Finally, after years of patiently waiting, I have officially ticked Halong Bay off of my bucket list!
Halong Bay consists of 1969 small islands, grouped together, standing tall out of the water and dressed in greenery. We were lucky the very indecisive rain stayed away for us that day; the day before had been torrential and we were actually meant to be going then but we changed our minds last minute thankfully.
TIP- when booking Halong Bay (we only did a day tour because we’re on a tighter budget but you can do overnight ones and two/ three day ones too) search on every possible website and check for your best deal, but always read reviews.
I was initially going to book one for £50 each with a pick up from a hotel in Hanoi, but in the end managed to find a deal for £30 a hotel with a pick up and drop off from our apartment! We were collected early because it was a four hour drive from where we were staying. A mini bus full of happy people from all over the world laughed and slept our way up, with our adorable and chirpy tour guide telling us jokes and giving us the pre-tour info. The drive was long but we stopped off somewhere on the way for a toilet and food and drinks. The stop was at a place where there is a workshop with disabled people. They sit in lines creating these stunning and impressive art pieces made by hand stitching. So colourful and intricate with such impressive attention to detail. I thought they were paintings at first!
On the boat we all sat down and we’re given a basically given a modern day medieval banquet, all included in the price! There were squid cakes, veggie and pork spring rolls, rice, salad, shrimp, tofu, chicken, fries, fruit, vegetables- and the plates of food just kept coming out! It was all fresh and good quality as well.
The islands gave me flashbacks from the Philippines as we cruised along. The air was warm and humid and smelt slightly salty. Sitting at the top of the boat, we took photos and lounged out to enjoy the views.
Our first stop was at the floating village, where you can either choose to rent your own kayak or get rowed in a Bamboo boat (all included in the price) to row through some caves. We chose to go in one of the Bamboo boats with Katie and Charlotte, the two new British girls that we met from Bristol, and another lovely guy from Finland whose name I don’t remember (sorry)!
We found the guy rowing the boat for us quite amusing; he kept wanting to take photos of us on each of our phones, implying so through broken English. At one point he got us each pretending to row the boat and so he could take some more haha. But then as we were rowing back to the dock he wouldn’t stop saying “money tip money you give tip I take good photos” – basically not giving up until we’d all tipped him for taking photos that we never asked him to take haha. But it’s not a big issue, it would have helped a man out that was probably not earning much money as it was.
Anyway, the caves we went through were pretty impressive. It was like we were rowing through a spikey hole in the middle of a rock! Hard bits of the cave drooped down and some people had to duck going underneath them. They resembled hard toothpaste coming out of a tube (or snot coming out of someone’s nose if you look at it that way haha).
Our next stop was to the Dau Go cave, apparently meaning something along the lines of heaven cave. I love love love caves they’re so interesting!! This one was quite big as well but apparently it was one of the smaller ones! It wasn’t even discovered that long ago either.
Different coloured lights had been installed to light it up and illuminate the candle wax walls and floor. The tour guide was pointing out different animals and people you could see in the wax (although it was hard to see what he meant at times). The reason the name of the cave is related to heaven is because there is a hole, like an escape passage, at the top which sucks in all the sunlight, looking like a gateway to heaven.
We had to head back after this to get back on the long bus journey, but it was a good day full of different experiences and views for such a cheap price. We got takeaway that night and prepared ourselves for leaving to Hoi An the following day.
We also had to say goodbye to this little guy. Our new Vietnamese friend who worked in the restaurant beneath the apartment we stayed in, who loves England and Manchester and taking photoshoots with us.
There’s only so long you can go before you start craving a nice greasy western meal. We’ve cheated a couple of times and had fries or burgers or pizza (usually when we’re in need of a carb coma). We were actually having a conversation the other day (already) about the food we’re going to have when we get back home. I said the first thing I’m doing is going to Nana’s to raid her fridge and have her roast potatoes. Or go to the chippy with mum and get our usual British chips and curry sauce. Another thing that we still somehow haven’t found any of yet, is hummus. WHY 😦 I literally feel like I’m having withdrawal symptoms without it.
Transport wise- If you’re thinking of travelling Vietnam from North to south or vice Versa, there are quite a few different options (flights, train, bus). I would personally recommend getting an open bus ticket and doing it that way. Not only is it really cheap, but the buses are sleeper buses, so you basically get to lie down comfortably and have your own space.
We’re going Hanoi- Hoi an- Na Trang- Mui Ne- Ho Chi Minh. The open bus ticket lasts a month, meaning you can stay at each stop for a good length of time before packing back up again.
The other thing with getting a bus is the breathtaking views you drive past. Wide stretches of land and fluorescent yellowy green crops brighten everything up, with buffalos and workers in straw hats sticking out. There are massive hills and ponds and it’s just so photogenic and seems too good to be real.
We’re using Sinh tourist (link here) as we’ve heard they are the best company. The only negative point is that they don’t have toilets, but luckily they make regular stops and apparently the drivers are more than happy to stop at the side of the road if you’re desperate. Any questions get in touch!