Exploring Vietnam: Beautiful Views of Ha Long Bay & Gross Cruise Food

"Exploring Vietnam" is part of my vacation series recap. If you're just tuning in, you can catch up here: Vietnam Trip Recap.

After spending a week in big cities and having to mentally prepare myself to cross roads full of crazy motorcyclists, I was excited to escape to Ha Long Bay, a popular tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is approximately a 4-hour drive away from Hanoi. Ha Long Bay translates to "descending dragon bay" and is comprised of over 1,600 islets, mostly made of limestone that went through 500 years of formations.

I did a lot of research on Ha Long Bay before booking our tour and everything I read recommended spending at least two days on an overnight ship. I am glad I strayed away from that recommendation and opted in for only a day trip.

Yes, Ha Long Bay was filled with magical views, but if I had to look at these limestone pillars for one more day I would go bonkers. No way would I ever recommend spending more than a day trip, unless you're looking to see the different parts of Ha Long Bay, spend your time examining rocks or participate in water sports. 

I checked out every single company offering day trip tours and decided to go with Alova Cruises based on itinerary and user reviews. If you ever decide to explore Ha Long Bay, I have three important tips:

  1. Figure out the best season to visit. We went during a time when it was slightly foggy, which was still full of stunning views but in a different kind of way. 
  2. Before booking direct with the tour company, check your hotel to see if they offer the same tour you're looking for. Your hotel can be a good way to get deals. Luckily, the exact same tour I wanted from Alova was also offered at our hotel, Calypso Suites Hotel / La Beaute De Hanoi, for a small discount. 
  3. If the tour company offers to pick you up in a shuttle, you may want to meet them directly at their office/departure point so you can get first choice of seating. If you don't, you are possibly looking at sitting on a tire hump with no leg room for an excruciating long time. They try to cram as many people possible in the shuttles. 

The Food on Alova Cruises

Our boat was nice and spacious for our small group of 30 people. We were all entertained by our personable guide. Overall, the staff was very friendly and knowledgeable. 

The moment we stepped into the boat, we sat down to be served a family style lunch. I've heard many great things about the food served on Ha Long Bay cruises, but the food we ate turned out to be gross, mediocre and disappointing. Is it sad to say that my favorite dish was the cucumber salad? 

You can't go wrong with peel-and-eat shrimps, but it was whatever.

The vermicelli imperial rolls were okay, but the fried vermicelli itself was too tough. 

The stir-fried chicken and stir-fried squid were both bland. 

The steamed fish looked better than it tasted. It was very bland and you can still taste the muddiness of the fish. 

Hello, Ha Long Bay!

The views - stunning! The thin layer of fog gives Ha Long Bay an eerie kind of vibe, almost like a dragon was going to descend from a mountaintop. I remember Patrick saying to me, "I've never seen anything like this in my life." I definitely haven't experienced anything like this either. 

 The life of a fisherman.

A cargo ship. 

I am super thankful and happy to be able to experience this moment with my amazing and loving other-half. 

It gets a little tiring to see, what looks to be, the same limestone pillars over and over again. 

Hang Sung Sot Cave

As a part of the day trip, we also got to explore Hang Sung Sot Cave. It was awesome to check out the cave's unique system of stalactites and stalagmites in different shapes and forms due to over millions of years of water erosion. For a place so unique and beautiful, it's a complete shame to see multi-colored bright lights take away from the natural beauty of the cave. 

VIETNAM TRIP RECAP: UP NEXT

It's almost coming to an end. You will not want to miss the next post.  I'm walking you through 28 things I ate in Hanoi, along with photos of each. It's going to take me a while to write it, but hang on - I promise that you'll be glad you did. 

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