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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We were blown away.
While taking excursions from the boat we had the opportunity to see a floating fishing village and an oyster farm, where they grew pearls.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.