Scenes from Ha Long Bay: Cruising with Indochina Sails

Ha Long Bay is world-renowned for its natural beauty of limestone islands and lush green rainforest, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's no wonder that so many travellers to Hanoi make the detour to Ha Long Bay. Be warned, the journey here is longer than you might think - but the scenery you get to experience is definitely worth it.
The driving time to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi (along a stretch of unpaved roads) is about the same as the flight time from Singapore to Hanoi (3 hours and 20 minutes). Although it is possible to do a day trip from the Vietnamese capital, I would recommend staying at least overnight on the bay. That way, you will get to see the sunrise and the sunset, which can be breathtakingly beautiful. We opted to do a two-day cruise with Indochina Sails, a cruise operator we were recommended by the Sofitel Plaza Hanoi.

The cabins on the boat were rustic, but comfortable and clean. With 15 cabins in total, the boat never felt crowded and there was plenty of space on the deck from which to take photos. One of the landmarks we visited was a floating fishing village, where we saw villagers rowing small bamboo boats called "sampans".

The standard of living in one of these floating fishing villages is no way near as developed as countries like Singapore and Hong Kong. While we were exploring the fishing village, women and children would approach in sampans and try to sell roughly-made jewellery and magnets.

As part of the cruise itinerary, we disembarked at Titov Beach Island and climbed up hundreds of steps (420 to be precise) to reach the peak. The view at the top was 360 degrees spectacular over Ha Long Bay, a reward for the steep climb.

On our descent, I spotted a unique looking rock, which looked like a person dangling his or her legs over the edge (pictured below), as well as some cheeky wild monkeys.

All in all, for those planning a visit to Hanoi, I would highly recommend you make the journey to Ha Long Bay. There are huge variety of cruise operators to choose from, to suit a range of budgets. As a guide, the Indochina Sails was approx. USD 200 per person, and included all meals on board and activities. Another tick off the bucket list!

  1. Getting from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay: I would recommend hiring a car from the hotel you are staying at in Hanoi to take you there and back. Given the over 3 hour car ride and the strong Dollar against the Vietnamese Dong, it's quite affordable.
  2. For less mobile travellers: Be wary of climbing up to the peak for the views, as the way up can be rocky and steep. There are viewing platforms halfway, so it might make sense to stop and enjoy the views from there.
  3. Watch out for street food: Be proactive with the hand sanitiser and Travelan!  
xx Amanda


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