Halong Bay cruise, Hanoi

There was a moment when I looked out of the cruise ship window and saw a woman in a small boat, holding a fishing net to collect some money that was being offered to her by someone on our boat.

Later on, I discovered that several people had interacted with her. One person mentioned buying a bottle of wine, while another mentioned buying a pack of chips.

It was later theorized that she might have been one of the people who lived on fishing boats in Halong Bay. Speaking of which, the bay is absolutely spectacular. It lives up to and surpasses all the expectations set by the tourist brochures. What makes the bay so breathtaking are the tectonic structures emerging from the water.

Sunset cruising around Halong Bay, Vietnam

In some ways, this area can be seen as Vietnam’s answer to the Gold Coast. It’s a popular tourist destination, although it is relatively underdeveloped compared to the Gold Coast at this stage. I draw this comparison because it’s clearly a place where many Vietnamese people go on holiday. Additionally, we noticed quite a few individuals who appeared to be from India, possibly due to its proximity to China. The bay is spectacular, and we loved the overnight cruise.

The journey to Halong Bay takes three to four hours, during which we were informed and entertained by a wonderful tour guide named Duc. The three of us absolutely loved Duc. He was knowledgeable, funny, and made an effort to get to know everyone on the tour.

“How does having a tour group of nine compare to the usual twenty?” I asked him. He explained that both tour sizes have their pros and cons, but with a smaller group, you really get to know people better.

“You know, the best thing about our age is that we don’t have to do everything,” I remarked to someone on the tour whose name slipped my mind, but we referred to her as “Louise” since she was traveling with a woman of similar age named Thelma.

Thelma and Louise were nearing the end of their trip and shared a few tips with us along the way. They particularly enjoyed Ho Chi Minh City, especially its restaurants and bars. They mentioned Vietnam House, a restaurant run by Sydney’s Luke Nguyen, praising its excellent food and more affordable prices compared to Sydney.

We are part of the younger demographic on the tour, which is predominantly made up of middle-aged white individuals. Tony and Wayne, a couple of guys from Melbourne, have been particularly popular among the group. Today, one of them wore a t-shirt that humorously declared his love for beer, horseracing, and “maybe three people.” Classic.

Some of the activities in Halong Bay have been quite physically demanding, such as a steep hike to the top of one of the mountains, exploring caves with steep passages, and today’s kayaking adventure.

Inside one of the public caves at Halong Bay, Vietnam
Inside one of the public caves at Halong Bay, Vietnam

The three of us decided to skip kayaking and stay in bed instead. Not because we were hungover, but because we thought it would be nice to relax in bed, listen to the sounds of the boat and the water, and enjoy the reflections on the cabin’s roof.

Throughout our Aphrodite Cruise, we ate and drank well, learned more about the islands, and when it came to the “room lottery,” I hit the jackpot. To determine our rooms, keys were placed in a basket and we randomly selected them. Interestingly enough, as the only solo traveler, I ended up with the largest room, complete with a double bed, two single beds, and a spa bath. Aside from the luxury, it allowed me to be close to the water.

My enormous room.

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