Going into one of the caves

Cruisin’ Ha Long Bay: Part II

Nov 11, 2014 - Carlos

Continuing from Cruisin’ Ha Long Bay: Part I, Day 2 and 3 of our Ha Long Bay cruise was even better than Day 1.

Day 2

We spent most of Day 2 on a smaller boat that took us further into less touristy areas. The main V’Spirit cruise boat went back to Ha Long City to pick up more tourists (there were constantly a mix of 2-day vs. 3-day tourists, it can get confusing). We were not completely sure what to expect from Day 2 on the smaller boat, but were hopeful about having less people with us, which always makes for a less crowded experience. The smaller boat sailed into Lan Ha Bay, a smaller bay south of Ha Long Bay. The hour long ride was a great chance to enjoy the endless limestone mountains in peace and take countless unobstructed photos.

Going back to the cruise boat
Heading away from the main cruise boat for Day 2

The highlight of Day 2 (and probably our favourite of the entire cruise) was kayaking at the Dark and Light Caves. The Dark Cave was actually too dangerous to kayak in, since the inside was pitch black with dangerous wildlife, therefore we only explored the Light Cave.

Kayaking on Day 1 was nothing compared to Day 2, and we had been so dazzled by Luon Cave. This time we were completely blown away. On Day 1, we just rowed through a cave into a lagoon not too far from the main boat. On Day 2, we spent a good hour rowing away from where our smaller boat was parked, through multiple caves and around endless islets in the water. Our group were the only people we saw the entire time.

Kayaking through the Light Caves
Kayaking through the many turns in the bay

I felt like we were in the middle of a recently discovered, untouched part of the world. Each turn opened up to more limestone mountains or caves or lagoons. Each cave was lower, smaller, and more rocky than the one before. The water became clearer and the mountains steeper. The view got better with each passing minute even though the minute before you thought you had already seen it at its best.

Going into one of the caves
Going into one of the caves

I never thought I would ever get to see the iconic limestone mountains in Ha Long Bay so up close and personal. They make a picturesque landscape from afar or even from the boat. But it was a whole other experience to stare up to them right next to you. The little humps in the water that you see in photos are actually huge, steep, jagged rocks shooting out of the calm waters, full of plants growing from impossible angles. Majestic but rough.

Reaching the hidden lagoon
Seeing the limestone mountains up close

The whole kayaking experience was way more than I could have ever imagined. The entire cruise was worth it just for this chance to be so immersed in this amazing place. No boats, no crowds, just us in a small kayak, with the wonders of nature all around us.

Going back into the cave
Best kayaking trip ever

After the kayaking session, we went back to the boat for a barbecue lunch, during which time the boat sailed to a more remote location and anchored in the middle of the water. Swimming time! The emerald water was pretty clean and we felt comfortable going for a swim. Or just relax and nap on the sundeck. The funnest part was jumping off the top deck of the boat for a big splash!

Carlos jumping off the top of the boat
Carlos jumping off the top of the boat

For the rest of the afternoon, we visited a floating pearl farm and learned first hand how pearls are incubated into a living oyster, and then cultivated and extracted a few years later. The whole process takes extreme precision in order to make a flawless pearl.

Pearl farm
Pearl farm

We joined the main V’Spirit cruise boat once again for sunset. Even as the sky turned dark, Ha Long Bay was still as gorgeous as ever. It really was impossible to take a bad photo of this place, even at night.

Moon over Ha Long Bay
Moon over Ha Long Bay

Day 3

The shortest of the three days, Day 3 for us was the same as Day 2 for 2 days / 1 night cruising itineraries (they missed the best day!). We sailed to one of the few beaches in Ha Long Bay for a swim.

Three Peaches Beach in Ha Long Bay
Beach in Ha Long Bay

For those who did not want to spend all their time swimming, another option was to climb up to the top of the island for a panoramic view of the bay. Since we swam at a way cooler place on Day 2, we chose to spend some time climbing to the top. The way up was fairly steep and humid. Despite the cloudy sky, the view from the top was still pretty magnificent.

Overlooking Ha Long Bay
Overlooking Ha Long Bay

Our last lunch on the boat marked the beginning of our trip back to the harbour. But one last cooking demonstration! The chef first showed us how to prepare fresh spring rolls with rice paper. Not real cooking per se, but it’s always rewarding to eat your own dish. He then demonstrated his mad fruit carving skills by turning apples into swans with many “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.

Beautiful apple-carved swans
Beautiful apple-carved swans

The cruise came to an end back at the harbour we left just two days ago, from which we took the bus back to Hanoi. I was missing Ha Long Bay already. We were cruising in paradise, with great food, new friends and fun activities everyday. If we thought Ha Long Bay was THE thing in Vietnam before, we certainly left finding it THE thing in our trip so far.

Paradise
Paradise

For more pictures from Ha Long Bay, please visit our gallery!