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Halong bay junk trip report October 18-20, 2005

Halong bay junk trip report October 18-20, 2005

Old Oct 20th, 2005, 05:27 AM
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Halong bay junk trip report October 18-20, 2005

we just arrived back to hanoi from a 3 day 2 night trip to halong bay on the jewel of the bay (newer boat). we booked online from home and paid $180 US per person for the trip that included kayaking. the boat trip was sold as the most deluxe trip out there that included kayaking to place "the larger boats cannot get to." the jewel of the bay is only a couple of years old and had 5 larger state rooms. there were 9 of us on the initial day. The ride to Halong Bay from Hanoi was very comfortable, and the roads to get there were the widest and least trafficked we had seen on our journey.

The rooms were accomodating, and the staff pleasant. There were however, a few discrepencies from the advertisements. The 2 day trip is basically 2 1 day trips. Meaning that several hours of your second day is spent transfering passengers on and off the boat. As well as the itinerary being an exact duplicate of the previous day (different cave and beach, same exact feel). We had informed the office upon booking and again upon arrival that we had 1 vegetarian and one who doesn't eat fish. All meals were seafood, seafood and more seafood. They also served the same meals day 1 and day 2 (again duplicate itinerary).

Our cyclo drivers are waiting... to be continued.
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Old Oct 20th, 2005, 06:43 AM
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there are 2 jewel of the bay boats, the older one is larger and has triple rooms, the newer boat is the 10 pax trip. all the other guests on board had the same concerns with the "poetic license" the brochure used. we thought by booking the 3 day 2 night trip we would get farther away from the crowds. this was not the case. last night, there were nearly 30 junks within view of our boat. we also were taken to small beaches to swim...along with a dozen other boats all vying for dock space. at the caves, it was a traffic jam of junks trying to get to the pier to drop off their guests...again...really really congested...even horn blowing by the boats became irritating after awhile.

then there was the rubbish...we did a 2 hour kayak thru the caves to a "secluded bay" along with dozens of other kayakers from other junks. my friend and i used this opportunity to fill a large bag with rubbish...lots of floating plastic bags, cigarette lighters and garbage. i almost scooped up a large jellyfish...it looked like a clear plastic bag at first.

halong bay is listed as a world heritage site and should be treated as such. i know that handspan tours does discounted trips to halong bay that are used as a bay cleanup...that is a good thing.

i sure hope the vietnamese government and people realize they have one of the many natural wonders of the world and should protect and treasure such a beautiful place.

every bay was like a post card..rugged karst formations jutting up from a very tranquil water...shrouded in the mist. its surreal...and a bit eerie at times. there were hawks fishing around us and on the 3rd day we actually got away from the other boats and were the only junk for miles.
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Old Oct 20th, 2005, 07:02 AM
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alittle info on how to book trips to halong bay...
almost everyone on our boat who booked the one night trip wished they had known how beautiful and peaceful the trip would be..they all would have chosen the longer trip if they had known how comfortable and stable the boat was. the scenery is out of the movies...we had rented Indochine with catherine deuneve (sp) and it was just like that. MAGNIFICENT!!!
we booked on line for the longer trip and a couple who had booked the one nite trip and wanted to extend to the 2 night trip but the boat was going to charge them for the entire trip again instead of just charging the difference between the one and two nites. they regretfully declined.

the jewel of the bay is a great trip, nice boat and crew...it just was not all that they advertise.
there are many many places in hanoi to book and the junks we saw looked very similar...most were very nice. i know that there are backpacker junks where the dorm style rooms are filled to capacity and some even sleep on the top sunning deck.
of the boats that have the best reputation...handspan tours, odc travel and jewel of the bay looked the best. ocean tours was ok too...they just charge you extra for kayaking.
all the trips are comparable and we were all in the same areas most of the time.

on our first morning...we awoke to many loud vietnamese voices and lots of commotion. one of the junks was taking on water and had to be put between 2 other junks and pushed towards shore. about 2 hours later, the guests were allowed to reboard and off they went...i think the bildge pump broke.

a few weeks ago, a junk sunk...our boat captain told us that the captain of the junk that sunk was lazy and didnt check for water or turn on the bildge pump. the boats are weighted down with large rocks for ballast and when the area filled with water, it sunk quickly. everyone survived...there were plenty of other junks to rescue everyone but i wonder what happended to their belongings.

at the end of our tour...we were transfered by taxi boat back to the harbor where there was no one to greet us. we just stood there with our luggage and someone came by and pointed to a van for us to board...and off we went,,,,back to hanoi. on the way back we got stuck in a major traffic jam. there was an accident (large vietnam petrol truck vs. pedestrian) and the traffic was diverted to one lane of the opposite side of the highway. OMG...this was scary. then our van driver made a dash across the oncoming lane to travel on the opposite shoulder.incredible we
survived...there was traffic going every which way on the highway for miles....
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Old Oct 20th, 2005, 07:11 AM
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overall ...the trip was worthwhile. we probably could have done this trip for much less...there would have been more people on boat and i wanted the smallest group possible. all the boats were near each other doing nearly identical itineraries.

it was an incredibly beautiful experience...magical...mystical ...surreal...eerie...gorgeous...a real treasure...and i am glad we got to see halong bay.
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Old Oct 20th, 2005, 07:38 AM
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Hi Divediva
Thanks for your "real time" reports. They have been really fun to read.
How/with whom did you book the Halong Bay tour?

How is your hotel in Hanoi? We are plannning a trip there for May.

