[Hanuman Blog] Adventure Manager Jake Corke has visited Halong Bay many times, though on this occasion he tries something a little different.
The Unesco World Heritage area of Halong Bay continues to feature on most itineraries in Vietnam, and for good reason. It is one of the quintessential experiences when visiting the Mekong region. But everyone is doing it, and doing it with everybody else is no longer such a special experience. Views of the amazing karst scenery are obstructed by scores of other vessels some with booming karaoke systems, stairways into caves become congested with jostling tourists and beaches become crowded as more and more boats pull in to drop anchor. Applying the Hanuman touch means escaping from all of this, and this is why we recommend the Bai Tu Long Bay area of Halong Bay. This gives us the chance to savour a Halong experience very different to those offered by other operators. Our partners (Indochina Junk) have exclusivity to the Bai Tu Long Bay area, so we leave the 400 or so other junks behind and sail through far less visited areas. The water is cleaner, the bay isn’t congested, villages are more authentic and the beaches are peaceful and secluded.
I recently enjoyed a 2 night-3 day experience on the Dragon’s Pearl junk. The boat had twelve cabins and though not as luxurious as some of the other larger boats, it was beautifully decorated, with a safe and fire safety equipment in each cabin. However, the real beauty of Indochina Junk are the routes and itineraries. I have cruised around Halong Bay more than twenty times over the past 16 years, but never have I seen so few other tourist boats. When we kayaked from the boat to the beach there were only a handful of other visitors and they were all from the other Indochina Junk boats. The inhabitants of the floating villages we visited did not seem jaded by tourists and the water was much cleaner.
Otherwise, the experience is everything you would expect from Halong Bay, misty mornings punctuated with the silhouettes of limestone islands, as the sun burns through the mist the colours and true splendour of Halong come into view. Sumptuous seafood feasts on board, swimming, kayaking, socializing. exploring caves (without fending off hundreds of local tourists) and relaxing on deck for a few sundowners or a drink under the stars. We recommend spending at least 2 nights on the boat, one is never enough. The rewards become that much more satisfying the deeper our exploration takes us into the bay. The karsts become more chiselled, the views more spectacular, there is more time to explore by kayak, time to swim and really relax. For those wanting a social experience we can share with other travellers. For those wanting more privacy there are the Princess boats with just the one cabin for romantic intimacy, or there is also the Prince boats which have 2 cabins, perfect for families or groups of friends. Imagine having a boat and a crew all to yourselves on your very own custom made cruise of the majestic Halong Bay.