Our Halong Bay experience

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As I watch our son sleep in his travel bed I’m amazed by his ability to adapt. Just this morning we were in a hotel room in Hanoi, now we’re on a ship in Halong Bay. And he’s doing his afternoon nap, as if nothing has changed.

Although I couldn’t join the cave tour this afternoon because we want one of us to stay with our little boy when he sleeps, I still feel incredibly lucky to be here. The limestone formations outside are amazing and as always we feel best when we’re near or on the water.

Mysterious Halong Bay, Vietnam

When we entered Halong Bay harbor early this afternoon it was raining and it’s still overcast right now. I’m hoping the weather will clear a bit so that we’re able to fully see the beauty of this Unesco World Heritage site. But I’m not counting on it.

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Halong Bay experience
The overcast sky makes the rock formations in Halong Bay look very mysterious.

Golden Bay Cruises: cheap and it shows

We’re on a Golden Bay Cruise ship. At $99 per person, which Mau managed to get down to $95, it was one of the cheapest options and it shows. I think next time I need to research Halong Bay Cruises a bit better and maybe pick one from this list of Halong Bay recommendations. Our ship does not resembles any of the pictures in the fancy brochure we were shown by the lady of the travel agency. But even though the window was leaking on our bed when it was raining earlier and the aircon is making this incredibly annoying noise now that we’re moving, the bed is comfy and the ship seems safe enough so, all in all, we’re doing pretty good. Since the power (and thus the aircon) is only on at night, I’ve opened the window and am treated to an amazing close-up view of a huge limestone formation as we noisily glide by. The overcast sky is creating this surreal atmosphere, it’s absolutely stunning.

Halong Bay cruise: great way to make new friends

Fortunately, I didn’t really miss much by not visiting the cave, but they had a good time anyway. We have a nice little group of about 10 like-minded fellow travelers on the boat. Brenton, an Australian chef who works in a mining camp, two Germans, David and Timo, a Mexican called Israel, Shu-ting, a Dutch girl with Chinese roots and a few Frenchies whose name I didn’t catch. There are 28 people in total, but there’s a big group of Israeli’s who are mostly keeping to themselves.

When Jace wakes up there’s still a bit of time to enjoy the beautiful landscape. I don’t think he really realizes where we are, but he enjoys discovering his new environment and runs around touching everything on board he can get his little hands on. Late afternoon, when we’ve anchored for the night, our guide invites us for a swim. As it’s still overcast and the water doesn’t look very inviting, I decide not to go in, but Mau is one of the first in the water. Only a few of the other guys decide to join him. They say the water is nicer than it looks.

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Halong Bay experience Vietnam Golden Cruise
One of our fellow traveler kindly offered to take our picture.

A restless night on board

Dinner is pretty good and we have fun at the table. The Aussie, Brenton, is entertaining Jace with some ‘magic’ tricks. You can tell he has some young nieces and nephews 🙂 After dinner I luckily managed to get Jace to sleep pretty fast. Guess it’s been a busy day for him as well. And I get to sit in the common room a bit. Even though I’m not joining the drinking games it’s still good to be among other people for a while. The beer is flowing freely so we’ll see how everyone is doing tomorrow morning at 7 for breakfast… I decide to go to bed early, but our little world traveler is a bit restless after all and wakes up every 15 minutes until his daddy comes to bed too at 1 o’clock. Jace sleeps fine after that, but Mau and I are stressing about how and where to continue our trip and don’t get a lot of sleep.

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Halong Bay experience Vietnam Golden Cruise
As night falls over the mooring area where we will spend the night you can hear music coming from all the ships. There were at least 10 more ships besides ours.

Disappointing morning on our Halong Bay Cruise

Even though the drinking games went on until about 1 at night, surprisingly almost everyone makes it down for breakfast in time. Unfortunately, breakfast isn’t nearly as good as lunch and dinner and leaves us a bit hungry and disappointed. The same goes for the promised kayaking. After hearing we only get to use the kayak for about 30 minutes, it hardly seems worth the trouble. They’re on a pretty strict schedule and at 9:00 everyone is checked out and dragging their luggage to the smaller boat that will ferry us back to shore. We all thought we would get to cruise around Halong Bay a bit more in the morning but apparently, we were all misinformed.

Rain on Cat Ba Island

We’re put on a bus for a trip to Cat Ba National Park, but by the time we get there it’s raining so hard the 2-hour trekking to the top gets canceled and we go to the Hospital Cave instead. Nice, but not really worth it if it’s not part of a package deal. The afternoon program consisted of a trip to Monkey Island, but Jace needed to sleep and the sun still isn’t out. We’re happy we’ve decided to stay a few days longer on Cat Ba Island, so we might get another chance to do the trekking and see the spectacular view of Halong Bay that you see in all the brochures. Hopefully, the weather clears a bit in the coming few days.

Halong Bay cruise with kids?

This was our first organized tour with Jace and it actually went pretty well. It was great to see the other people on the tour respond positively to Jace and heartwarming that they all helped carry our luggage off the boat so we didn’t have to struggle so much. We did miss a few things because the little guy needed to nap, but we didn’t really mind. Of course, it pays to get good information about the exact schedule of the tour so that you can check if it fits your child’s routine. We did learn that being really Dutch (let’s confirm the stereotype!) and finding the cheapest option isn’t always the smartest move while traveling with kids. Although, we’re very proud of ourselves for having done this! The boat wasn’t great, but we rolled with it and had a great time. Would we recommend a Ha Long Bay Cruise with kids? Yes, definitely!