The weather was looking quite bleak when we boarded the Paradise Luxury boat for our overnight cruise on Halong Bay. Skies were grey and there was light drizzle. But the rain, which persisted on and off for most of two days, never became an issue for us. Although it was a bit too wet to spend much time on the sundeck, there were plenty of good undercover spots on the balcony of the upper deck from which we could relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Halong Bay is very picturesque. There are over 1600 limestone islands in the bay, all of them covered in lush rainforest. The boat cruises along at a leisurely pace on a sea as smooth as glass. There are other cruise boats not too far away, but their presence doesn’t seem to interfere with the experience at all. And there are plenty of small fishing craft that come and go at regular intervals. All you need to do aboard this vessel is sit back and enjoy the view – which, of course, is spectacular.
The cruise director, Joel, and his staff were great. There were regular events offered throughout the cruise – a cooking class (Vietnamese spring rolls) was enjoyable and an evening dinner in traditional costume was a highlight. We left the boat on two occasions – first, to explore one of the islands and its grotto, rowed in a bamboo boat by a local fisherman, and second, to climb a staircase on another island to a vast cave that had formerly provided Vietnamese soldiers with shelter from the American bombers.
Halong Bay is now a UNESCO World Heritage area. If ever you travel to Vietnam, be sure to visit.