An Overnight Cruise aboard the Treasure Junk in Halong Bay, Vietnam

During our monthlong trip to Southeast Asia, my nephew, Austin and I decided that an overnight tour of Halong Bay, Vietnam was essential.

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin has more than 1,600 islands and islets, creating jaw-dropping scenery of limestone karst landforms. It is, to put it simply, breathtaking.

Of course, in our pre-trip prep we’d found that there are many, many tourism scams and scammy tour agencies in Hanoi, so knowing which tourism agency you can trust is also essential. Ultra-cheap tours, we learned, were problematic, and I read many reviews from people who felt herded, like cattle, through their Halong Bay experience.

We didn’t want that.

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Halong Bay is impossible to capture on film; it’s one of those places you have to see to believe. But this is the unbelievable view from the Treasure Junk, which we booked through Handspan Adventure Travel. It was a beautiful boat and a wonderful trip. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
friendly travelers on the bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay, Vietnam.
The bus ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay, booked through Handspan Adventure Travel. We met some friendly travelers on the trip. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Thanks to my Vietnam Lonely Planet guide, we found a reputable tour agency: Handspan  Adventure Travel, and booked our overnight tour of Halong Bay through them.

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On board the bus that took us to and from Halong Bay. The views of the countryside were pretty amazing. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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The map of Halong Bay, on a screen inside the dining room of our boat, the Treasure Junk. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

We appeared in person at the Hanoi office to book our trip, which was just about a mile from our hotel. The staff spoke english fluently, and were very helpful in assisting us with our plans. We felt absolutely safe and well cared for by them. The journey, which came with a last-minute discount, cost about $160 per person. At the time that struck me as expensive, but as soon as we got on the boat, I realized how much was included.

To be honest, I think they undersold the trip. It is absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it.

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Our cabin, aboard the Treasure Junk in Halong Bay. The wood on the boat was polished to a high shine, everything was spotless and the food was…wow. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Our trip included transportation via coach from Hanoi to Halong (3.5 hours) and back again, all of our meals, and several excursions and experiences on the boat itself.

Every meal included multiple courses of wonderfully-prepared food, featuring some local favorites. Check out some of the food we ate.

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Just one of many lunch courses. I think there were at least seven or eight courses in all, every meal. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Beautifully prepared squid aboard the Treasure Junk overnight trip to Halong Bay. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Local favorite, bun cha, a cold noodle dish with grilled meats and a vinegary sauce and fried spring rolls, was among the dishes we enjoyed on board the Treasure Junk. Seriously, you guys. This one course was a meal in itself. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

I’d heard Halong Bay is crowded, and it is. But with this tour, you don’t stay overnight in the main bay where hundreds of boats anchor for the night. Instead, you go to the quieter bays beyond it, where it is just as beautiful, far less crowded and much more peaceful. Check. It. Out.

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The top deck of the Treasure Junk in Halong Bay. We were there during the rainy season. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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The main deck of the Treasure Junk in Halong Bay, Vietnam. I sat out here with a beer and watched as we floated by the beautiful karsts. The staff brought out snacks for me to munch on. The service on the boat was incredible. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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The Treasure Junk, our home for one night of our trip in Southeast Asia. It was amazing. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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One of the few boats we passed while cruising in the quieter corners of Halong Bay. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

And the Treasure Junk, the boat on which you sleep and eat and explore the region, is an absolutely gorgeous boat. Every bit of wood was polished to a high shine. The boat was immaculately clean. Staff quickly replaced our towels when they were wet. Service in the dining room was unbelievable. It is absolutely luxurious, even when you set aside the fact that this is a tour most locals would be unable to afford in their lifetimes.

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Catching breezes on the top deck of the Treasure Junk. Photo by Austin Aune.
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The dining room on board the Treasure Junk. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

We were blown away.

