I'm on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul leaving temporarily Southeast Asia to enjoy the autumn and visit Korea before it gets too cold in that region. Now I have the time to finish the second part of the Halong bay cruise we did with my GF last week.
Let’s recap. In the first Halong Bay post I discussed how we spent 2 days and 1 night on a vintage cruise on board of replica paddle steamer called the Emeraude. I highlighted the importance of shopping around and I described how we went to Halong city board the cruise, ate a yummy lunch and started to be amazed by the first glimpse on the huge limestones. The story continues.
4. Innocent Squatters.
After the delicious lunch we came back to our cabin to change our clothes and we decided to wander around the deck. We found some really nice rattan sunbeds just in front of the boat. So we took our shoes off and lay down feeling the sea breeze while we sailed towards some formations in the distance.
We even took some time to take pictures and shot some videos with farewell messages for our family. As we were laying down enjoying the view, a senior passenger came to our area to shot some pictures himself, but he had an uneasy look in his face, despite that we offered him a chair. He said something like “I’m fine” and then left our area not looking so happy.
2 minutes later an apologetic employee from the cruise came to us with a grim on her face and told us “I’m really sorry sir, madame, but the use of this terrace is reserved only for the guests of the suite”. After apologizing and explaining that we haven’t seen any sign, we left the place and went to enjoy the not so comfortable but still nice chairs next to our cabin
Now we had both smiles in our faces. We had just offered the posh suite guest a chair from his own squatted terrace! Now, just in our defense they forgot to put a chain around the terrace with a message explaining that this area was reserved for the suite.
5. Sung Sot Caves.
Around half an hour later they announced in the ship loudspeaker that we were going to anchor and that a small boat was going to take the interested passengers to the Sung Sot caves. We went down to the first floor hopped into the small vessel and made the short trip to the Bo Hòn Island. Those caves are also known as the surprise caves and they were indeed surprisingly overcrowded with tourists coming from a lot of different boats and cruises.
You need to climb 100 stone steps to get to the first chamber, but with the hoard of visitors getting to the cave at the same time, it was quite slow.
Don't get me wrong, the caves are massive and beautiful inside. They are composed of thousands of stalactites hanging from top of the caves. Many of those create different shapes that the guide happily highlights using a laser pointer. Let me share a couple of pictures from the cave:
Once you finish visiting all the chambers and distinguishing all the shapes, you get rushed back into the small boat and taken back to the Emeraude. We were welcomed with some crepes. Nice touch.
6. Anchoring: Amazing sunsets and sunrises.
After the caves experience we had some time to chill out until we arrived to the pearl farm. Here you could visit the place, do some kayaking or just swim on the sea. We picked the latter option, so once we put our swim gear on, we jumped into the sea using the platform in the back of the ship. We swam for 30 minutes or so, until we noticed a not so nice smell on the sea water. This was followed by a nice warm shower at our cabin.
Then the vessel started moving for a little while more and they announced it would stop and lower its anchor to stay on that place overnight. The sunset was setting in, giving us some amazing views of the sea with the limestones on the background and the other boats anchoring on the bay at the same time. This was a great picture taking moment:
After dinner they showed the movie "Indochine" on the main deck and we saw parts of it. Finally we went to bed and it was quite comfortable. When I woke up the day after, I noticed the sunrise was joined by a beautiful sky.
We had a really nice breakfast with multiple tropical fruits and juices and we started cruising again, coming back to the Halong bay city port. We settled the bill, packed our bags and layed down in some other sun beds we found to enjoy there the last part of the trip …
Something we were discussing with my GF once we came back to Hanoi was if 2 days was too short to enjoy Halong bay, but we found that if the tour is organized like the one I just described it is good enough to get a glimpse on this amazing place. We both agreed this was money well spent.