Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
Posted Date: 3/7/20133:06 AM
The difference was apparent from the outset. Passengers were driven from Hanoi to Ha Long City in a large, comfortable tour bus, even though there was only a compliment of eight. As with all other tours we again swung through the crafts centre for the victims of Agent Orange.
Once at the pier, instead of hopping from junk to junk to get to our boat, we were picked up at the dock by a small ferry, and taken to where our boat was moored in the bay. It was larger, if not quite as new as the mid-range boat.
The key difference was the service and the food. The staff on the mid-range tour were good, but seemed like novices compared to the staff on the luxury cruise. And the food was five-star all the way — some of the best food we’ve tasted in Vietnam, with a good selection of wines to go with it (at luxury prices, of course).
Oddly, the cabins weren’t quite as good as the mid-range tour, but they made the best with what they had. There was no aft deck, and only the fore-deck was available for lounging, but with a small compliment of passengers, comfy sun-loungers and bean bag chairs, there was plenty of room. The air-con cabins were free of any generator noise, and we slept soundly.
We saw Surprising Cave again (and were not surprised) but the kayaking component was quite fun — coursing through more tunnel arches into a secluded lagoon, to be followed by swimming and plunging off the fore-deck into the water, which is always a crowd-pleaser.
The tour ended with another visit to a crappy beach (one passenger found a hypodermic needle floating in the water) and a slow cruise back to Ha Long City, where we were once again whisked comfortably ashore by ferry, for a return back to Hanoi on the big, roomy tour bus.
Recommended Trips In Halong Bay here