Cruising in Halong bay with Indochina Junk

If like us you have been captivated by photographs of Halong bay, then I can tell you – you won’t be disappointed with the real thing. It’s a natural beauty and so serene! After much research we opted to go Cruising in Halong Bay with Indochina junk. They offered a varied itinerary in the less busy area of Bai Tu Long bay.

When we first started looking at Halong Bay, the choices were just overwhelming. But this just goes to show just how popular this excursion is!  The downside to this is that there are also a lot of boats.  Indochina junk have the added online presence meaning they responded quickly to a number of questions I had. They were extremely well organised and professional.

 

Let’s do this!

Halong Bay Vs Bai Tu Long Bay

Did you know there are 2 different routes in Halong Bay?  It was only during our research that we found this out.

The feedback we had was that the Halong bay route was much busier and more frantic.  Lots of comments suggested the itinerary was very busy and there was less cruising time.  Plus day trippers use this site as it’s closer to shore.

Alternatively, the reviews for Bai Tu long suggested it was a much quieter and slower route. That cruising for 3 days was more common and allowed for more leisurely activities.  It certainly wasn’t the cheapest, but we were sold!

 

Choosing a boat

Having decided on the route we then starting investigating the type of boat. We were looking for a more intimate and small vessel so that we didn’t have to use tenders often and we aren’t fans of a big tour.

Whilst reading information a chat box appeared from Indochina and I engaged with Kim @indochina junk. She immediately sent me details and prices of boats available.  

The one which caught my eye was:

https://www.indochina-junk.com/halong-bay-bai-tu-long-bay-cruise-3-days-2-nights-dragons-pearl-junk/

However, we wanted to be sure we were getting a good deal and an itinerary that suited us. It turns out we had struck lucky on our first enquiry.  The boat was able to accommodate 20 people and as we were in low season we were able to negotiate a good deal. These boats were in the mid price range of $100 – 200 per cabin per day (depending on the time of year). For a family of 4, we required 2 cabins. 

 

Departure day

A representative of indochina junk arrived early morning, at our hostel, to escort us to our VIP minibus transfer.  

The first part of our tour was a 4 hour transfer to halong bay.  We were driven in a luxurious minivan with comfortable leather reclining seats, free water, free WiFi and air conditioning to relax in.

Our transfer was broken up with a stop at Yen Duc village for huge 6 course lunch and a delightful and Beautiful water puppet show. 

 

Greener environment

Generally there was mention of rubbish in the bay. I have seen many comments and the encouragement amongst boat companies to improve this.

In fact, Indochina Junk have a green policy and requested that we reuse the plastic bottles in our room. Plus, our guide, Long, collected a large amount of rubbish while we were out kayaking. Every little bit helps!  The kids joined in too.

Check in

The check in process for the boat was easy. We found out at this point that there would only be our family and 2 other lovely ladies on our cruise.  We made our final payment, via credit card, and waited 20 minutes before our guide, Long, introduced himself and led us to our boat.

What’s included:

  • All land transportation Hanoi – Halong – Hanoi
  • Welcoming drink
  • En-suite cabin with A/C, hot water
  • All meals on boat
  • Free tea, coffee and Water throughout the day
  • Guide on board
  • Kayaking
  • All Park fees
  • Vietnamese spring rolls cooking class
  • Fishing village boat tour (although it’s recommended to tip your rower)
  • Water puppet show

Note: the only additional expensive is any soft or alcoholic drinks.

 

The boat: dragons pearl 2

A traditional junk boat, it only had 3 decks, unlike some of the nearby 4 or 5 deck ships! The lower deck was the sleeping quarters of which we had 1 double and 1 twin room.

Each room was equipped with a very chair bed with nice white linen, an air conditioning unit, an ensuite bathroom with shower and complimentary toiletries and free water. And as you see back the curtains we had wide panoramic windows! We loved laying on the bed and watching the world go by! 

On the second floor was the bar, dining room and outdoor dining area. 

The top floor was the open deck with large umbrellas and comfortable padded loungers. 

It was just perfect! 

Note: my only comment would be that there are no safety railings on the lower deck, at the rear of the boat. If you had very young children you would need to keep a close eye on them. 

 

Dining on board

Just amazing! But soooo much food – in fact probably too much food! 

It was nice to taste different types of food though as each meal was different – we never had the same dish twice!  The chef was very talented and he even created a couple of artistic master pieces on the last day!  

Mussels in a Sweet & Sour Sauce

Breakfast was another feast with Pho ga (noodle soup with chicken) and then eggs with toast. To be honest I was grateful for Coco pops (probably for the benefit of the boys) on day 2 as a simple meal to start the day! 

Lunch & dinners consisted of a variety & endless amount of foods and salads (including locally caught fish & prawns)! In fact, the fish dishes were the speciality – caught locally within the bay. 

However, the kitchen were very good to adapt the menu to accommodate our non fish eaters too! 

