As mentioned in my introduction post, Ha Long Bay was the very reason we even went to Asia this year. I booked Viola Cruise via Saigon Café Travel and every aspect of trip has surpassed my very high expectation. Okay, maybe not every aspect – the tour bus was more than an hour late than our scheduled pick up time. Perhaps it is not a bad thing after all, since we were the last to be picked up and get to spend more time relaxing in our hotel instead of getting a “city tour” on the packed bus. Here is the rundown of our trip
- Our bus passed by rural areas where we get to see some fields. The road was bumpy but nothing back-breaking. We stopped at a touristy place for bathroom break. There was some artsy souvenir for sale and of course we didn’t get anything.
- Cabin: As soon as we arrived on the cruise boat we were given keys to our cabin. The cabin was not very spacious but is still a good size. I love the large windows that offers good views of limestones jutting out of the ocean. Our cabin is the most basic one on board. The cabins on the upper deck come with balconies, if you don’t mind paying extra. At night we retreated to our cabin for a good night’s sleep, gently rocked by the calm ocean waves.
- Meals: Food was plentiful and delicious. Our first lunch and breakfast were buffet style, and all the other meals were family style shared with great company. Dinner was an elaborate affair with eight-course royal meal, consisting of hearty seafood dishes with meticulous garnish. Drinks cost extra, but bottle water was provided in our room, so we didn’t feel like we had to order any.
- People: Our shipmates are mostly couples from all over the world: Australia, England, Germany, and Hong Kong. There were also two girlfriends who grew up in Vietnam. Everyone was eager to swap travel tales. During cocktail hour at sunset and we got into talking with an Australian couple in their 50s/60s. They have grown children and now have the means to travel a few months every year, visiting each country in depth. Talking to them makes me wish that in our retirement, mug mug and I will have the kind of life they are having right now.
- Activities: Unsurprisingly, our activities are all about the enjoying the beauty of Ha Long Bay from different angles.After lunch and a short break, we paid a visit to Surprising Caves. We needed to walk up 138 steps (mug mug counted!) before we reach the cave, and was rewarded with spectacular view of the bay before we enter the cave. As expected of and limestone cave tour, the tour guide’s imagination runs wild and made us see the limestone formation in shapes of monkey and elephants.
After surprising cave, we walked down to the pier and was taken to a beach, where we could walk up 400+ step to see the sun setting down. We took a break at the beach, drinking overpriced coconut water, then walked up for 100 step or so to the first section. By then it was time to return back to our boat.
The second day after breakfast, we were taken to a floating village. We were expected to be bombarded by relentless sellers trying to sell us snacks and souvenirs, but was pleasantly surprised that no one approached us. The villagers just went on their regular lives without batting an eye on us. I saw a little girl kayaking with her younger brother near their family boat, which was a very cute scene.
We also took a spring roll “cooking class” on our boat, which supplied us with chopped ingredients to be wrapped in rice paper. No new cooking techniques learned but our chef did show us how he made the very elaborate carrot fishnet for our royal feast the previous night. We were impressed by how skillful he was with his knife.
All in all, Viola cruise was a fabulous overnight cruise and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
This is one of the posts from our two-week trip to Japan and Vietnam. Below is our itinerary. For other posts, please click on the links below:
Day 1 & Day 3 : Kyoto: Heart of Traditional Japan.
Day 2: Deers in Nara
Day 4 – Day 5: Hakone: Hot Spring Ryokan and the Non-sighting of Mt. Fuji
Day 5: City Lights in Tokyo
Day 6: Last Day in Tokyo: Meiji Shrine and Tsujiki Fish Market
Day 7-8: Ha Long Bay: A night at the Bay of Descending Dragon
Day 9: One Day Tour in Hanoi
Day 10: Historical Sites in Hue
Day 11 -12 Hoi An : Picturesque Ancient Town