There are hundreds of ‘junk cruises’ to choose when planning a trip to Halong Bay. Don’t let this deter you- Halong Bay is honestly the most breathtaking natural site that I have seen in a long time! Every trip to Vietnam needs to include a cruise here.
Now the last thing you want to do is be stuck on a shitty boat for 3 days so choose wisely! Hopefully my overview of what this boat had to offer can help you make a more informed decision. You can see more in part 2 of this blog
First of all- Halong city is dull and boring, dont waste your time there. Your cruise can pick you up and drop you off to/from your hotel in Hanoi.
It is about a 4 hour drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay so budgeting allowing, you could do with a luxury van. I heard from some other travellers about their bus to Halong bay.. From what I hear this is a journey that can solve any constipation you might be suffering from! But I’m sure not all bus and budget rides are THAT bad- it’s all part of the experience. Remember you’re planning an adventure! (Easy to say from my wifi connected, AC powered luxury van!)
Now I have to put this in this post early on- to manage expectations. I wish someone had done this for me too.
It is normal, and more than likely that you will experience some foggy/lack of visibility/overcast weather in Halong Bay. Don’t worry about it- you can still enjoy the views and the sea is still so warm to swim in! I didn’t get a single day of sunshine- but I still had a great time. Id like to see it again under blue skies and rays of sunshine- but even the misty overcast weather was special!
You can control many things, but the weather isnt one- so just embrace it.
However, what really pissed me off is that our dinner in the cave was cancelled. I can kt explain to you the lengths I went to, to make sure I got a spot on the Dragon Pearl boat because they are the ONLY boat that includes a dinner in the cave in their itinerary!! This totally pissed me off- the weather wasn’t even bad!! It wasn’t raining- it just was cloudy and grey. (I think they should spend some time in Manchester!) Indochina Junk (the company that runs this boat) didn’t even offer a suitable alternative. We just had dinner on the boat like we had every other meal.
Dragon Pearl boat was expensive- one of the most expensive junks in the bay- and so this actually really pissed me off. I generally am quite laid back and tell people to ’embrace’ and ‘accept’ it all- but I think that its important for your tour operator to be planned for every outcome- especially when we paid a small fortune!!
Anyway rant over- I had no choice but to get on with it. I wasn’t going to let the imaginary rain spoil my last evening and 3rd day in this beautiful place!
Other than that- the Dragon Pearl Boat is lovely. The rooms are small but clean (same with the ensuite).. The dining area also small and perhaps lacks some excitement (eg music and ambiance). But the outdoor space is generous and comfortable- which means you get to enjoy the views! It was cold however, and so I have suggested to Dragon Pearl that they invest in some outdoor heating. If they did that we would probably be inclined to hand outside more- and order more drinks etc.
Ive told you about the weather, the drive, the quality of the boat- and of course the disappointing cave dinner. Tomorrows post on Halong Bay will be about the itinerary and service…