I hadn’t been holding out much hope…
From rip off agents to sinking Kayaks the horror stories of Halong Bay’s well known Junk Boat cruises were nearly as famous as the UNESCO destination itself. Every backpacker I had met around SEAsia seemed to have a story. My friends recommended spending a bit more, enjoying a ‘luxury food’ overnight cruise.
My biggest fear? It wasn’t so much a kayak going down (it’s only water right?) or the food being the equivalent of budget cat tinned crap. It was too many tourists. I’ll never forget my visit to the ‘magical’ Maya Bay in Thailand (yep, the one Leonardo DiCaprio is responsible for making such a hit). The beach was so crowded when we arrived we had to jump ship, water clog our cameras and strategically avoid the beer cans coming overboard from Dave’s Booze Cruise…
My reality of a Ha Long Bay Cruise…
If you were expecting another horror story, I’m sorry to disappoint. I booked my tour easily enough from my Hotel front Desk. ‘You really should go for the luxury one’ was the answer. ‘No upgrade. I want cheap, cheap, shit tour’ I replied. I’m sure I could have saved a few bucks if I had hunted around town but it seemed a pretty ok price and my patience with constant haggling in Vietnam was wearing thin.
Like to save $$? Read More: How to do Vietnam on a Budget
For your buck, you get A seven hour round trip on a bumpy but comfortable enough road (The bus was packed, but bearable). A four-hour cruise around the Bay, Lunch, entry to a cave and for a few dollars more one of those awesome Kayaks. All of it was fine, not amazing, but did the job.
Sure, you might be able to do it cheaper DIY. However on the Ha Long Bay Cruise, for the first time I didn’t mind spending a little more to save the hassle. As we cruised off some of those DIY backpackers stood looking on lost, being haggled at from all directions and realising, perhaps, it wasn’t worth the effort.
So, was it impressive? Yes. Was it as boat packed and touristy as I was expecting? No.
Had I been spoilt visiting Raja Ampat the month before? Sadly, Yes. If I hadn’t, perhaps I would have found it that little bit more amazing.
Anyone else got a horror/success Halong Bay story to share?