18 December 2006

Hanoi - Day Ba: Halong Bay

*Ridiculous amount of pictures. Dial up users should upgrade to broadband. Broadband subscribers should be patient. Patient readers will be rewarded*

Hanoi is not a huge city. Even on foot, and at a leisurely pace, around 2-3 days will be sufficient to cover all its attractions. So, we headed out to Halong Bay for a day cruise on Day 3.

For around USD 20, you can take a day tour from Hanoi to Halong Bay. We had a small group of around 12 people in our van departing from Hanoi, and in the boat, we had around 16 people only. It's very important to make sure your Halong Bay tour is (a) small - 16 people max (b) refundable (in part - since you still pay for the van journey) if you can't cruise because of inclement weather (c) air conditioned if you go in summer.

The day starts early, at around 7.30 am - Halong Bay is 180 kms and a rather comfortable and uneventful 3 - 3.5 hours away from Hanoi by car. The scenery is quite monotonous until around the halfway stop - lots of farm lands, and factories.

As you get closer to Halong Bay, you start to see the limestone mountains Halong Bay is famous for ...

Halong means "Descending Dragon", and is famous for the large numbers of limestone mountains (also called karst) that poke out from the sea. In fact, these are the same limestone mountains that extend from Guilin in China, into north Vietnam. It's featured in Tomorrow Never Dies - the Bond movie featuring Michelle Yeoh.

Once in Halong Bay, the boat cruise itself is around 4 hours. It'll cruise around the islands nearer to the shore, and stop to visit one cave (Thien Cung). I have mistakenly watermarked my pictures with the words Trien Tru Cave ... I lazy to correct. It's Thien Cung cave, ok ?

It also stops at some Floating Fishing Village, where you can pick some of the seafood to add to lunch. Lunch is included in the tour, but if you want additional seafood from fishing village, it's extra. At additional USD2, you can also tour 2 sea caves on a motorboat - it'll take you into caves in 2 islands, both leading into a sea lake - (imagine the island in The Beach).

Of course, there's a lot of things to see. The rock formations here are quite interesting ...

And there's the floating vendors as well. I'll just call them floating markets =).

There is an option to do a 2D/1N stay in a boat in Halong Bay, and we've been told it's more interesting because it'll take us to some very narrow channels that will give us very close look at the mountains, include a trekking option on Titov Island, and also feature a beach visit. (We hear there are some exquisite beaches). These overnight boats are air conditioned, and has full complements of facilities, we heard from other travellers.

This being winter, the whole area is enveloped in a slight mist, which makes the atmosphere quite mysterious. Looks a bit like chinese painting, really.

The boat cruises along very slowly, which is good - you can enjoy the scenery better.

Halong Bay is absolutely lovely. The misty weather meant we didn't get any of the sparkling water or crystal clear views, but it was very good nonetheless, and the mist created an atmosphere that was out of the world.


pelf said...

(1) Yes! My Supervisor said Halong Bay is very nice! She still talks very fondly of the Bay - especially when we were at Langkawi last month.

(2) I HEART that picture of fruits - the one at the floating market!! Soo colourful :)

(3) Err.. The last picture of yours looks quite, err.. Gay *runs away* :)

Che-Cheh said...

Beautiful...what more can I say. ;) Hehehe

Jemima said...

You must visit Mulu in Sarawak.
The caves there are out of this world.

Thanks again, Moz.

moz monster said...

*don't run away ... come back here ...*
*chases pelf with parang*

Damned if I smile ... Damned if I don't ... when I smile, I'm gay ... when I don't, I'm unfriendly. I need a plastic surgeon ....

Yes ... it's very nice. Perfect sort of holiday ...

I heard all about Mulu, and if I can find a kaki, I'm sure I'll be heading that way !!!

Winn said...

xin chao ( hello in viet) !!!

looks like u had great time in hanoi wor! is hanoi the kampung version of vietnam? did u watch their foreign movies in the hotel? esp cartoons? did u notice the only use one single voice to narrate the translated dialogue???
haha.... it's jus like reading from the script!

moz monster said...

*rolls out red carpet, brings tea, prepares cookies* ... welcome !!!

Hanoi is a blast !!! Any place where mainland Chinese tourist haven't swamped is a good place ... =)

Hehe ... yeah ... I noticed the whole movie is voiced over by ONE voice ... usually female. It's very funny ... especially when we watched some Van Damme movie in the hotel, and everytime he's supposed to speak ... this absolutely si man female voice comes out instead ... =)

angel said...

Phee-weet! We've got the winnliuliu Viet sexpert in da' house!

Why the cave so karerfool wan?

Dog? Wat dog?? Where??? I ain't see no doggie...

I likes the floating market mya stuff... karerfool maa...

moz monster said...

wah ... she is Viet sexpert? should have asked for advice before i went mar ...

colorful because have colorful lights lah ... hidden away from view ... but used to good effect, hor ?

can't see the pattern of a dog meh ?

it's actually not a market lor ... it's just floating boats selling things ... but i lazy to change the words in the pix ...

Inevitable said...

I am definitely going next year. What is the best time to go ah?

Anonymous said...

didn't go to casino royale ah? eh sorry, royal casino, the only casino in halong bay.

moz monster said...

If you dont' mind temperatures around 17 - 22 (which is what we got), mid October to late December is great. It's not likely to rain, yet, always under cloud cover. Cool, and dry.

North Vietnam has 4 seasons - and now is winter. January is still winter, but it'll be too misty to enjoy.

Well, for a non gambler like me, casinos aren't really an attraction. But yes, there is a casion in Halong city ... =)