Halong Bay, Vietnam Seascape Cruise Adventure

Halong Bay Cruise Adventure

I must admit, going on the Halong Bay Cruise was my 100% girlfriend’s idea. Fortunately, this turned out well and it was loads of fun. We took a private Halong Bay cruise on a renovated Chinese style “junk”.

These classic sailing vessels have had a ubiquitous presence throughout Asia for millennia. As a result, we got the best of both worlds. It was a private luxury cruise on a classic sailing ship through one of the most striking karst seascapes in the world. What more could anyone ask for?  

Why is Halong Bay Vietnam so Beautiful?

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 turned this area into one of the world’s most profound karst topography seascapes. As a result, the site was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. 

Halong Bay Vietnam consists of over 1600 islands spread out over 43,400 hectares in Quang Ninh Province in NE Vietnam. The karst seascape formations are pillar like small islands and islets that rise up to 100 meters above the water level.

Additionally, there were amazing arch formations, caves, undercutting (of the island pillars) and other unique shapes decorate the seascape. In fact, many of the islands are named after things that they resemble e.g. monkeys, bantams. Although some of the islands may have been creatively named, in my opinion. Nonetheless, the seascape is awe inspiring.

Halong Bay Cruise Karst Topography

Dramatic Karst Topography of Ha Long Bay Vietnam

How to get to Halong Bay Vietnam

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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. As a result, we were mostly shielded from this type of flytrap.

Our Halong Bay Cruise Accommodation

We had just returned from a prolific one week tour of the NW Vietnam mountains. The same Hanoi tour company we used for the mountain adventure also helped us to secure a private boat for our Ha Long Bay cruise. Therefore, we had the boat and crew to ourselves for one night and 2 days.

The boat itself was a classic. Our Halong Bay accommodation 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 private Halong Bay 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 cruise boat was definitely a nice amenity for sightseeing and sunbathing

Photo Bedroom and Bathroom Halong Bay Private Cruise Boat

Our Halong Bay accommodation also featured a one bedroom suite with connected private bathroom and shower.

Private Halong Bay 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 Halong Bay karst seascape 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

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

Photo Karst Topography Halong Bay Private Cruise in Vietnam

Photo of vast karst seascape in Halong 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 our Halong Bay cruise adventure!

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 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 cruise host.

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 Adventure in Halong Bay

Halong Bay Cruise Vietnam

Photo of us kayaking with a cruise boat in the background. The Halong Bay cruise were refurbished Vietnamese junks and they had a nostalgic look to them.

Halong Bay Cruise Kayaking adventure

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

Stalactites and Stalagmites in Thien Cung Grotto

Photo inside Thien Cung Grotto in Halong Bay Vietnam

After kayaking we returned to the island and entered the Thien Cung Grotto. We discovered enormous stalactites and stalagmites which are typical of world’s best karst formations.

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.

Private Halong Bay Cruise Dinner Photos

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

Private Halong Bay Cruise Dinner Photos

Private Halong Bay Cruise – Day Two

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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 an American tour group that had taken the discount Halong Bay cruise. Although Vietnam is a socialist country, so why shouldn’t these spendthrift college students also enjoy the fun?

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.

Floating Village Photos Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay Cruise Photo Appoaching the Floating Village

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

Halong Bay Cruise Photo the Floating Village

There was a bit of traffic in the floating village.

Halong Bay Cruise Photo

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 Cruise Floating Village Primary School Photos

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

Halong Bay Cruise Floating Village Primary School Photos

My audacious girlfriend quickly stole the show.

Karst Formations Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay Cruise limestone archway photos

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

Halong Bay Cruise limestone archway photos

Halong Bay Cruise limestone archway photos

Posing for photos beneath the limestone archway with our Halong Bay cruise host.

The End of our Halong Bay Cruise

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

Halong Bay Cruise

It will be OK sweetheart, we will come again someday to Halong Bay.

Halong Bay Cruise returning to port


Our private Halong Bay 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 this natural attraction.

We were now going to relax in Hanoi for a couple days and then we were going to travel south to Ho Chi Minh City.

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