We booked our one night/two day trip to Halong Bay through our hostel. We had originally booked the Cristina Cruise but the travel agent convinced us to upgrade to the Superior Dragon Cruise. The trip was operated by APT Travel and cost $68 per person including everything but drinks. (Don’t bring drinks on the boat or you’ll be charged; beer costs $2 and soda $1.50 on board. They also have wine and liquor.)
We were picked up at 7:50am and didn’t arrive at the port until 12:30pm (we were the first ones picked up). It was a long and cramped ride! We stopped halfway through at a large souvenir shop. I saw a purse I loved but convinced myself not to buy it.
We transferred to a small boat, which took us to our cruise ship. I was surprised by what a small ship it was and how small our group was. Only 16 people! About half older people and half younger people. I really liked the intimate, low-key vibe. First we were served “welcome drinks” (Fanta in a coffee cup!) and then we checked into our rooms and were served lunch.
Next we sailed around the islands for about an hour. It was beautiful, but looked pretty much exactly like what I had already seen around Phuket and Ko Phi Phi.
Next everyone went on a one hour hike through a cave and then sea kayaking. I opted to stay on the ship and relax as I had already been sea kayaking in Phuket, where someone else did all the hard work for me! (Apparently I made the right decision as Daniel said it was very strenuous and we would have gotten into a big fight! He also was sad that the cave was so defaced with graffiti.)
After everyone got back, we were served complimentary red wine (again in coffee cups!). It wasn’t very good but it was free so we drank up! Then we all jumped off the boat for some swimming. Dinner was served at 7:15pm. (We got to cook our own meat on grills, which was painful for some as the oil was popping everywhere!) We went to bed shortly thereafter as there wasn’t much to do. The guide had said we could fish but never produced any equipment or mentioned it again. The karaoke machine was broken. And the woman who gave foot massages was pretty busy because I never got my turn! But it was OK, we were tired anyway.
The next morning we were up bright and early for a 7am breakfast. Then we took the small boat to Titop Island. While everyone else hiked to the top for great views, I went for a swim. And got stung by a jellyfish!! I’ve been stung twice before but it never hurt like this. The pain was intense. When we got back to the boat, I tried three remedies: vinegar, urine (you know you’ve seen that Friends episode!), and calamine lotion. I don’t know which one worked but the swelling went down and the pain subsided. It’s been more than 24 hours now though and I still have the marks on my wrist and leg.
Before heading back to the shore, we visited an oyster farm/pearl store and watched a vegetable carving demonstration.
Once back to shore, we ate lunch at a restaurant and then headed back to Hanoi. The bus wasn’t full this time so it was much more comfortable. We stopped at a different souvenir shop on the way back and while they didn’t have the exact purse I wanted, they had a similar one for two-thirds the price. I figured I deserved it after the jellyfish sting!