Thanks
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Old Oct 20th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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Divediva-thanks for your report. My wife and I will be in Hanoi for 4 nights starting Nov 04--should we just focus on Hanoi or do you think we have time to do Halong bay and Hanoi without missing any Hanoi mustsees ? I was thinking of doing Hanoi+perfume pagoda and a Hmong village, maybe that is too much. Input appreciated thanks
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Old Oct 20th, 2005, 11:52 PM
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we could easily have spent more than 7 nights in hanoi. we did 2 day trips and the 2 night halong bay trip. with only 4 nights...maybe do the one day halong bay trip and spend the night. it depends on your departure flight time...you dont get back from the overnighters until approx 4 or 5 pm.we got caught in the traffic jam so you never know how long it will take.

we stayed at the camillia hotel 4...right inthe middle of the old quarter. walking distance to great restaurants, the lake, cyclo wait outside for you. first nights were $26 per nite (room 502) including breakfast, they have a lift and free laundry AND a tiny balcony. the last night they gave away our deluxe room and we had to stay in the $16 standard room...really noisy as it was on the second floor above the kitchen on nearer the street. we would stay there again.

many people came in without reservations and could not secure a room. a 3 star at best but quite adequate, safe, clean, nice staff and free internet...i forgot to mention that.
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Old Oct 20th, 2005, 11:53 PM
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the perfume pagodo should be at the top of your list along with halong bay. we enjoyed the river trip very much.
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 08:00 PM
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topping for questions on Halong Bay
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 09:09 PM
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boy have things changed in three years...when we went in november...basically the same time of year...there were few people...several boats but not all that many to make it crowded....no trash in the water at all...we only went for one day and quite honestly that was enough...

sounds like that part of VN is starting to suffer from the tourism explosion...

bob/lax---you could easily spend all 4 days in hanoi and include a side trip or two.,...suggest you have a driver for at least part of the time...
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Old Oct 26th, 2005, 05:48 AM
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thanks bob,kathie and divediva for your comments
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Old Oct 26th, 2005, 07:00 AM
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Dive-
Your Halong report was very "fair & balanced". The description of the scenery sounds wonderful, but I have to admit that the garbage and crowds are giving me pause about including Halong on our May trip.

Thanks again for sharing
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Old Oct 26th, 2005, 08:11 AM
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cruise---how about doing it for one day like i did....you get the scenery and have none of the negetives...
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Old Oct 26th, 2005, 10:23 AM
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Bob, did you like the one-day trip to Halong? Everyone I've talked to who did the one day trip felt it was "not worth it" as they just got a "glimpse" of the bay and spent the rest of the time on the road.
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Old Oct 27th, 2005, 02:26 AM
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Cruisinred, I wouldn't let a bit of garbage stop you from experiencing such wonderful sights of this world such as Halong Bay. It is truly magical especially first thing in the morning when no one else is up. If we let garbage stop us from travelling to places we wouldn't go anywhere. Imagine missing out on places like India, New York or just about any city in the world just because of garbage. Try it. It was the highlight of my trip to Vietnam along with Sapa in the North West.
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Old Oct 27th, 2005, 06:59 AM
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i am so so about the day kathie...karen liked it....we spent most of the day and got around quite a bit...we had stayed overnight in hy-phong so were very close to it with little travel time getting to it...took hydro-foil from hy-phong to the bay which takes an hour and same going back....so we left early in the morning and had all day there....

i would not consider staying over night there honestly...but that's me...
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Old Oct 27th, 2005, 10:11 PM
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halong bay was one of the many highlights of our Vietnam trip. yes its crowded, yes there is trash in the water but the beauty of the place is incredible. everyone needs to comment to the vendors/boats etc that halong bay is a world heritage site and should be treasured and protected.
i saw both crew and guests (everyone on board was european or australian) toss their cigerette butts into the water.
we also saw boat vendors (we called her the oreo lady) cruise up to the junks , sell something and throw the bag into the water.
its sinful..disgraceful...and something has to be done about it...and the way to make changes happen is to use our voices and $$$.
we filled out comment cards and i will be emailing buffalo tours to suggest that everyone from the crew to guests must be informed on litter issues.

one of our austrialian guests told the story of his perfume river tour. he said an older vietnamese woman spent along time sweeping the trash on a footbridge area. she swept both sides to form a big pile of rubbish...he was about to commend her for her efforts when she scooped up her big pile and tossed it into the river. YIKES!!!

just another story but it is an issue that maybe we can all contribute somehow to make positive changes.
what do you think??
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Old Oct 29th, 2005, 08:23 AM
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Dear divediva, I have read with great interest about your journey - esp. about the Halong Bay trip because I am going to Vietnam December 28-Jan. 18. It seems there are 4 good junks (sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it?) -the Emeraude, Dragon Pearl, Jewel of the Bay, and Huong Hai (?). If you had it to do over again - which one would you choose? Also, this may sound like a silly question, but I don't know how to plan for the overnight as far as clothing. Any idea what the temperature would be the end of December/beginning of Jan.? Did you bring a heavy sweater, jacket, etc.? I know it'll be hot in the south so I'm just concerned, basically, with Hanoi and the Bay cruise. Thanks so much.
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Old Oct 31st, 2005, 06:20 AM
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phameous...
all the boats you have listed are good.
the emeraude is not a junk...its a large paddle wheel vessel like you might see on the mississippi.
the boat we used was jewel of the bay, it only has 5 cabins...smallest number of pax. dragons pearl looked very nice. the huong hai boats all take 36 pax.
my recommendation is to choose the boat that fits your itinerary. if you are only planning one night, any boat should do...if you are doing the 3 day 2 night trip...make sure the boat is only doing that trip, not mixing with the one nite trips. we spent too much time sitting around waiting for people to arrive and depart each day and it kept us from ever venturing too far out.

the cabins are a/c and they also provided blankets...we used out light jackets at night but it was alway quite comfortable.

have a great trip...it is truly amazing.
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