Thursday, 14 March 2013

Cruising Halong on a Junk

If there is one easy trip I've had so far, it would be this. Easy in the sense that when you get to the place, all you need to take care of is how to have fun - no planning where to go, what to eat, what to do most of the time. It's also maybe because it is one of the rare times that we went on strict tour, we usually would go for do-it-yourself budget itinerary.

Ha Long bay is located at the northeastern part of Vietnam. Nearest airport is in Hanoi, 170 km away or 3 to 3.5 hours drive.

There is no other way to sail along the bay of Halong but to get on tours unless otherwise if you own a boat or has a friend who has a boat in that side of the world then you must be one lucky/rich person. So for an ordinary individual like me, I'll buy myself a slot on a tour therefore, the big challenge is how to choose the right tour service. It could either make or break the trip if not carefully decided.

The service would start from pick-up with a van at your hotel in Hanoi or at the airport just like what the rest of the tours are offering. It'll drive you to the town where your boat awaits. Depending on the days or nights you booked, you'll be on board the whole time. Activities on the duration of the trip depend as well on the operator. Generally it includes kayaking, spelunking, overnight on a community, lunch on the beach or dinner in a cave, visiting floating/fishing villages and swimming of course.

the suite & the view inside it
We've had some serious review searches made, some inquires done with tour operators before we finally decided to get the service of Indochina Junk. It is not the cheapest, it is even the most expensive amongst high standard wooden junkies. We paid USD255 per head for a 3D/2N package and we got a boat (Prince 2, their main flagship is the Dragon's Pearl) exclusively to our group (it so happen we were 8, the exact capacity of the boat). It is 26 meters long, has 4 deluxe good-looking cabins, 2 lounge decks for dining (one located beside the sundeck) and a sundeck or relaxation area. Indochina also gained exclusive rights over Bai Tu Long bay, three quarters of the section of the 120 km long stretch of the World Heritage site along with its surrounding islands out of the 2,000. This part of the bay is off the beaten track and far away from the touristy sites.

sundeck/relaxation area
The boat captain, chef and crews were fantastic, very friendly, helpful and cheerful. All guests received VIP treatment which, made me a little uncomfortable at first because I am not used to having the peeled shrimp-skin on my plate picked up from my plate when waiting for the next course and replaced my messy plate with a new one even without the need to ask them to. The food was amazing as well. You just wouldn't expect such level of service inside a Junk but that's what the company was built of - excellent service.

A tour guide is also assigned per boat who is usually outsourced by the company and will cruise along the whole time of the journey. He facilitates the activities, explains the itinerary and everything an ideal tour guide is. Indochina also ensures they only provide the best people for the role.

boating; trying to paddle; lady boatees; floating village

jump from the boat to the cold water or
jump inside a cave,
go ahead!

It is best time for Halong during March, April, September and October. It gets too hot from May to early September and too cold in January and February. It was almost winter during our trip so we got a foggy sky and a chilling breeze. The waters were also cold at 18 degrees celcius but we braved through it and managed to swim. We were just lucky it did not rain.

us having lunch @ the sundeck dining lounge 
When going Ha Long bay, you may also want to consider staying a night or two either before or after the trip in the city of Hanoi. There are plenty of affordable hotel options to choose from. The place is rich in culture and traditions. One advise though, instead of the Water Puppet Show ( I just snored the whole time), maybe you can attend the other shows like the Golden Bell show or the Vietnam National Tuong Theatre. Taking a cooking show or night food tour would also be fantastic. You can arrange these at your hotel. 

If you wanna have an experience of a true relaxing vacation, I highly suggest this Halong bay voyage aboard Indochina Junk for at least 2 nights and let me know If I was wrong about it.

the whole gang
Certain operators sometimes would make other guests transfer to another boat or even unload them at the port instead of getting on cruise without proper explanations nor refunds. It is indeed best to get a reliable one. Please note however that this is not an advertisement for Indochina Junk, merely a review.

Visited: December 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Dee

My photo
I was born and raised attune with nature, grew up from the countryside and a strong believer in endless possibilities. I am drawn to adrenaline rush and was never a girly kind but I dig chick flix and plays some music. I started this site during a 6-month distressing/long sojourning away from the corporate world. I gathered all the travels I went and translated them into words. I am not fond of sharing details of my trip and thought looking at the photos I've effort-fully taken was enough. Yet to my amazement reading through it flashes back more wonderful memories like a gush of throwback Thursdays. This is also a good venue to practice writing and to connect. So, thank you for stumbling upon my corner. Sorry I can't update regularly but I hope you'd visit again as my journey continues, find some useful information here and most of all be inspired to go on adventures your own. See you on the road!