Halong Bay lies just north of Hanoi, and is one of the absolute must-see excursions for anyone visiting Hanoi. And for good reason – the bay, with it’s towering stone karsts jutting out of the water as far as the eye can see is stunningly beautiful. Marine life abounds, fisherman ply the waters, birds take to the air, and the serene rocks emerging from the water welcome every evening’s golden sunset.
Since I was staying at Hanoi Backpackers Hostel in Hanoi, I made the fateful decision of joining them on their “Castaways” Halong Bay Tour. I thought it was going to be like any normal boat tour – get on the boat, relax with a drink, have the knowledgeable local tour guide explain to you about your surroundings as you serenely navigate the waters.
Instead, what I got was vastly different. Since Halong Backpackers is oriented towards the young 20’s drinking crowd, this was not a tour – it was a full on booze cruise. I should have known, but I didn’t.
For the booze cruize oriented portions of the trip – it was aussie tour guides encouraging everybody to drink heavily, while wearing colorful sombreros and yelling wildly. I participated for all of one single beer, and spent the rest of the time enjoying the view and taking photos.
Halong Bay is indeed extremely beautiful, and seeing the fisherman bring in their nets at sunset was a relaxing and wonderful experience. I loved the natural beauty of Halong Bay, including kayaking through dramatic caves – but next time, I won’t accidentally join the booze cruise.