Ha Long Bay

Old Jun 15th, 2006, 12:04 PM
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Ha Long Bay

Many tours take you from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay for the day and return to Hanoi the same day.
Some say over night on Ha Long. My big question, We are thinking about staying over one night on a Junk boat. Has anyone experince doing this, and would you recommended it?

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Old Jun 15th, 2006, 12:31 PM
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See if the search function is working on this Fodors board. There have been quite a number of comments about staying on Junks (and which ones) on HaLong Bay.
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Old Jun 15th, 2006, 06:36 PM
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we spent our nites in hyphong at the very nice harbour view hotel---owned by the same people who own the marriott resort in bangkok
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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 07:58 PM
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You can take Huong Hai junk or Dragon's Pearl junk. They give excellent services and Cruise in Ha Long bay.
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 02:02 PM
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When you get to Ha Noi, book your trip with Handspan. They use the Pearl Dragon which is the best boat on the bay. It's more expensive (2 days/1 night @ $95 US) but worth the extra expense. Drinks are not included in the cost.
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Old Nov 16th, 2006, 05:22 AM
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Go over to Lonely Planet and the thorn tree mesage board. There are extensive reports on Halong Bay and which outfitters to use and how long to stay.
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Old Nov 16th, 2006, 11:30 PM
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The most reliable Halong Bay operators, IMHO, is Handspan. Google for them. I did my 2 day one night trip with them, and they were exceptional. Clean and air conditioned cabins with ensuite facilities (which were spotless), and outstanding food. Unless you want to kayak, 2 days is sufficient, I think. Don't try to do it from Hanoi in a day. (1) You will regret it, and (2) more than half your trip will be taking up in travelling time. I'd use Handspan again, without any doubts at all. But book several days in advance. The junks can fill up quickly. My guide also spoke excellent English, and greatly enhanced the trip.
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Old Nov 16th, 2006, 11:32 PM
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I should add. Don't take a cheap option. There are plenty of basement prices, but you may regret it, and Halong Bay is too wonderful to miss and to try to do on the cheap - unless you want a junk with a leaky roof if it rains, lousy food, and the possibility of rats.
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Old Nov 17th, 2006, 02:41 AM
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I went to Halong Bay last weekend. Booked the Dragon's Pearl with Handspan. It was great. Staying on the boat was quite comfortable. Private bathroom and air conditioning tho the A/C was not necessary overnight. Bed was firm but I slept fine. Tiny bathroom, but it worked.

The boat was in good condition and well kept. The crew was friendly and helpful. The water was dead calm.

There were about a dozen, maybe 16, pax on the boat but our group from Handspan (there were a couple of Handspan groups) consisted of our two Brits, me, and our delightful guide Sunny.

Nice dining room where we had lunch and dinner the first day and dinner the second day. Breakfast on the second day was on the front deck (toast, muffins, fruit, excellent VN coffee). The lunches and dinner consisted of several (8?) courses of dishes and was fresh, tasty, and well prepared.

There were lots of chairs (white cloth/wood, like director's chairs) on the front deck and lots of recliners (wood with nice cushion) on the top sundeck.

The Dragon's Pearl boat was taller than most of the other boats. There were several that looked the same, and looked ok. But a few looked pretty worn, bombed out, almost, with only a couple of pax. There were several things that made the DP better, for example several boats just had bare, uncushioned, lounge chairs.

The passengers on the DP were all middle aged, 40s and 50s and from USA (5), Canada (3), U.K. (3?), Ireland (2), and a young Thai wife of one of the Brits. Passengers on some of the other boats were younger.

Several of the folks that left Handspan's office in Hanoi with us (in our convoy) got off earlier than where the DP was tied up. They were in their 20s and were going on a multiday kayak tour with camping overnight in a cave.

