Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site which features thousands of karsts (limestone rocks and isles) of varying sizes. I went on a 2day/1 night party cruise organized by my hostel. I wasn’t too sure about being on a party cruise coz I figured it would include way too much drinking and a (probably) rowdy crowd. My start to Vietnam has been a bit overwhelming so I wasn’t sure about being around too many people, let alone too many drunk people. But it was just 2 days so I thought why not. Besides, the alternative was to stay in Hanoi and I needed to get away for a bit.
We took a 4hr bus drive from Hanoi and Halong City. The drive itself was very interesting. Firstly, it was bumpy like hell (no seat belts!) and our tour guide had a very matter-of-fact way of introducing us to his culture. At one point he was talking about weddings in Vietnam and he said “everyone has a baby after getting married. Everyone. Coz if you don’t then people talk behind your back. And we don’t like girls. We prefer baby boys. Coz they carry on the family name”. I found it weird that he could say this so openly but there was no contempt in his voice. He was so objective about it. Another time, we were being warned about diving off the boats late at night. He said that no one should dive at night because the Viet police would take the boat’s license away and the staff would lose their jobs. Lol! So diving at night wass not recommended not because it is unsafe to do so but because the staff would lose their job. That is important too but not over somebody’s life I’m sure.
Anyways, once we reached Halong city, we started our tour by taking a quick boat ride to the Amazing Caves. I think the “amazing” part was meant to be sarcastic. The cave was very good but in my opinion the excess light effects kinda ruined the whole “natural beauty” aspect.
After the caves, we hopped onto our boat, which we would stay on until the next day, and were off to cruise along the bay.
Halong Bay was truly beautiful! Yes it was touristy and not as serene because of the number of boats/people who go to see it but it was worth it nevertheless. After getting to know the people in our group and taking lots of pictures it was time for some kayaking. I was terrified (coz I can’t swim) but absolutely thrilled coz it was my first time on a kayak. And everyone was wearing life jackets so I knew I wouldn’t drown. There were around 12 kayaks and we were off rowing around different isles, trying to find caves, etc. One of my favourite moments was when around 10kayaks came together, side-to-side, to take a break and just chill for a bit. I absolutely loved every bit of it and so want to do it again! Once back on the boat it was time for dinner, followed by some drinks.
There was not much to do the next day. We were served breakfast on the boat and there was a cooking demo where we learned how to make spring rolls and it was time to get back to Halong City for the bus back to Hanoi. I do wish I had stayed another night coz people spent the next night/day on a private island (called Freedom Island) which had only 15 tourists so it was much quieter AND there was more kayaking! So if you ever find your self in Halong Bay do make sure you stay there for at least 2 nights.