Thongs, jandals, flip-flops – whatever you call them, they’re not great footwear for practising tai-chi on the top deck of a boat.
It’s just after 6am, and the air is cool and misty in Halong Bay. Four of us have gathered on to top deck to have a go at tai-chi. We attempt to follow our instructor’s movements – so much more graceful and flowing than anything we can manage.
Despite feeling like a fairy bus-horse in the grace stakes (no, I don’t know what it is either, but it’s what Mum used to call me when I clomped heavily around the house) this is strangely meditative. Behind us and around us are the towering limestone islands of Halong Bay – this morning shrouded in fine mist. It’s all ethereally beautiful. I really must find a yoga class when I get home.
We’re on a Bhaya Classic cruiseboat, one of many of the boats that cruise Halong Bay every day. In fact, when we chugged out the day before, we were in a long line of boats doing exactly the same thing.
But not all Halong Bay cruises are alike. Looking at some of the boats around us, we’re extremely glad we chose this one. We’re even gladder (and yes, I’m aware that’s not a proper word) that our friend’s travel agent was able to snaffle the two terrace rooms at the front of the boat for us. They really are the best rooms cabins, on the vessel.
Our Halong Bay adventure begins with an almost 4 hour drive to Halong City. It’s long, and it’s not that scenic – although we do attempt to summon enthusiasm every so often. It’s also a tad hair-raising in terms of buses and trucks that seem to be hurtling straight at you.
Our cabin is larger and better appointed than I’d expected. We love the terrace and are also pretty happy to see a half bottle of bubbles on ice for us – part of the premium terrace room experience. We drink this after lunch as we watch the bay float by from our deckchairs.
Speaking of lunch – it’s buffet style and, although I’m not keen on buffets, is actually pretty good, albeit heavy on the seafood – which I decide to avoid.
After lunch, there’s an excursion to go and explore some of the caves and grottos by rowboat. I choose not to go – opting instead for my deckchair and a book. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and read a book – I think it was probably some time before all this house malarkey started. I sent hubby along with the camera, so these are his and J’s photos.
In staying behind I’m rewarded with the sun going down behind the islands.
Hubby and our travelling companions are back in time for happy hour (phew) – something we over-indulge in while we watch the chef demonstrate the making of spring rolls. There’s also a rice wine tasting. Sadly hubby is out getting fresh air at the time so I drink his. My friend’s husband doesn’t want his, so I take one for the team there too.
Dinner is a set menu (with variations for personal tastes and allergies). It’s presented beautifully and tastes just as good.
After dinner we try our hand at squid fishing. No, it’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds – and that’s saying something! Nothing is caught, so I lose interest in jigging my bamboo rod up and down very quickly.
We sleep surprisingly well and are up early the next morning – me to do tai chi, and hubby to watch the bay wake up. There’s a light brekky followed by a climb up to these caves – which hubby, my friend and I decided not to do. The pics below are by my friend’s hubby who suffered no such laziness.
Brunch is served upon their return – although it is very similar in style to lunch from the day before – and is substantial enough to sustain us for the 4 hour drive back to Hanoi.
Is alcohol expensive on board?
We made good use of happy hour. Our bar bill came to 779,000 dong – that’s $45AUD. For that we had (and please don’t judge me):
2 local beers (with lunch)
4 glasses of cab sav
They say the bay is crowded…
It is. There are dozens – possibly hundreds – of boats out there, but once we’re through the main run into the bay, the others all tend to disburse between the islands.
They say the bay is full of garbage…
There are definitely places where garbage is floating on the water. It’s dreadful from both a visual and an environmental viewpoint. On the whole though, unless you’re looking, you don’t notice it.
Is one night enough?
I think so.
Does the shuttle make “comfort” stops along the way?
Yes – at souvenir shops. Be warned, the coffee is dreadful.
If you want more info on Bhaya Cruises, you can find it here.