Ha Long Bay

This was our last stop before we got to Hanoi and completed our trip. We had booked three days here so this was our time to relax and let our bottoms rest. This trip has been incredible but my bottom will never get used to sitting on a bike for more than four hours every day!

I’m going to be honest, Ha Long Bay was a bit of an anticlimax for me. After seeing so many beautiful photos, I had assumed there would be loads of tourists/backpackers. The bay itself is well worth the trip but the town is deserted. On the night there were a few people around but otherwise it was like a ghost town. I still can’t get my head around this as there are hundreds of hotels, (I promise I’m not being dramatic there are hotels everywhere).

The beach was nice but we spent pretty much all of the first two days hiding from the rain as there was a really bad thunderstorm. If you look closely in this photo, you’ll see all the crabs which emerge as you walk away. The town being so quiet was perfect for the beach as we pretty much had it to ourselves.

We really wanted to do the boat tour so once we had a day that wasn’t forecast for too much rain, we took the risk and booked it. We didn’t want to miss out and being British we aren’t strangers to rain. It did rain a fair bit but thankfully not too much.

The most confusing morning to date

The day began as a mass of confusion. When we booked, we were told we were going to be picked up at 7:45am from our hotel lobby. I’m pretty organised so when I’m told I need to be somewhere, I’ll be there on time or a bit before. By 8:00am there was no sign of the coach. The panic was settling in pretty fast so I called the company who set it up and was told to wait two minutes. Another ten minutes passed and I called again only to be told by an irritated receiver, two more minutes. At 8:20am we were finally picked up only to be shouted at by our driver that there should be four of us. What?! We had no idea what he was talking about so we just got on the bus and took our seats. Eventually four more people from our hotel arrived and we were on our way.

After nearly running down countless pedestrians and other road users, we got to the port at 9:00am, then stood around waiting for another half an hour. We were feeling a bit embarrassed after being shouted at by the driver. Mercifully a couple we made friends with, told us he did it to literally everyone, what a nice guy. At this point, no one seemed to know what was going on including the guides themselves. We had to fill out a form that only required our name and year of our birth to receive a ticket with a actual price of the trip on it. To say we over paid would be an understatement. Whilst talking to the other people on our tour it seemed we had paid the most out of everyone. The day was starting off pretty badly. Of course it wasn’t overly expensive but it did leave a bit of a sour taste in our mouths.

Finally, we were climbing aboard the ship. We sat through a briefing session which included hilarious instructions such as, “it’s raining so don’t worry about your safety too much” and “don’t lose your ticket or we won’t let you back on the boat”.

The sights around the islands are stunning. The photo above is of the well known cocks fighting (heh heh). To me, only the right one resembles a chicken but that’s just me.

This one is dog rock. I see the dog, I also see more rocks.

Luckily for us, it only started to really rain when we were inside the amazing cave. It really was amazing, the photo doesn’t do it justice but it was huge.

After the cave we were on our way to the pearl farm for some kayaking.

I think it was about seven times we were told not to swim here. No reason or warning why, just don’t do it. It wasn’t long until I saw why.

After kayaking we had a look around the pearl farm and were taught about the process. This starts by first creating a ‘pearl’ with crushed up shell. This then gets placed into the clams membrane, so that they begin to build on it as if it’s their own. As you can see in the photo, the man is holding a ‘pearl’ and about to insert it. To me this feels a bit like cheating. I guess it’s the only way you can quickly mass produce though.

Two fishing ladies with their successful catches of the day.

This photo was taken at the top of Ti Top island. You have to climb 420 steps to get there, but the view is definitely worth the walk. This was the final stop on the tour. The best was definitely saved until last. The view is beautiful.

As soon as we stepped on the boat to return to shore, it started hammering it down. We had been so lucky with the weather and I’m so happy we were able to do this trip.


