Halong Bay is an incredible natural wonder in northern Vietnam and is so beautiful that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Dotted with 1600 limestone islands and islets and covering an area of over 1500 square kilometres, Halong Bay is a must visit for anyone travelling to Vietnam! Halong Bay even features in famous films including Pan, Kong: Skull Island and James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies.
There are many cruise companies to choose from and after some research we decided to cruise with SilverSea for 2 days and 1 night. The crew on board SilverSea are very accomodating and speak and understand good English. The cabins are spacious and offer incredible views of Halong Bay from both your bed and from your shower (yes, there is an ensuite and it's amazing!) The bed was super comfy and I found at night there was very minimal noise and little swaying so I had a really good night's sleep.
The vessel itself is also spacious and although there were a number of guests on board it never felt crowded. The bottom level has cabins, you take a spiral staircase that leads to the second level where there are more cabins, the dining room and access to the outside deck then you have the top level that has a bar and plenty of seating where you can just chill out, relax and take in the most beautiful views!
Once you have check in and settled, you are taken on the second level to the dining room where you are seated and are given a short brief about Halong Bay's history and some safety precautions while on board. As this is taking place a beautifully prepared lunch is being made as you float by and watch the limestone islands pass. Lunch was a delicious selection of small and modern styled dishes. There is no vending machine on board so it may be worth packing food however the bar is open at certain times where you can purchase light snacks.
Once lunch had settled we were taken by boat to Ti Top Island which offers stunning 360 degree views of Halong Bay. Now Halong Bay is a huge tourist hub so your group won't be the only ones, there are many groups and hundreds of people. You can choose to stay on the beach for a swim or you can brave the mountain and climb right to the top. If you choose to climb the mountain be prepared for a slow and steady ascend. The stairs leading up are quite uneven so you must be very careful to watch your footing, you need to also be very careful of impatient people.
These stairs are narrow and only allow room for one file of people going up and one file of people going down, there is no room for overtaking however, we found some people to be very rude and push past others so they could move on quickly. It may sound daunting and does require physically ability but the view at the top is very beautiful and makes the effort worth it!
In the afternoon you are taken by boat to this small fishing home where the kayaks are kept. Even though I always find myself giving it a go, I actually cannot stand kayaking! It is a lot of work and takes up lots of energy, especially if the current is strong and you have to kayak against it. But, not being one to turn down a challenge, I kayaked for a short while and found that was plenty for me and made my way back to the fishing home and hung around there for a bit. Passing by the limestone islands were so beautiful, some have little caves and some are so huge they have their own lakes!
The rest of the afternoon allows you to relax and take some time to yourself. This is a good time to meet and learn about the other guests and where they have been and where they are from. After dinner you have the option to hang around the dining room and sing some karaoke or you can do squid fishing on the lower deck of the vessel. I decided to go with the karaoke and had an absolutely amazing time singing with the other guests! After a big day, it felt so good to lie in bed and drift off to sleep with the subtle sounds of Halong Bay.
If you're an early riser you must take up the opportunity to do the Tai Chi on offer on the top deck at 6:00am. This Tai Chi is suitable for all levels and is the perfect way to start the day to warm your muscles up because trust me, you are going to need it because you are in for a very big morning of walking! We were taken by boat to Hang Sung Sot, also known as Surprising Cave.
After walking up a flight of stairs through the forest you reach the entrance of Surprising Cave. According to the locals, the reason behind the name Sung Sot is because the awe-stricken reactions from the visitors when they see the cave and this cave will leave you speechless! It is really beautiful and your guide will take you through the cave and will stop the group at points of interest to explain the history of the cave.
The cave loops around from entrance to exit and is beautiful all the way through. When you exit at the top of the mountain you are welcome to yet another amazing view of Halong Bay.
We then walked back to the boat that would take us back to our vessel. It was time to pack our bags and begin the checking out process but we had one more activity in store and that was a cooking class! We were shown how to make our own rice paper rolls and tasted our effort towards the end. I made a little rip in my rice paper, they are so fragile, but it still tasted very delicious!