Choosing a cruise in Halong Bay can be tough, especially when you’re on a budget. A two-day, one-night trip seemed really rushed to me, and I thought by staying two nights and three days, I would have the opportunity to explore and appreciate this amazing place. After researching available tour packages, I decided to go for broke; after all, this would be a once in a lifetime experience. That decision was worth every pretty penny.
I sailed on the Jasmine via Heritage Cruise Lines. Fair warning, this isn’t your typical backpacker party boat, so if that’s what you’re looking for, this company is not for you. Yes, the Heritage tour package is pricier than others, but you get great food, premium accommodations, top-notch service, and the day boat (for those who are staying two nights), which was absolutely amazing. Activities include biking, swimming and kayaking, and on the second day the number of people in the tour group dwindles. At any given time during day two, our group was a pleasant six to ten people. Definitely worth it!
The first night on the boat it was a bit drizzly and a little eerie floating through the bay. It almost felt like we were in a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. Before the sun set, we managed to see a traditional fishing village, which was really interesting. It’s only within the past few years that the locals have been required to build houses on floating rafts. Before that, they simply lived out of their fishing boats. Aside from their catches of the day, the only other way they generate income is from tour groups, like ours. Make sure to carry some small money with you if you decide to go on a floating village tour (which you likely will), so you can tip your rowboat guide. 20,000 Dong, less than a dollar U.S., is plenty.
The next day, seven others and I took off on our day boat, while the Jasmine returned to homeport with the passengers who had signed on for only the one night. It was great to see the sights with a smaller group of people. Our first stop was at a larger island (name?) where we biked about half an hour inland to the relatively large village (of? Village name would be lovely). We saw a school, local hospital and a family living (with the most adorable little boy) in a very traditional home. Everyone was super friendly and we were very well received by all of the locals.
The rest of the day was filled with loads of other fun activities, and I have the pictures to match. But, instead of writing a massively long post for this cruise, keep your eyes peeled for ‘part two’ on Halong Bay coming soon!