Halong Bay, one of the most popular destinations in Hanoi, Vietnam, features thousands of beautiful limestone karsts and islands carved by nature into various shapes and sizes. The best way to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site is via a cruise on a junk boat. For this purpose, we decided on a V’Spirit 3D2N cruise. You may want to read our review of the cruise in our earlier post.
Do note that citizens of some countries may require a visa to enter Vietnam. For your convenience, we are pleased to introduce our Vietnam Visa Travel Partner https://www.vietnam-visa.com/ (Best way to get Vietnam visa). Do check the requirements before your trip! 🙂
Here’s some of the programme and sites we visited while on the cruise.
Sung Sot Cave
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See the big crevice in the rock wall? That’s the entrance to Sung Sot Cave (translated as ‘Surprise Grotto’). The Sung Sot cave is deemed by some locals as the best cave in Halong Bay and is where most overnight cruises to Halong Bay will stop by.
Our fellow passengers from V’Spirit making their way to Sung Sot Cave.
Fantastic View from Sung Sot Cave.
Sung Sot Cave is located almost mid-height of a large rock formation. To gain entrance to the cave, we had to exert some energy to climb some steep flight of stairs. Because of the humid conditions in the cave and its surroundings, the paths leading to Sung Sot Cave tend to be wet and slippery.
After spending great efforts to climb up the steep elevation, we find ourselves in one of the best position for a bird’s eye view of Halong Bay.
Sung Sot Cave reminds us a lot of the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains Sydney.
However, in terms of the overall grandness, surprise factor, size of chamber and extensiveness of stalagmites and stalactites, the Jenolan Caves definitely wins hands down.
Sung Sot Cave is actually made up of two chambers – the outer chamber also known as the Waiting Room is about 30m high and certainly impressive.
The inner chamber, known as the Serene Castle has formations that resemble sentries guarding the chamber, animals, and deities (if you apply some of your imagination to see it).
Keep a lookout for this monkey at the exit of the cave. It looks like he is a regular there.
Soi Sim Island
We came here twice during the cruise and both times, this place was crowded with tourists. Instead of fighting with the crowd for swimming space, make a climb to the top of the hills instead for great views of Halong Bay.
Cruise to Lan Ha Bay
The main difference between the one night cruise and the two night cruise on V’Spirit is Lan Ha Bay. Located further from Halong Bay, the waters are less frequented by junk ships, and as a result, waters here are much clearer and free from litter.
Kayaking at Light and Dark Cave at Lan Ha Bay
This was the best part of our Halong Bay cruise with V’Spirit. Kayaking is actually one of the best ways to get closer to great scenery. Because the craft is small enough to slip through narrow grottos, we got to explore hidden and peaceful bays with absolutely stunning scenery and it sometimes feels like having a private place to ourselves.
The waters at these bays are turquoise clear, in contrast to the polluted waters at the busy waterways of Halong Bay (Take note that no lessons at kayaking are given, not even basic instructions, so we really had to learn on the job!).
Halong Pearl Farm and Museum
Almost every tourist on a 2 night extended cruise at Halong Bay will be brought to the pearl farm and museum. It really is an eye-opener to see how oysters are cultured for their pearls, but please do not purchase anything here. It is a tourist trap and prices for those cultured pearls are exorbitantly high.
Kayak at Bo Nau Cave area
This time round, we opted to be rowed around the Bo Nau Cave area rather than operating our own kayak. It really was a good decision because being rowed about is so much more relaxing that having to do it ourselves. The waters around Bo Nau Cave were exceedingly peaceful and beautiful.
Tai Chi Session
For those of us who are interested to exercise while on a cruise, you might want to participate in an early morning Tai Chi Session led by one of the crew member.
That’s all for our review of the various programme and sights that we visited on board the cruise. We leave you with some of the best photos that we have taken on board! 🙂
Stunning views of Halong Bays at various cruising points.
Tips for visiting Halong Bay
- Make Halong Bay the first destination when you arrive in Hanoi. Cruises along Halong Bay are dependent on the weather and there are many cases where the scheduled cruise had to be cancelled due to inclement weather. When that happens, you’ll have the flexibility and the time to rearrange the later part of your itinerary to accommodate a later cruise.
- Bring lots of sunscreen, sunglasses and a poncho. The weather can change from sunny to rainy at short notice.
- Bring your swim wear in case there is a chance for diving or kayaking activities.
- If your room has a window or balcony, make sure that the curtains are drawn for privacy. The street vendors on water have a most sneaky way of appearing at your window to hawk beverages, titbits and souvenirs.
Have you been to Halong Bay before? Do share with us your experiences too! 🙂
Do check out our full Hanoi itinerary.