Lan Ha Bay
We had initial hiccups getting a hold of the local currency - the Vietnamese Dong. (A tip for travellers: Pay in local currency. Do not quote/ask in US Dollars). From Hanoi we headed to Lan Ha Bay which is about 4 hours from Hanoi by bus. This is the cheapest mode of transportation to Halong Bay or Lan Ha Bay. (We chose Lan Ha Bay over Halong Bay because it is much peaceful and there's less pollution).
Sung Sot Cave
There are many activities available like excursions to kayaking, squid fishing, swimming at Ti Top Beach or spa on board. We took the chance to visit Surprise Cave or Sung Sot in Vietnamese. I had to walk a good number of steps before reaching this giant cave with me all the while thinking "this better be worth it!". Well, when i reached inside, i will say a definite "Yes!".Once inside, do remember to look up as you will see clear evidence that the cave was once, in fact, in the ocean and the circular formations on the ceiling of the cave caused by the wave movements is all that remains of its distant past. The guide will point out various rock formations that looks like a man fishing, tortoise, and finger - for me, the beauty of this place is the massiveness of the cave as i wandered from one chamber to another. Sure, i encountered many other tourists when i was there but it didn't bother me as the cave was definitely large enough to accommodate boatfuls of us.Pelican serves excellent meals (although no food is available outside of indicated meal times) on board with variety of staples, meats and seafood. I will highly recommend the happy hour where i got 1 for 1 drinks that I was able to bring in for my dinner service.The other highlight for me was the sunrise above the mountains which made the overnight stay well worth it. We had good weather although it still looked a bit misty to me. But that doubt cleared when we heard that the night before our stay was really bad i.e. you cannot see beyond 10m.Thanks to Xing-Asia for making all the wonderful arrangements!
Cat Ba National Park
We arrived at Hon Gai pier at around noon and then transferred to the cruise ship. After we checked in, we were served lunch. We were pleasantly surprised with the wide variety of veg food. Some time after lunch we reached Cat Ba national Park area where we got off for kayaking and swimming. After getting back to the ship we cruised to the overnight anchorage. Scenery along the way is simply breathtaking. In the evening there was a spring roll cooking class. After the class we made our way to to the top deck to enjoy the fantastic sunset. At night some of us tried squid fishing, only a couple of guys were lucky enough to catch some.Day 5 : Ha Long Bay Next day we got up early for a Tai Chi class at 6:30am. Breakfast was served at 7am. After the amazing vegetarian food the previous day, breakfast was a let down with hardly any edible veg options. At 8am we transferred to a small boat to visit Sung Sot Cave. After spending an hour there, we came back to the ship , freshened up and checked out of our rooms by 9:30am. At 11am the lunch was served. Second day was somewhat rushed - my only complaint about the cruise. But I guess they had no option as the next group was to come on aboard at noon. At 12 we disembarked, got on a bus and headed back to Hanoi. We reached Hanoi Symphony Hotel at around 4:30pm.In the evening we made our way to Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Water puppetry is a traditional art form of Vietnamese. The theatre is located near the Hoan Kiem Lake. Everyday they have five shows - of one hour each. The ticket is priced at around USD 5. There are 10-12 performances showcasing local culture and customs. There is an orchestra which plays typical Vietnamese musical instruments. The singing is in Vietnamese language but they provide a brochure with explanations - quiet helpful. There are four sacred animals in Vietnam - Turtle, Dragon, Unicorn and Phoenix. Most of the Vietnamese outside the big cities are engaged in fishing and agriculture. The performances show all these aspects and more. The story of Hoan Kiem Lake is also told in one of the performances.Day 6: Hoi An
Hang Sửng Sốt
The views from the ship were breathtaking. There are hundreds of small rock islands in Halong. We couldn’t stop taking photos of them. Our first stop was the Surprise Cave (Hang Sung Sot). It was nice, but we think that this name is exaggerated. There is nothing surprising in this cave. We enjoyed it mainly because of our lovely guide- Jane. She was telling us awesome legends about Halong Bay.
Be awed by the Hospital cave, as the name suggests the cave served as an underground hospital during the war. Even if you have had too much of caves while in Vietnam, you must visit this because of the historical importance it holds. Ticket price is 15000 VND.Kayak your way through the floating village, rest at one of the tiny islands in the middle of nowhere, reach the Lan Ha Bay and click loads of pictures! We rented a kayak on our own as that gives one much more freedom to explore (and adds a pinch of adventure). Renting a 2 person kayak for the whole day would cost you $6 and for half a day would cost you $5. Watching the numerous limestone karsts around there would come a point when your intrepid heart would be tempted to climb one! Rock climbing can be done through any of the operators around the area.An island life is incomplete without its beaches and after all the tiring activities nothing beats a quick dip in the ocean or the endless stare at the horizon. Beaches are accessible by a motorbike.Indulge in some seafood and tiger beer at one of the many restaurants at the harbor, the food is fairly priced with every other restaurant running discounts (and happy hours) post 5:00 pm.There is so much more that can be done at the Cat Ba Island and one can easily spend 2 nights and 3 days here, if you are planning to visit the place for just 1 night I would suggest you to rethink as that would result in missing out on a number of things in the mad rush.The one word that can describe my experience here is- trouvaille (a lucky find) it is not really an extraordinary island and Vietnam sure has places equally breath-taking, but there was something about the experience; may be the impromptu plan with two travelers I had just met a day earlier taught me to trust well or the fact that I learned something new (Kayaking) or it could be the moment when I thought the kayak will crash into one of the karst but I managed my way out or yet it may be that flash at the bay when realization struck that I was actually at a place which I had only seen in movies and magazines. Whatever it may be, the island was a lucky find- one of many.Happy Traveling!This travelogue was first published by https://khyatimaloo.wordpress.com/
It takes at least 45 km. to leave behind the haze of Hanoi and greet the ocean breezes of Halong Bay. We luxuriously filled our lungs with the fresh sea air. We had been away from the ocean for too long. The further we sailed from the coast the slower the pace got and four hours later we landed on remote Quan Lan Island. We explored the end of the island opposite the ferry pier, past women digging clams and men breaking up road rock by hand. Continuing on for miles to the end of the road we happened on a couple of tiny remote villages. A leisurely walk amongst the fields, through the family cemetery, and along the beach is an interesting way to catch everyone in action on Quan Lan; tending the crops, collecting seafood along the shore, and making brooms or large briquettes from the coal-tar in nearby Cua Ong. The genuine friendliness and laid-back ambience of this quiet island makes it a must-visit for anyone with some extra time.
early morning go for kayaking return to cruise then after breakfast go for shells tour. Then cruise will return to dock nd bus will drop you by 5pm in Hanoi.Then catch a train to Dong hoi from Hanoi station i have booked this ticket earlier had a great experience you should go. I got tckt for 2100. It was 4 by 4 soft bed.