It is definitely worthwhile staying overnight on a boat in Halong Bay, especially on the Dragon's Pearl booked with Handspan.
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 05:22 PM
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Is "Handspan" only an internet booking agent or is it a booking agency in Hanoi and if so, where? Cheers....
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 05:40 PM
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It is a TA with an office in Hanoi, 80 Ma May Street in the old quarter.
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 05:52 PM
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You can also book Handspan tours, along with others, at the Tamarind Cafe, a wonderful place to chill out, eat, drink and meet other travelers, also in the old town.
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 06:01 PM
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The Tamarind Cafe is in the front. Handspan is in the back of the store.
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 07:21 PM
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mrwundrfl, what was the weather like out on the bay last weekend? Am trying to think of what to pack for an overnight in late December. Would a windbreaker be enough or do you think jackets are necessary?
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 07:24 PM
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Are there any good boats for day trips? We do not have the time for the overnight. Help!!
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 08:37 PM
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The weather on Nov 11-12 was nice. Hazy, cloudy, warm and would have been hot but for the clouds. The water, they said, was warm. But I think the water also contributed to cool the air some.

In the evening it was very pleasant in just a t-shirt and shorts.

Just cool enough to not require air conditioning overnight (which I suppose means that it was about 67-70F at night).

I think that some might have found it just a bit too cool in the evening to go outside in just their swimsuit. But just a shirt was necessary because it was cool and a bit humid/moist.

I don't know what the weather is like in December. Cooler, I suppose, so yes a windbreaker. Maybe a hoody or light jacket. I don't think you will need anything warmer than what you would wear in Hanoi.
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 08:45 PM
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Elainee, I felt the same way. Hopefully you can find another day so that you can stay overnight. Sometimes half the fun is getting there but not in this case. It is not a particularly pleasant ride and fairly boring. You're looking at 7 hours of that for a five or six hour cruise.

It is a beautiful place to visit but at least half the fun was just relaxing on the boat, getting to know some fellow travelers, and having a few good meals.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 10:10 PM
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Mitch got it so right: whatever you do, don't do Halong Bay as a day trip. It's a misery. Three hours of the most dreary travel to get there and three hours back - then, when you get there, it's too misty to see anything. A couple of hours cruising thru the mist, an indifferent lunch, then three staggeringly dull hours back.

I thought it was easily the most overrated experience in Vietnam.

Clearly I'm wrong, judging by the gush in this post, clearly I missed something special - but 6 - 7 hours travelling for some misty islands and a cave decorated with ugly coloured lighting was too much for this little pixie.

So, in my humble opinion - do it properly, i.e. stay longer and let the place work its apparent magic - or don't do it at all.
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Old Jan 11th, 2007, 05:03 AM
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We are back this week from Viet Nam. We went to Ha Long Bay as a daytrip from Hanoi. We booked the day before from our hotel (the Metropole). Hotel upset it could not find us an English speaking guide to go with the six of us. Guide totally unnecessary. Yes, it is a long drive, but we found it interesting. Lots of scooters with pigs, water buffalo!!, multiple riders and scenery with rice paddies, villages, towns, a few temples. Trip back to Hanoi faster. Car stopped each way at shopping experience so our driver could eat. We did not shop but if you have been to China and missed any of the tourist shopping stuff here is another opportunity. Our boat, just for us, was very nice and the crew helpful. We had one of our two best meals in Viet Nam on the boat!!! The water was calm, scenery great and kids liked the limestone formation cave. First they had been in. Are we sorry we did not overnight..NO! The weather was not swimming weather and for us it was enough. We liked Hanoi very much and did not have enough time there as it was. A longer trip report will follow as soon as I get unjetted. But..Viet Nam (including a suite at the Hanoi Metrople) has the hardest beds. It is a mattress (of various thickeness) over a wood frame. NO BOXSPRINGS! I had a stiff neck the whole trip and daily massage (that's good) really did not help. One night on a boxspring bed and I was cured. Also, no hotel had a clock. Next trip I will be sure to pack my own.
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 01:00 PM
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We really liked those firm foam mattresses in Vietnam. Found them very comfortable and supportive.
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