Fresh salads served with every meal

All the food was fresh and delicious, but as I mentioned, it was just too much. As soon as you thought that was it – another dish arrived! Not a negative comment, but you won’t go hungry!! 

 

Activities on board

And just like Goldilocks I felt like the itinerary was ‘juuuusst right’ in terms of cruising and activities.

Day 1 : Cruising into Bai Tu Long bay & kayaking

We spent the first afternoon in awe at the stunning landscape before us. The boat manoeuvred closely through the karsts.  The blue skies, with green foliage on the rocks and then greeny blue water, was something out of a picture postcard – incredible! 

Before long we were arrived at Cong lo. Our guide, Long, instructed us to get ready for kayaking. He suggested shorts and T-shirts but actually you get quite sweaty, and a bit wet. So it’s better to wear swimming gear, even though you won’t be swimming.

Once we were ready, kayaks were brought over to the boat (dry bags are available). And then we started paddling. The boys loved it and did amazing as we kayaked our way across the bay and toward the karsts. 

We took lots of pictures as the scenery was just sooo beautiful! I was pleased to see long started collecting rubbish along the way. They have a company policy to try and make Halong Bay greener! It’s good to see and our boys were keen to join in! They are very passionate about the environment. 

We were loving our kayaking! But even more so when long took us through a shallow cave. It was a tight squeeze, but manageable and exciting! We popped out into an abyss.

An area that clearly not many people get to see! Amazing! We had an hour an a half exploring and returned with tired arms and big smiles!

We then asked a short distance to our mooring point for the evening at Cong do. We sat back and watched the sky change colour before our eyes. What a stunning sunset location!

 

Day 2:  Kayaking, Swimming, exploring caves, cooking class & BBQ lunch on the beach

After a lavish breakfast we were soon cruising again. This time we were headed to Cong dam to embark on more kayaking. There were no caves on this route, but we did encounter more birdlife around this area.  We had tired arms from yesterday so only ventured out for an hour this morning!

Once we got back to the junk we were all able to jump in from the tender boat and go swimming. The boys had an absolute blast and proceeded to jump in hundreds of times!! 

Once they were finally done (or I told them they were done!) We had time to relax while we crossed to our next spot. 

While our BBQ lunch was being set up in a nearby beach we went to explore Thien Canh Son cave.  We walked up some steep steps (not too far) to reach the mouth of the cave. It was here that our guide, Long, provided us with some history and folktales of how halong bay came to be and how the karsts are known as dragons pearl’s. 

After we headed down to the Indochina beach where a table laid with a linen cloth and crockery was set up on a pristine sandy beach! Oh my! 

After eating the most delicious seafood and BBQ meats we could hardly move! And we even had a cheeky lunchtime beer too! 

The boys were the only ones who had any energy to play in the sea while we were there!  But the best part was that there were no other boats around… not one! We felt like we were the only ones there! 

We returned to the boat to relax (and have a little snooze!) before we were called for our vietnamese cooking class with the chef. He showed us how to make pork Vietnamese spring rolls. We then each had a go at making 2 of our own. Gorgeous, even if I do say so myself. 

We then relaxed on deck to watch sunset before dinner. The captain was very kind to reposition our boat tonight so that we catch a great view!  

After another lovely dinner the boys were invited to try squid fishing, which they absolutely loved! In fact, du much they tried again the next night – no catches but they gave it their best shot!

 

Day 3: Floating fishing village, pearl farm and cruising back to port

After another delightful sleep we were up early for breakfast while we crossed to our cruised to our next destination – Vung Vieng fishing village. 

The weather had turned slightly and wet had some cloudy skies. You’d think it would be some light relief from the burning heat of the sun but in fact it was very humid!! 

We soon arrived at Vung Vieng fishing village where we transferred to the transitional rowing boat. It was a very peaceful environment as we watched the local people and passed through their flooding village. I mean this is their life! I just can’t imagine what is like here, even though we can see it with our own eyes! 

We were then taken to a pearl farm and learnt how they are farmed, the different types and how they are picked.  It was very interesting, but I couldn’t stretch to buying one myself! 

We then returned to the boat ready for our journey back to port.  Once we had checked out of our rooms we then relaxed on deck before being called for our final lunchtime feast! 

Sailing back through the karsts was just blissful and a beautiful ending to a wonderful few days exploring.

 

Conclusion

We had a really lovely few days cruising through Bai Tu long with Indochina junk. You could just forget where you were. We were well looked after from the moment we were picked up. 

Indochina made the process non intrusive and relaxing and the activities were perfect for a family adventure. We loved the kayaking, swimming, caving and cooking! The hospitality was second to none and we especially enjoyed the light-hearted humour from our guide, Long!

I thought the timeframe of 3 days and 2 nights was just the right amount. If we’d only cruised for 2 days then we wouldn’t have travelled so far into the karsts and seen the beauty, emerald waters and escaped the crowds! Just perfect! 

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