  1. Okay. So we did Vietnam this March. While finalizing on our itinerary we had a hard time choosing between Sapa and Ha long. We did Sapa. But now I can die in piece knowing Ha long was not as beautiful as the pictures sugest. What is the yellow thing for which you said not to swim? Thanks for the share and the last picture is really breathtaking!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a shame you had such rubbish weather for Ha Long Bay. While there are lots of hotels there, I think most people who go to Halong spend their time on a boat. During our 3 years in Vietnam, there were a couple of nasty accidents where people drowned on not so great boats but as the place becomes more popular, there are sadly more unscrupulous operators. At least you got to enjoy some time off the bike and that view from the top of the island is amazing, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t too bad, it didn’t rain for the best parts at least πŸ™‚
      We were talking to one guy and he didn’t do too much research into the ‘company’ he went with. He was taken on a boat to one of the islands, got off there and the boat left him there for eight hours. Luckily he had water with him but otherwise nothing. He was so sun burned that he had a couple of blisters on his leg. πŸ˜•


  3. Hi! Perfect timing for me to see this post! Would you recommend any cruise agency for booking this trip? I have taken a quote of USD 280 from one for two people! Does that sound good to you for 2D 1N cruise??? They are taking us to Surprise cave and few other islets!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not sure about booking online but for our our trip we booked at an agency in Ha Long. Everyone else recommended booking at the Party Hostel and they got it $15 cheaper and a free beer for it πŸ™‚


  4. I feel that Ha long bay is best done as an overnight trip. The bay is serene and calm once all the day trippers have left. The sunset views and the early morning times are special. Great views from the Ti Top islands, didn’t go there, but seems worth it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Very nice photos Emily. I went to Halong bay on an overnight excursion from my hotel in Hanoi. I was picked up at about 8am, and we arrived eventually at about 12 noon. Then we go on our boat and had lunch, before we went to our rooms and later we did kayaking. I was on the trip by myself, and most of the others were in couples of groups of four…. so I ended up in a two person canoe by myself, which whilst fun was a bit nerve-wracking too since I’m not that good at canoing and haven’t done it in years. We were there on Vietnam New Year, so at the night there was a big party and then the following morning we went to some caves before returning to shore at about 1pm.

    I can’t remember how much it cost. But I did enjoy it. I thought the environment was beautiful, but then I was there overnight. If I’d have stayed in the city it might have been different. Nice account of your trip, and enjoy the rest of your time in Vietnam. I really enjoyed it a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Mark, it was an amazing trip. At least being solo in a canoe you can take your time πŸ™‚ I involuntarily took part in a race against a couple of guys on our boat. We won but I don’t think I really contributed as I’m not much of an oarsman myself ha ha πŸ˜…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha. Well with me, it was everyone else pretty much rowed off, leaving me, and then when it was time to get out, I had to manoeuvre this big, lumbering craft, which wasn’t easy at all! It was fun doing it, but it was hard work πŸ™‚ I’m glad you had an amazing trip, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Emily,

    Wow! Enjoy those times even when it takes longer. I am from the US and I totally understand being on a schedule. It seems like time and patience is how things run there. It makes it nice I hope to stop and smell the roses, or cool rock formations.

    Thanks, Gary

    On Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 8:11 AM, The Blog of Travel wrote:

    > Emily posted: “This was our last stop before we got to Hanoi and completed > our trip. We had booked three days here so this was our time to relax and > let our bottoms rest. This trip has been incredible but my bottom will > never get used to sitting on a bike for more than ” >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This trip has definitely taught me to be more patient! Sometimes when things don’t go exactly to plan it can work in your favour. In this case, it was an ice breaker to other people on the trip and made us all laugh. πŸ˜€


  7. I did the Ha Long Bay tour about 11 years ago and it was very similar to your experience: a little odd, kinda chaotic, and get this… we did a 1 night tour so I in my room there was a giant mouse. As if that’s not bad enough, I didn’t find out it was in the drawer of the night stand until the morning! I think it was there ALL NIGHT! Gross. But the beach we went to was cool, and jumping off the boat into the water was fun. Overall, we thought it was just OK and admitted we wouldn’t have done it had we known it would be how it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That doesn’t really surprise me with the mouse πŸ˜‚ Sorry your trip was odd too but it’s good to hear that I’m not the only one πŸ˜†


  8. Just wonderful Blog so enjoyed your Adventures to late to finish but will continue tommorow…. wonderful writing don’t stop you definetely are talented and so informative. Will share and TWEET and repost on my 4thebeezplease blog …..Thankyou Emily from ELLE AND HER BELLARINA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My favourite, favourite, favourite place was Hoi An. It’s really beautiful πŸ™‚ I had a suit made there and it was ridiculously cheap. There are really beaches and an ancient town to explore so it’s worth the visit. We were only meant to be there for a couple of days and ended up staying there for five.
      Then it would be Dalat and then Hanoi. Dalat has a lot of French influence and is really pretty. It’s good for shopping and coffee shops.
      Hanoi is similar to Ho Chi Minh city but not as crazy. The Old Quarter is very tourist friendly which is why we enjoyed it πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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