Hanoi: In the Company of Strangers (Days 2 and 3)

I woke up early for the cruise the next day, had my breakfast, checked out from the hotel and waited for the bus to pick me up. I decided to check out since I’ll be staying overnight on the boat and paid for my entire stay as well. In total, I paid US$200 for 3D/2N at the hotel (inclusive of breakfast) and the overnight stay on the boat, inclusive of welcome drinks; lunch & dinner for the first day; and breakfast & lunch the next day. *Pats myself on the back for such  a steal of a holiday.*

Tips:

  • TripAdvisor.com is your best bet for legit reviews of hotels and sample itineraries. 
  • Whatever hotels you find on agoda.com, booking.com or similar sites, cross-check it with TripAdvisor. So far, this site has not let me down yet. 
  • Feel free to bring your swimsuit and sunscreen.

Instead of me blabbing away on the 2D/1N Halong Bay itinerary,  I’ll post photos to take you through my overnight journey to one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

After about 1.5 hours of traversing the road to Halong City, the bus will make a mandatory stop  at a handicraft store for about 20 minutes.

Pier

More than an hour later, we arrived at the Bai Chay Pier in Halong City.

After the tour guide has purchased the tickets, passengers will then proceed to the wharf to be transferred to the Viet Beauty Cruise via a small ferry.

After our tour guide has purchased the tickets, we proceeded to the wharf to be transferred to the Viet Beauty Cruise via a small ferry.

The boat doesn't come to you. You come to the boat. And you do it via these small ferries. And no matter how short the distance, wear the life jacket. It's a hard rule.

The boat doesn’t come to you. You come to the boat. And you do it via these small ferries. And no matter how short the distance, wear the life jacket. It’s a hard rule.

This is the view from the dining hall. While there is a wifi onboard, it's very unstable since we're in the middle of the bay. I barely cared. I have my camera. I'm good.

This is the view from the dining hall. While there is a wifi onboard, it’s very unstable since we’re in the middle of the bay. I barely cared. I have my camera. I’m good.

Right outside the dining hall are small tables lining up the lower deck.

Right outside the dining hall are small tables lining up the lower deck.

The cabin in The Viet Beauty Cruises is cozy and equipped with hotel grade bathroom facilities. Except for the water taking a bit of time to go down the drain, I've no issues with the room.

The cabin in The Viet Beauty Cruises is cozy and equipped with hotel grade bathroom facilities. Except for the water taking a bit of time to go down the drain, I’ve no issues with the room.

Since I was travelling alone, they gave me the option of adding US$40 so I don’t have to share the cabin with a stranger. I scrimped and decided to tough it out and go for the shared cabin. It’s just for a night anyway. I wasn’t prepared to share it with a late 50-ish English guy. I thought that since I’m a girl, they’ll pair me off with a girl too. Unfortunately, there was no other girl travelling solo so, I’m stuck with him. Thankfully he was decent and that the only time we were in the cabin together was when it was time to doze off for the night.

Once we’ve freshen up, we started our tour and first stop is the Sung Sot Cave or the Amazing Cave.

Sung Sot Cave is a famous tourist stop in Halong Bay and since it's peak season, you can just imagine how busy this place is.

Sung Sot Cave is a famous tourist stop in Halong Bay and since it’s peak season, you can just imagine how busy this place is.

So maybe, this is why it's called the Amazing Cave. *insert naughty grin* And of all the colors to light up this VERY interesting rock formation, they choose red.

So maybe, this is why it’s called the Amazing Cave. *insert naughty grin* And of all the colors to light up this VERY interesting rock formation, they choose red.

We spent about an hour going through the different caves, with our tour guide pointing at more interestingly shaped rocks and stalagmites. In my head, no other rock formation can be as interesting as that photo above.

The tour is finally done and we headed back to the boat again to go to a spot for kayaking. I decided to skip this out because the heat got me and I don’t feel good anymore.

I decided to nap and about 20 minutes later, I decided to go up the sundeck and enjoy some quiet time.

I decided to nap and about 20 minutes later, I decided to go up the sundeck and enjoy some quiet time.

The local vendors make for an interesting addition to the Halong Bay scenery. They sell chips, cigarettes and sweets.

The local vendors make for an interesting addition to the Halong Bay scenery. They sell chips, cigarettes and sweets.

As we wait for our dinner, we had cooking class and they taught us to prepare fresh spring rolls.

As we wait for our dinner, we had cooking class and they taught us to prepare fresh spring rolls.

I was the lone Asian in the cruise, save for the Vietnamese junk crew and tour guide. I thought I will feel awkward but it was so much fun chatting with Irish travelbugs Emma and Karen; her mom, Helen; and Jeremy, the Englishman in Hanoi. 🙂 After chatting some more, we headed to our respective cabins and called it a night.

The following day, those who were able to wake up early joined the Tai Chi class held at the sundeck. I skipped that and headed straight to a light breakfast. Few minutes later, we are on our way to Soi Sim Island, a mere five-minute ferry ride from where the boat anchored for the night.

Soi Sim Island is ok but having been to our glorious beaches, the beach did not impress me. It was a small stretch and the water doesn't look inviting; maybe Cat Ba Island is better but it's not included in our itinerary.

Soi Sim Island is ok but having been to our glorious beaches, the beach did not impress me. It was a small stretch and the water doesn’t look inviting; maybe Cat Ba Island is better but it’s not included in our itinerary.

For me, Palawan sets the bar for gorgeous beaches and the Conde Nast Traveler placed a stamp on that for naming Palawan as the top island in the world for 2014.

And so I decided to hike towards Soi Sim Hill.

It's a 400+ steps up this hill and while the sign discourages older people from hiking, I still found some elderly couples heading up the cemented steps.

It’s a 400+ steps up this hill and while the sign discourages older people from hiking, I still found some elderly couples heading up the cemented steps.

The elderly people hiking up inspired me to get to the top but with the lack of exercise, I was catching my breath by the time I reached the top.

The elderly people hiking up inspired me to get to the top but with the lack of exercise, I was catching my breath by the time I reached the top. But the haze that morning diluted the beauty of the beach from the top. Oh well.

An hour later, we’re back on the boat to check out and have our buffet lunch. At this time, we have new companions onboard as they are the ones checking in for the night. After lunch, we headed back to the pier to board the bus back to Hanoi. Back to the crazy city of speeding motorcycles but this time, I went back with new Twitter and Instagram friends.

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