Saturday, 10 May 2014

Hanoi Travel Part 11: My 2D1N Halong Bay Cruise Travelogue.

Our 2D/1N Imperial Cruise on Halong Bay was booked through Vietnam Opentour. There are hundreds of tour operators doing this tour in Hanoi - each charging a different rate but offering more or less the same itinerary. Our cruise package included a return transfer from our hotel in Hanoi to Halong Bay, 1 breakfast, 2 lunches and 1 dinner, an excursion to Sung Sot Cave, kayaking from a floating village, a visit to a Pearl farm, a cooking demo on board and the service of an English speaking guide.The tour did not include all types of beverages and mineral water on board and entry tickets to Halong Bay and Sung Sot Cave. Tipping is optional.

Day 1: 
Our tour guide, Peter Cuong came to pick us from our hotel at 8.45am. There were altogether 18 in our tour group; 13 adults and 5 children. Halong Bay is pretty far from Hanoi. The journey took 4 hours inclusive of a 40 minutes stop at a handicraft centre in Hai Duong. At the handicraft centre you see artisans at work and beautiful lacquer wares, paintings, sculptures and Vietnamese products displayed. They are for sale but the prices are rather exhorbitant.
We travelled in this van.
This is the handicraft centre. Photography is not allowed here.
We reached the jetty at Halong Bay around lunch time but had to buy our entry tickets before being allowed into the bay.
Our tour fare did not include entry tickets into Halong Bay which is 320000VND per person (approx USD16/ticket)
Our cruise boat is anchored far away from the jetty and we had to hop onto a shuttle boat to get there.
The shuttle boat
Finally we had a full view of our cruise boat. Each cruise is differentiated from another by the name of the boat. Our boat is Imperial, hence Imperial Cruise.
The shuttle boat was attached to the cruise boat and travelled along.
Imperial is a 3 decker. The kitchen and most of the cabins are on the lower deck. The dining hall, 2 of the cabins and the cockpit are on the middle deck. The upper deck is a relaxation deck.
Our welcome drink - F&N orange. 
The tables were all set for our first meal. Dining was not that comfortable as the tables were small and instead of setting more tables, five were cramped to sit around a table meant for four.
Lunch menu was satisfactory except that the plain rice which should have been served first came out last, that was after we'd almost finished the dishes. All beverages including mineral water had to be purchased.
This is the pathway that leads to our cabin. We were fortunate to get a cabin on the middle deck.
Our cabin
There is an air conditioner but we did not use it as the weather was cold.
We had to put our luggage on the floor as the cabinet was not spacious enough.
The washroom is small but clean. There is a water heater and very basic toiletries.
Photo taken behind the cockpit
The upper deck of the boat
After lunch we  visited Sung Sot Cave. Once again, the small shuttle boat took us there.
Me - just having fun
approaching the cave
Hang Sung Sot aka Surprise Cave
The pier at Sung Sot
The ticket to enter - 50000VND
For more photo of Sung Sot Cave click to view : Hang Sung Song Photo Gallery
We exited Sung Sot Cave via a differente route, board the shuttle boat and headed for Hoa Cuong Floating Village.
Hoa Cuong Floating Village - a tiny village with a few floating houses. There are plenty of kayaks here which interested visitors could help themselves with. 

The womenfolks of this village paddle boats to sell snacks and beverages 

A boat food vendor trying to sell her wares to us.
After the kayaking session, we went back to our cruise boat which was docked
at the bay together with other cruise boats. After dinner it was free and easy session Activities available for the night included squid angling and karaoke.

Day 2:
Rise and Shine. I just missed the sunrise as the bed was too cozy. Anyway the morning mists was refreshing and the panaroma, invigorating.
We had breakfast and got ready for our next excursion.
The pearl farm at Halong Bay is a floating farm.
Pearls are cultured here. A showroom exhibits and sells the pearl jewelry too.

We went back to our cruise boat and checked out of the cabin at 10am as the cruise operator had to get the cabins ready for the next batch of passengers. In the mean time our tour guide demonstrated the making of cha gio or vietnamese spring roll.

The children were involved hands-on.
The rolls were fried for our last meal on board.
After lunch, we cruised on till we reached the jetty. We board the tour van, headed back for Hanoi and arrived at 6pm.


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