In 1994 Halong Bay was designated Vietnam’s World Heritage Site. Whether you’ve seen images online or visited the wonder yourself, there’s no question as to why it gained the significant title.
Imagine cruising along clear blue water, stood on the top deck of a boat, beer flowing, whilst your eyes lay upon clusters of mountains formed from the sea below.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, you can and should, do exactly this. I paid around £100, to stay three days on a private island, surrounded by like minded people and stunning scenery.
Travelers planning to do a cruise along Halong Bay need to do research before hand. Castaway’s is a well known tour operator, by Vietnam Backpackers. To go on this trip, it would have cost me around £200.
Because this way the only company I’d ever heard of before coming to Vietnam, it was the one I was going to book. But after meeting people along my journey, I discovered there were much cheaper options, which had the exact same itinerary. These included Oasis and Hideaways.
I chose to do Hideaways, as it’s more targeted at my age range. We stayed at the company’s hostel, Central Backpackers in Hanoi the night before we left.
The day started early, with a 6:45am wake up, in order to quickly get ready and enjoy our free breakfast. Of course, the free breakfast was a choice of egg, egg or egg. (I was very sick of the egg breakfasts at this point), but it was free so I shouldn’t complain.
For the first time in my whole trip, I really discovered what monsoon season was like. The whole first day it didn’t stop raining at any point. But, this didn’t stop us having fun and making the most of what we had.
The bus came at around 8am, and picked tourists up from their second hostel in the Old quarter of Hanoi. We made it to the boat around 12:30/1:00pm. After enjoying an amazing lunch, filled with tofu, spring rolls (the best I have ever tasted), fresh fruit, rice and much more, we embarked on the deck of the boat to drink beer and jump from 5 meters high.
We reached our private island at around 4pm. The island consisted of around 5 beach huts, a beach, reception and a food area. After a splash in the sea, we played beach volleyball and then had a refreshing and extremely cold shower, ready for a crazy night ahead.
To say we were on a private island, the drinks were very reasonably priced. They had two happy hours a night. In happy hour it cost 120,000 dong for 3 drinks, which is just under £4. You could also do a balloon for 30,000 dong, which is £1.
When everyone had drank, we put our bikinis on and went in the sea to discover the glowing plankton! After splashing my hands for a good ten minutes, my eyes finally saw the glowing plankton. A top tip if you chose to do Hideaways, the rocks in the sea are lethal, and you will, no matter how hard you try not to, cut your feet.
The next day we had an 8am wake up call for breakfast. This consisted of rice, bread, egg and fresh fruit. It sounds bad, but it was actually really nice.
We travelled 45 minutes by boat to an island where we did a 4km bike ride, before starting our trek. Because of the rain, we could only take the easy route.
It had rained that much at some points the rain fall reached my knee (I am only 5foot 3), none the less I enjoyed the day so much. At one point we even had to climb across a fallen tree to reach the other side of the path.
That’s one thing I love about Vietnam, there’s absolutely no safety, making every experience so much more thrilling and memorable.
Talking about no safety, we then climbed a massive and painful cliff, with no safety harness etc. It’s so crazy to image ever being able to do things like that back in England.
After a long day, we enjoyed our dinner, before heading back to the bar. After many games of flip cup, many rounds of beer pong and one too many vodka red bulls, me and my Australian friend were loving life.
We felt it the next day, as we had another 8am wake up call. At 9:30am, we began kayaking to the floating villages. It’s crazy to imagine living on a floating village, the people who live there are mostly fisherman.
On the way back, me and my friend were really struggling (I’ll put it down to a hangover, not how unfit I am) and so we decided to take a short cut and get back to the island before the others. A few behind us saw our creative idea, and did the exact same.
Sadly, this was our last day, so after a swim in the sea, we got ready to go back to Hanoi. We set off at 1pm, and arrived back at 5pm.
Halong Bay was one of the best trips I went on whilst in Vietnam. A lot of backpackers complain they don’t want to “do tourist things”, which I never really understood and still don’t. Halong Bay is filled with tourists, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an amazing place to visit. It’s a World Heritage Site for a good reason.