chickens and other edible tasties.
As a final treat on the tour, the boat dropped us off at Dong Thien Cung, a cave network located right in the middle of the bay.
You’d think inside a cave, being protected from the elements, the atmosphere would be cooler than the exterior. Wrong! It is so hot and humid in there, its insane! Combine that with the breathing of a thousand tourists per hour. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
But the cave is nicely displayed with lights and a path with railings and flooring. Some nice reflective pools can be seen, but I don’t think they are naturally occurring – I did see a pipe at the back of one, sorry to burst your bubble on that one.