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One of our excursions from the boat included a ride on these wooden boats. So fun! Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Our boat captain gave us these hats to wear to keep the rain off our faces. It was light rain, but steady, which is to be expected during the rainy season in Vietnam. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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One of the wooden boats in the bay, with riders from the Treasure Junk. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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During our ride on the wooden boats, we came right up to this archway, through which we could see even more karst formations. Breathtaking. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

While taking excursions from the boat we had the opportunity to see a floating fishing village and an oyster farm, where they grew pearls.

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Some of the oysters at the oyster farm we toured, where they grow pearls. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Implanting the oysters to encourage pearl growth. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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We saw our tour guide open an oyster and pull out this pearl. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

We also got to go on a kayaking adventure through the karst formations and into a cave. Our tour guide shared a bit of history and lore from the region while we docked on a beach and swam in the warm waters of the bay.

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Just chilling with my nephew among the karst formations of Halong Bay. Amazing! Photo by Charish Badzinski. 
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We stopped at a secluded beach to learn about the history and lore of Halong Bay, and to swim in the warm waters. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Kayaking among the karst formations in Halong Bay. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Entering a cave via kayak. We were warned not to go too far into the cave, as the tide was coming in. So we barely went in, but it was pretty incredible to see. 

As we continued to kayak, suddenly the rainy season hit with full force. The rain poured down on us and we rushed back to the Treasure Junk, where staff helped us back on board and gave us fresh, dry towels. It was thrilling to kayak in the pouring rain in such  a beautiful, unforgettable place. I will remember it the rest of my life.

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History lessons on the beach with our guide from Handspan Adventure Travel. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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The rain poured down with such intensity we had to cut our kayaking trip a bit short. It was so thrilling and a little scary kayaking in the downpour. This photo was taken shortly after I got back on the Treasure Junk. Photo by Charish Badzinski. 

I know you think that’s enough, right? Whenever I book a tour I try to think about when I hit the “worth it” zone…as in, when do I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth. Everything on our overnight trip to Halong Bay was so amazing, I thought we hit the worth it zone pretty early. But there was still more.

We learned how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. (I made this one!) The super-thin rice paper does not need to be soaked prior to making the spring roll; the moisture of the filling and the dip are sufficient. So far I have been unable to find this particular type of spring roll wrapper stateside–in spite of having access to amazing stores and Amazon. If you know where I can order some, please let me know in the comments!

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Look what I have created! An  authentic Vietnamese spring roll. Best of all, I got to eat it too. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Spring roll making lesson with the chef on board the Treasure Junk. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

And we went squid fishing at night! It wasn’t squid season, unfortunately, so we didn’t catch any. But we did see other fascinating sea creatures. Like a sea worm, which was sort of frightening looking.

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Fishing for squid is done at night. Here we are trying our hand at it, with bamboo poles. We didn’t get even a nibble. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Oh, and I almost forgot! There was a Tai Chi lesson in the morning, which I attended, but did not take photos of. It was a great way to start the day. And not as easy as it looks, by the way.

Because we were in a quiet section of Halong Bay, we also caught a glimpse of a traditional fishing boat. Some families still live on the water, though many have been incentivized to move on shore, to free up the bay for tourists.

Though the reality of fishing life is no doubt difficult, to see the fishing boat there, in the mist, on a gray evening was rather magical.

Traditional fishing boat in Halong Bay. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Traditional fishing boat in Halong Bay. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Interested in an overnight trip to Halong Bay aboard the Treasure Junk? Handspan Adventure Travel in Hanoi is Rollerbag Goddess approved! You can find them at www.handspan.com and the itinerary for the overnight trip to Halong Bay we took can be found here.  It was a magical trip and I highly recommend you come aboard the Treasure Junk the next time you’re in northern Vietnam.

I have not been compensated in any way for this endorsement; it’s from the heart. I simply loved our experience.


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Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning features, food and travel writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications, providing powerful storytelling to her clients.

Posts on the Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World travel blog are never sponsored and have no affiliate links, so you know you will get an honest review, every time.

Find Charish on Twitter: @rollrbaggoddess and on Instagram at @rollerbaggoddess. You can also read more about Charish Badzinski’s professional experience in marketing, public relations and writing.

Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


 

 

 

 

 

 


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