Ha Long Bay Cruise Day 1 – Hanoi to Ha Long and Boarding

Travel Period: 21 Sep – 28 Sep 2014

{PREVIOUS: Food in Vietnam: Cafe Nola }

Hanoi Day 5 Itinerary –

From Hanoi to Ha Long City

“The day has finally come!” I thought to myself, as this day would be the highlight of our trip. We have picked Hanoi as our destination mainly due to our bucket list to visit the picturesque Ha Long Bay at least once in our lives.

We had already packed all our necessities the night before, and slept early so that we could get up early, have an early breakfast at the hotel before the staff from our booked Bhaya Cruise would pick us up at 8am.

Patiently, we waited at the hotel lobby until one of the hotel staff informed us that the Bhaya Cruise’ van had arrived. He then helped carried our luggage to the main road where the van was waiting.

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One of the staff taking our luggage for us to take our transport to Ha Long City.

It was a normal but comfortable van with sufficient space for the visitors who would be traveling with us, which consisted of three families. The trip from Hanoi to Ha Long was to be 4-hour long so comfort would be very important!

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Along the way, we got to catch sights of bridges, towns and even trains zooming by which helped to keep us entertained during the long journey. Dar was especially excited when he spotted the trains!

Rest Stop

After more than half of the journey, we reached a mandatory rest stop at a handicraft center. Although we weren’t expecting to buy any item, it was a good opportunity for us to get a toilet break and it also turned out to be an interesting sightseeing excursion for us.

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The first thing that caught our attention was the large number of youngsters sitting orderly in rows and rows of tables, focusing on their embroidery, churning out handicrafts which were on display and sale at the center.

Looking at some of their finished works, we were really impressed by their skills and patience! We were tempted to purchase some handicrafts but hesitated since we were heading to the cruise and it wouldn’t be wise to have additional luggage with us.

Comparing the prices of similar items with the Old Quarter, prices here at the center were higher, though the quality of the items here was evidently higher as well.

A Warm Welcome

Leaving the handicraft center, it only took us another short ride before we started seeing the coastlines from our vehicle.

“The harbour must be near!” I exclaimed, unable to contain my excitement and eager to find out what awaited us ahead.

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Soon enough, numerous ships began unfolding before our eyes as we finally arrived at the cruise center!

“I wonder which one would we be boarding?” This was what went through our thoughts.

As we had booked for the Bhaya Classic cruise, we were expecting to be boarding one of those Bhaya Classic ships which are wooden boats constructed in the traditional oriental style. Strangely though, none of such ships was in sight.

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Anyway, the moment we alighted from our van, we were warmly welcomed by some Bhaya Cruise staff who checked off our names on their name list, before ushering us upstairs of their well furnished building.

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We had arrived earlier than most of our guests, so there were ample empty seats and we were provided flexible choice of drinks while we were briefed on the cruise, such as our room number etc. Everything was quite professionally and efficiently done.

Curiously, I checked with the staff regarding which ship would we be taking. She then pointed us to the largest ship which was parked just right in front of the building.

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“Wow…” Dar gave an exclaimed remark as he checked out how grand and big the ship was.

We soon found out that our original 3 Day 2 Night Halong Bay Cruise with Bhaya Classic package had been upgraded to the Luxury Cruise aboard the Au Co Cruise!

At that time, we had mixed feelings about this upgrade although we knew we were ‘lucky’ to get a pricier package for free. We had chosen the Classic cruise to experience cruising on the wooden boat and a cosier trip (since the boat was smaller). With the Au Co Cruise, the ship is larger and there would be a bigger crowd on board.

True enough, the bulk of the people whom we would be spending on board soon arrived, which belonged to an Australian tour group. It was fortunate that we had arrived at the cruise center earlier, else we wouldn’t be able to find seats nor had a momentary peaceful time before the cruise.

Boarding the Cruise

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Not wanting to overstay our host’s hospitality (actually because it was really getting too noisy), we left the building and proceeded with our boarding.

Bhaya Cruise staff were already waiting by the dock to welcome us on board!

And so, this began our 3D2N cruise to Ha Long Bay! We can’t wait to see how this renowned place looked like and how our experiences on the cruise will unfold!

{NEXT: Ha Long Bay Cruise – Staying in the Au Co }