The ride out to Ha Long Bay was a bit more than three hours and was pretty much uneventful. Not a whole lot in the way of extraordinary scenery, but it was interesting to see a glimpse of life outside bustling Hanoi.
Got to the piers and were rather quickly on board our boat, our cruise manager Huy getting us all sorted. We were on a charming and comfortable barge with six cabins, run by Bhaya Cruises. Besides Mom and me, there was a family of American ex-pats currently living in Hong Kong – husband and wife and their 9-year-old daughters. And that was it! Almost like our own private boat.
Ha Long Bay is really just as beautiful as I’d been led to believe. Yes, there are a lot of tourist boats out on the water – but most of them are quite lovely to look at and there’s enough space around that it doesn’t feel like a full-on armada. There are also plenty of local fisherman out making their living on the bay, along with some occasional giant work liners off in the distance. I never tired of gazing at the fishing boats and the men and women working on them. Just fascinating to see a tiny slice of a life so different than anything I know.
Of course, the real draw are the hundreds of islands in the bay – from tiny rock outcroppings to pretty substantial limestone islands towering above the water. It’s pretty much impossible to tire of gazing at them – especially from a comfy chair on the top deck. We visited several islands over the course of our two nights aboard and also got to do some kayaking and swimming. It was relaxing and wonderful – plus we were looked after by a very friendly crew who made sure we were kept well-fed and happy.
There’s not really a whole lot more for me to say about this trip. I loved it and the timing was pretty great, giving us a break from the urban intensity of Hong Kong and Hanoi. I think the photos speak for themselves.