Ha Long Bay with Wonder Bay Cruise

Despite living in the middle of South-East Asia, there are a number of S.E.A. countries I have not visited before. To rectify this, I visited Vietnam for the first time in my life last month. 

As to why I chose Hanoi instead of Ho Chi Minh or Danang, the other two popular Vietnamese spots, it was because Hanoi was the furthest from Malaysia. 

Ahem. 

I spent a total of 48 hours in Hanoi - arriving at 3PM on a Sunday and flying out at 3PM on Tuesday. 

I wasn't that interested in the city, but I was really looking forward to seeing Ha Long Bay with my own eyes. 


*This picture serves as proof that I have definitely seen Ha Long Bay with my own eyes.*

I mean, I guess one can say "what's so fascinating about a bunch of oversized rocks on sea?", but there's is something fairly compelling about these islands and islets to look at.

The hotel I stayed at helped me arrange a one day tour to Ha Long Bay with Wonder Bay Cruise, with a bus that came to pick me up at nine in the morning.

At USD95 per person, it's not exactly a cheap cruise - I do come from another S.E.A. country - but I appreciate the comfort and service that came along with it.

Most of the 15 people on the bus were Koreans, with a smattering of British and Americans mixed in.

The tour guide, Đông, enthusiastically spoke in English throughout the trip about the history of the Bay, along with some jokes here and there. You know. Standard tour guide stuff. He was super friendly and nice, a totally great representative of his people.


It took around 3 hours for the bus to go from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, which really means that the one-day trip to Ha Long Bay is only about 5 hours or so in Ha Long Bay itself.

On our journey there, Đông kept emphasizing that there were a lot of Chinese tourists.

"Thousands daily!" he exclaimed.

He... was not exaggerating. I could hear Chinese accents everywhere as soon as we got to Tuan Chao Harbour. There was even a store in the Harbour selling Traditional Chinese Medicine ingredients, which included dried insects I did not want to look at too closely.



Our boat looked a lot nicer than the other boats, too, complete with faux grass and plants and all. I could see that some of the other boats were not equipped with air-conditioning, too.

I mean... I did pay USD95 to have the privilege of being in this boat.

In this boat, we were placed together with another bus's passengers, making the passenger load to be around 30 people or so. Throughout the entire trip I kept hearing the Korean language, and patted myself on the back for being able to understand some of it. Thanks, Korean dramas!

Even in Hanoi's city itself I kept hearing Korean being spoken at the places I went to. Apparently Vietnam is a hot touristy spot for Koreans.


Lunch is provided on this cruise - Vietnamese style, naturally - and while I don't have complaints about the quality of the food itself, there was rather... a lot.

I felt quite bad about the food wastage, and wish that there was an option of choosing a 3-course meal and your own dishes rather than being served a huge amount of food with a majority we left untouched at the end.



Apart from the crunchy fried spring rolls I think the above sweet and sour fish is my favourite. Of course it's the one with only four pieces, to share among four people.

😭😭😭 I would have gladly replaced the salad and vegetables with more of the fish.

I was first confronted with how many Chinese tourists actually go to Ha Long Bay at the first spot we stopped at - Luon Cave.

Basically, we have to get off our boat and wait for a smaller boat or kayak into Luon Cave, as the only entrance is a low arc between rock and water.

Due to the high amount of tourists, I think I waited ten times as long for a boat than actually being in Luon Cave itself. It was just a loop inside to look at the natural formations of the open-air cave, and some monkeys.

I'm from Malaysia. I've seen plenty of monkeys, both actual and human.



Here's a Vietnamese monkey's picture for you to look at, anyway.

Our next stop was this place Đông called the Surprising Cave, to see staglamites and staglactites (I typed both without looking them up and got them right on the first try! I am so proud of myself!).

Đông kept saying that we would see what's so surprising about the cave as we enter from one section of the cave to another, but at the end all I remarked was: "the only surprising thing is how loud these tourists really are."

😂
It's not that I wasn't impressed by Ha Long Bay - the Bay itself looked nice.

However.

I DO think that it's time to start limiting tourists to this area. The amount of trash I saw floating around at the Harbour was off-putting, to say the least.

With both caves done, we descended on Titov Island, one of the few islands that people can land on. Which of course means... more tourists.

It sort of makes me think that if I do ever find a nice place while travelling, I will never share its exact details because I don't want "large amount of tourists" to ruin it.

Behind these nice pictures I took at Titov Island...




... was me trying to avoid getting anyone else in the shots, as I climbed up all 450 steps to the top of the island for a more gorgeous view.

I even found myself wishing that there was 1500 steps, just so it'd deter more people from climbing further upwards and I didn't have to keep being all ninja-like to get nice photographs.

I think my favourite part of the cruise, to be honest, was just sitting on the boat deck and just viewing the islands from the boat.

I had plenty of time to do that as we went back to the Harbour, just chilling and listening to the boat captain's choice of music (Vietnamese, naturally).

I WOULD actually recommend a 2 day 1 night sleeper cruise, if you want to get to enjoy Ha Long Bay without the crowds of people around. 

If you are the type that's super into nature and Not Being Bothered By Lots of People, a night at Ha Long Bay seems great for that.


... and Ha Long Bay, done! ✅

If I were to return again, I'd definitely do a 2 day 1 night trip, just to see what it's like at night when the day-trippers are gone. Sunrise would definitely be amazing too - and a great time to go to Luon Cave then, instead of being rushed inside and outside to deal with the crowds.

Contrary to what people kept warning me about when they heard I was going to Vietnam, I felt fairly safe in Hanoi as I walked about. Of course, I was holed up in the hotel at 10PM on both nights without going out, so I can't say much about the night life.

I mean, I also paid a lot for the hotel, so...

Fun fact: there's only one McDonald's in Hanoi. I'm not sure why you'd want to go to McDonald's though when you're in Hanoi.

It was a short, but nice, getaway. I really should take advantage of my country's location and do more of these short South-East Asian trips.

Now, where to next? 🤔


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