Cleanliness of room
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Service of staff
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Planned itinerary of activities for 3D2N
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Cabin type we stayed in
|Suite Ocean Full View|
Location of cabin
|Second level of cruise|
|Average cabin size (m2)||
|Rate for 3D2N/pax (USD $)||
202.50 (inclusive of meals on board)
Day 1 Highlights
Halong Bay, located in the North East region of Vietnam, is a fairy tale on its own, especially at sundown or at sunrise. A picturesque sight that will imperatively blow you away. Surrounded by calm emerald waters and ever so periodic sights of thousands of towering limestone cliffs and islands. Some with shapes that look somewhat familiar to us (with a wee bit of imagination) and hence were given names by locals. Names of islands include, Dog Stone Islet, Incense Burner, Fighting Cock, Coconut Tree Island etc.
For someone wanting to go on an escape from the buzz of city life, then this cruise would really take you away, literally, from the city. Stuck on a junk boat as it cruises along Halong Bay, I reckon you wouldn’t be bored at all, well… at least I wasn’t. There’s really so much to see and do. Packed with engaging activities for everyone, I would say, even without strong wifi connection (at least on my mobile device back then) I really wouldn’t mind at all.
It was a tranquil, very relaxing experience on board the Pelican Halong Cruise during all the 3 days, and 2 wondrous nights!
Click here to watch our vlog on YouTube during this trip!
Day 1 Highlights: Arrival on Tuan Chau Island + Check In
The Pelican Halong Cruise package included a shuttle bus pick up from our hotel stay at Oriental Central Hotel in Hanoi city to Tuan Chau Ferry Terminal. The bus would pass the Red River Delta country side, where you could get to see open fields of rice paddies and local villages.
Because the drive to Tuan Chau Island takes approximately about 3.5 hours, a quick respite of ½ hour, for both driver and passengers at Hai Duong province was an essential. At the respite vicinity, you could do some local snack shopping as well. It was basically a big souvenir, snack, clothes and coffee shop. There was a wide variety of light snacks and beverages, including local crackers, chocolates and nuts. There was also a lot of souvenirs both perishable and non-perishable, like local cookies in packets, T-shirts and magnets. And if you walk around to explore the shop, you would see an area where local ladies were busy and meticulously threading out frames of beautiful masterpieces.
We arrived on Tuan Chau Island at around half pass noon. Boy, was it a long journey. But even though the sun was at its relentless peak, the air felt crisp and hopeful. The breeze from the waters beside the ferry terminal was cool. It was such a pleasant day! Very thankful.
We were led into Pelican Halong Cruise Lounge and served a simple welcome drink while the customer service lady confirmed our personal particulars to check us in. While waiting for all cruise passengers’ baggage to be loaded onto the junk boat, we had about an hour before boarding, which was plenty of time to chill at the lounge, or go out to explore the nearby vicinity along the ferry terminal. And of course, we went out to snap photos! Haha!
The waters were invigorating. Under the strong sun rays, they glistened like crystals floating on the water surface. And the distant towering forest cliffs as backdrop just excited me for I could only imagine what was installed for the next 3 days!
It was half past 1 when we were slowly making our way onto the Pelican Halong Cruise and into our cabin, the Suite Ocean Full View! Located at the second deck of the junk boat, the view was impedingly perfect! A small cosy room with the wooden slider window/door that opens to a welcoming view of Halong Bay’s emerald waters, limestone cliffs and islets, is something we don’t get to experience every other day! Marvellous!
Day 1 Highlights: Buffet Lunch with a View + Exploring the Junk Boat
Lunch was set to be about quarter past 2. Oh man was the spread luxuriously generous. Looking at the wide variety of food just made me ravenous. There was a mix of Vietnamese and international dishes, from Vietnamese vegetable rolls to Japanese salmon sashimi and sushi to fried rice and stir-fry seasonal vegetables and meat skewers. All so tasty to the palate!
One thing I noticed and appreciated about the chefs at Pelican Halong Cruise was that they really took pride in the food they made; down to the meticulous detail of food presentation. Incredibly skilful and passionate people at what they do. I remember seeing a dish which had ‘fish net’ made out of carrots as a presentation piece! Very impressive handiwork I have to say!
As we stomach our bellies with delectable, the junk boat was cruising through the jade-green waters of Halong Bay. Passing incredible views that were impeccable. Limestones cliffs and islets, glistening crystal water surfaces, and perfect cerulean sky. It really wasn’t every day that anyone could say that he/she was experiencing a constantly changing view as he/she was dining for lunch! It was perfecto!
After a very fulfilled lunch, we went around the junk boat exploring.
The bottom deck access was where the entrance to the boat was, and it was also where the 18 cabins for reside were. Then to the middle deck of the junk boat (where we resided for the next 2 nights), there was a small viewing deck at the front with a small table and 2 chairs, perfect for soaking in the Halong Bay’s breeze and maybe taking a beer or something. It was also a designated smoking area. The middle deck had the other 10 cabins as well. Lastly, the highest deck- the sun deck. The sun deck was where the magic happened. Most planned itinerary by Pelican Halong Cruise, like the cooking demonstration, squid fishing and morning Tai Chi exercise class were conducted on the sun deck.
The sun deck was also the place to get impeded panoramic views of Halong Bay. #speechless And the deck was also where the wifi signal was at its best, especially nearer to the captain’s cockpit. Personally, I got none on my cell phone. But it really doesn’t matter, the uploading of Instagram pictures could always wait right? 😀
Day 1 Highlights: Luon Cave
This was quite a memorable part of Day 1 on board Pelican Halong Cruise.
