This morning the 4 wise (and lucky!) passengers who had chosen to cruise aboard Halong Jasmine for 2 nights instead of 1, were transferred to the smaller ‘day boat’ – the Halong Sunset. We met up with another 4 passengers from the Halong Violet who had made similar decisions about their cruising experience and the 8 of us had a very delightful day exploring this glorious UNESCO site. The Sunset is a charming vessel, of course much smaller than any of the others in the fleet – used purely as a day boat where her passengers can access bays that larger boats would not be able to enter.
We ate breakfast onboard the Sunset before sailing to Cat Ba Island, where we suited up in some gigantic wet weather ponchos (which were a bit pongy!), and peddled through the rain on our bikes to a nearby village and back (about 6km in total). Riding bikes in the rain may not actually sound much fun, but we had a great time! It was all quite liberating, in fact – fanging along with the rain in our faces, not even really trying to stay dry. It wasn’t such a pleasant experience for a poor guy with another cruise company – he had taken a tumble just before we happened upon him, and he was bleeding from the head. He was with his group, who had the first aid kit out and were dealing with it all very competently. We were a little more cautious after this!
After reboarding the Sunset, we travelled a little further through the bay and kayaked on the turquoise lagoons, paddling under tunnel rocks and drifting closely past the tall, gnarled fingers of limestone appearing to rise out of the water in rude gestures.
Lunch was another gigantic meal, and yet again, we were glad to be vegetarian when the other 6 passengers had to send their main course back to the kitchen so they could finish cooking the still pink chicken! Apparently it was fine when it was returned – it certainly looked edible (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing!). Our veggies were cooked to perfection!
After our transfer back to the Halong Jasmine, we revelled in a therapeutic hot shower, and spent the rest of the late afternoon relaxing with our novels. Our dinner was another seafood BBQ, with added surprises of yumminess from the chef to cater to our non-carnivore palates. Chatting well into the evening with new found friends made this a delightful time – even in the mist and rain and cool temperatures, Halong Bay was one of those truly special life experiences, one that I would highly recommend, and one I would love to revisit at another time of the year. The one piece of advice is: if you have the time and cash, definitely go for a 2 night cruise. There are some people who actually visit Halong Bay as a DAYTRIP from Hanoi (??!!) – with nearly 8 hours in driving time to and from, that is crazy-talk! The 2 nights were perfect.
We cruised aboard the Halong Jasmine, with Heritage Line.