Halong Bay Vietnam Private Luxury Cruise and Tour

Halong Bay Vietnam Karst Formation

Over 500 million years of geological processing formed the limestone deposits that are the foundation of Halong Bay Vietnam. Thereafter, 20 million years of erosion and tectonic adjustments made this area one of the world’s most profound karst topography landscapes. As a result, the site was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. 

The Bay consists of over 1600 islands spread out over 43,400 hectares in Quang Ninh Province in NE Vietnam. The karst formations are pillar like small islands and islets that rise up to 100 meters above the water level. Additionally amazing arch formations, caves, undercutting (of the island pillars) and other unique shapes decorate the sea landscape. In fact, many of the islands are named after things that they resemble e.g. monkeys, bantams

How to get to Halong Bay Vietnam

Quang Ninh Province is not far from Hanoi. Therefore, the drive to Halong Bay from Hanoi is only about 1-2 hours. Due to the popularity of the destination there is an enormous shopping center to visit on the way there! The center features Vietnamese coffee and souvenirs for tourists that are doing the Halong Bay cruise. Fortunately, we had procured a private car and also a private boat. Therefore, we were mostly shielded from these type of flytraps.

Our Halong Bay Accommodation

We had secured a private luxury cruise boat through the same Hanoi tour company that had arranged our travels to the NW Vietnam mountain provinces. Therefore, we had the boat and crew to ourselves for one night and 2 days. The boat itself was a refurbished Vietnamese junk featuring an upper deck, al fresco dining area, one bedroom and private bathroom with shower. Over all it was pretty sweet!

Dining area Halong Bay Cruise

The Halong Bay private luxury cruise boat we had procured featured a Al Fresco Dining Area on the rear deck.

Upper deck Halong Bay Private Cruise Boat

The upper deck on our Ha long bay private cruise boat was also a nice amenity for sightseeing and sunbathing

Photo Bedroom and Bathroom Halong Bay Private Cruise Boat

Our private cruise boat also featured a one bedroom suite with connected private bathroom and shower.

Halong Bay Private Cruise – Day One

We got settled into our accommodation while the captain piloted us out of the harbor and on our way. It would take a few hours to arrive at the anchorage destination and we would enjoy lunch while we sailed along our course. The karst topography would begin to unfold before our eyes as we sailed along. Therefore, our fantastic lunch was supplemented with some excellent scenery.

Photo Halong Bay Karst Topography

We could enjoy the beautiful karst topography as it unfolded in Ha Long Bay as we were served our lunch.

Our waiter was excellent and he cracked the crab for us right at the table. In the background, you can see the karst topography emerging through the sea haze.

Photo Karst Topography Halong Bay Private Cruise in Vietnam

Photo of vast karst topography in Ha Long Bay Vietnam.

Thien Cung Grotto in Halong Bay Vietnam

Our overnight anchorage destination was near a pristine Halong Bay beach that was on the same island as the prolific Thien Cung Grotto. Fortunately, there are no Halong Bay hotels on these islands and access is strictly controlled by the government. As a result, tourist traffic is nominal so there are not too many people in the same place at the same time. This worked out well for us!

Our activities for the afternoon would be to explore the nearby island, go kayaking and also explore the inside of the grotto. For starters we were transported over to the island for some kayaking and cave exploration. Fortunately, the Halong Bay Vietnam weather was perfect for our trip. Not so great for sunbathing, but perfect for our little sailing adventure.

Halong Bay Accommodation

Photo of our guide and transport to the small island where the grotto was located.

Photo of the beaches in Halong Bay Vietnam

The island approaching as seen from our transport boat

On the beach in Halong Bay Vietnam

This is a photo of my lucky girlfriend and our Halong Bay guide on the right.

Photo of Nice view form the beach in Halong BAy

The beaches in Halong Bay Vietnam were quite nice and as you can see they came with a very nice view of the surrounding karst landscape.

Kayaking Photo in Halong Bay Vietnam

Kayaking in Halong Bay was a rather placid affair, which was nice because I was doing all of the paddling.

Kayaking in Halong Bay

Photo of us kayaking with the cruise boat in the background. The cruise ships had a nostalgic look to them.

Photo inside Thien Cung Grotto in Halong Bay Vietnam

Finally after returning to the island we were able to enter the Thien Cung Grotto. There were very large stalactites and stalagmites which are typical of best karst formations around the world.

Photo Halong Bay Thien Cung Grotto Karst formations

The Thien Cung Grotto has awesome specimens of stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over many thousands of years. We took a few slow exposure photographs to try and maximize the low light level inside the grotto.

After spending a few hours exploring the unique flora and fauna of the area we reluctantly returned to the boat to get ready for dinner. Upon return, we lounged around for awhile and then got ready.

Dinner photos Private Cruise Halong Bay Vietnam

Dinner was a grand affair and the crew did not cut any corners to make sure it was the best dinner possible.

Dinner photos Private Cruise Halong Bay Vietnam

Halong Bay Private Cruise – Day Two

For the second day we were going to visit a floating village. Actually, the area was a conglomerate of 4 floating villages that pooled their resources for aquaculture, schools, markets and of course tourists! The whole thing had a heavily staged feel to it and this part of the tour got us tangled up with another group that had taken the discount Halong Bay cruise.

Overall, it was OK and we went on a little paddle boat tour circuit. Along the way we checked out the aquaculture, schools and some of the unique karst topography in the landscape. Fortunately, we didn’t need a Halong Bay map and we just followed the other boats.

Photo Appoaching the Halong Bay Vietnam Floating Village

Approaching the floating village in Halong Bay Vietnam. The towering karst formations in the background were ever present.

Halong Bay floating village

There was a bit of traffic in the floating village.

Photo local Market Vendor in Halong Bay floating village

This is a version of the local floating market. I bought some of the local rice wine here.

Photo Halong Bay Floating Village Primary School

The Halong Bay floating village had its own floating primary school

Halong Bay Floating Village Primary School

As you can see, things were not too exciting until we got there.

Halong Bay School

Halong Bay limestone archway

After contributing to the kids education we continued along the guided path to visit a very large limestone archway.

Halong Bay limestone archway

Halong Bay limestone archway

Posing for photos beneath the limestone archway (guide in the center of pic)

Haling Bay Private Luxury Cruise Conclusion

After visiting the archway we were bustled through some floating tourist shops and then back to the ship to return to port. The sailing back in was pretty enjoyable and after all the great service from the crew we were a little bit sad to see it end.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay returning to port

Our Halong Bay private luxury cruise was excellent and I was very happy with the boat and the accommodations. Additionally, the Halong Bay Vietnam weather had been very accommodating for our entire trip. As a result, we were able to enjoy the full splendor of the karst formations. We were now going to stay in Hanoi for a couple days and then we were going to travel south to Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Additional Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%E1%BA%A1_Long_Bay
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/672