Before Vietnam, I had never done caving, or stepped into a cave before. But my trip to Vietnam really brought me to another world. A world of confine yet massively high ceilings of moisture and dim lights; where sometimes, not walking through forest to a peak, but wandering through limestone walls and uneven rocks was also an adventure on its own!
Well, this trip to Luon Cave was really nothing as I described actually. Haha…! This caving experience was really family-friendly oriented. We didn’t even have to walk, but just sat back on a bamboo boat that was manoeuvred by locals ladies, all so relaxed and enjoying the view!
By evening at about 4, the manager of the Pelican Halong Cruise got all of us to gather at the bottom deck to get our safety vests on. And soon, we were transferred to a smaller boat, and then up on the bamboo boat, where the local lady started her manoeuvring skills on the Bay.
Luon Cave is located on Bo Hon Island, which is about 1 km away from the famous Hang Sung Sot a.k.a Surprise Cave a.k.a Cave of Surprises or other similar variations. Visiting Hang Sung Sot was part of the Pelican Halong Cruise itinerary for Day 3.
Luon Cave has the shape of an arc, which was 60 meters in length, and between 2.5 and 4 meters in height depending on the Bay’s tide. This cave could only be accessed by small boat vessels, either by a kayak or a bamboo rowing boat. When the Bay’s tide rises, visitors have to cower down to pass through the cave.
The bamboo boat I was on must had at least 8 adults on board, it was so heavy, but with the two paddles, the local lady paddled as if it was nothing! I could only imagine if I was the one doing it, we would either go around in circles, or not move at all! There were other bamboo boats, and even kayaks (from other junk boat tours) within our peripheral vision. As the lady paddled, and we floated on the jade-green waters with surrounding cliffs and biodiversity towering above us, everyone was quiet. Mesmerised I reckoned. It was very soothing and serene. I remembered, only hearing the waters from the paddling and occasional sounds from birds. It was the most placid experience. It was like, you were surrounded by people, but yet still in a state of Zen. It was just amazing.
Day 1 Highlights: Relaxing on the sun deck (Free & Easy)
Then it was back on board the Pelican Halong Cruise! And no need for much explanation, of course the sun deck was by far the best place to be on the junk boat when you need some Halong Bay’s breeze!
Since it was already sunset, the sky was in its epic hues of blue, orange and pink. It was beautiful. Slowly every island or islet in the distant, that once had colour of green and brown, turned to dark silhouettes with a dreamy fairy tale backdrop of sunset colours. Very epic! I was pretty much kept busy with my camera, snapping all the way through because every sight just seem so flawless!
During this time, if you are feeling a need for SPA massage session, you could book a slot with the cruise manager (charges are applied based on the SPA menu). If not, just chill out at the sun deck, have a drink, and just enjoy the cool evening breeze!
Day 1 Highlights: Making Vietnamese Spring Rolls
So it was already pitch dark past 6 pm at Halong Bay. It was really chilly by then. Most people had gathered at the sun deck for a cooking demonstration and some hands-on making of the Vietnamese spring rolls!
I, personally, was pretty excited for it. First of all, I LOVE eating spring rolls. And secondly, who doesn’t like a cooking demonstration right? Yummylicious! Nuff said!
Day 1 Highlights: Dinner Set Meal
After a light snack of Vietnamese spring rolls (though I wished I had maybe a couple more in my belly, ‘cause they were just so nice along with the sauce!) on the sun deck, we made our way slowly to the dining area for dinner!
And oh boy, was dinner anything but ordinary. So we sat at our tables, and when everyone arrived, the lights went off! It was pitch black. So imagine the surprise everyone was in, because we were only expecting a dinner with no extravagant entertainment. Then suddenly, the chef and the waiters came out all in rehearsed formation with our entrées in hand. Music played, fairy lights turned on, and the waiters walked to their assigned table and placed a pineapple centrepiece (with mini table candles) with fried meat roll sticking out of it.
The manager of the junk boat then made a mini speech, and the lady head chef explained a little about the dishes that we were going to eat. Could really feel that passion and love for what they do. Really admired their work ethics.
Then a mini surprise came for a couple, when the manager of the junk boat announced that a couple was celebrating their anniversary. Everyone cheered as music played, and the couple had their dance in front of us all. It was some experience to be part of this! Haha! 😀
The lights turned back on, and we started with our first entrée. Next up, was a seafood and meat skewer, and then our main course! I had the beef with mushroom sauce and some fries and steamed vegetables. It was not too bad; filling definitely!
Overall, it was a hearty meal with an astounding ambience.
(a) Bring your camera
I was contemplating if I should bring my non-waterproof camera on the mini trip to Luon Cave, and I am forever grateful that I did so! I managed to capture so much ethereal beauty that I would always hold dear to.
Furthermore, with hindsight, I would trust the lady paddling the boat. It was stable, and I felt safe the whole time when I was in it. Of course, I cannot vouch for the other boats, but looking at the rest, they seem all pretty stable and safe!
(b) Pack in your own beverage?
If I would to head back to Halong Bay, and honestly I wouldn’t mind at all, I would definitely pack in a bottle or two of Breezer prior to boarding the junk boat! I mean, since I am not into beers and all that, a Breezer or two is definitely nice to unwind as I look out into the calmness of the Bay and enjoying the breeze! 😀
Hope this prods you to capture some beauty around you!
So remember to Travel Whenever!