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Vietnam forum

An idea for exploring Halong Bay

Posted by lobstermage on 17/4/2007 at 13:27

My friend and I have heard enough Halong Bay tour horror stories that we're both having severe second thoughts about getting a tour. Kayaking seemed a good option, but I've noticed most of the kayaking tours are ludicrously expensive.

So, it occurred to me... is it possible at all to rent kayaks or some other small boat to explore a little on our own - without a tour.

The idea is to catch a boat to Cat Ba and then see if we can rent some means of exploring the waterways around there.

#1 lobstermage has been a member since 12/4/2007. Posts: 4

Posted by somtam2000 on 17/4/2007 at 23:18 admin

Hi lobster,

It's a great idea, however I'm almost positive you're only allowed onto ha Long Bay as a part of a tour.

That said if you do manage to do it, we look forward to hearing about it!

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,498
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Posted by peterlaqua on 19/4/2007 at 14:13

Posted from within Vietnam.

Ok. the deal is with the trips to Halong bay are that you only get what you pay for.The tours between $30-$80 are badly run and are actually very disappointing. The scenery is beautiful but the tour wrecked it for us. I also saw MANY very angry and disappointed people getting off the boats at Cat Ba. We watched people try and do it themselves and did struggle including being harrassed by bike bandits on Cat Ba island. I also wittnessed boat staff stealing things from peoples bags and the boat owner doing NOTHING about it.! So my recommendation is NOT to even waste one day on Cat Ba island. Just do one overnight on a better run boat. this will probably involve some kayaking. Take your own breakfast supplies as one cold egg on old bread with no butter and a cup of tea made out of salt water was about to end up over board!

ONE TOUR group that is helpful is ocean tours on hang bac st Hanoi. they have their own boat and own private island it the tour looked great. They didnt have enough people to run it the day we wanted so we had to go elsewhere but their staff are very helpful. Their tour cost $110 and we wished we had waited and gone with them.

good luck

#3 peterlaqua has been a member since 11/3/2007. Posts: 3

Posted by somtam2000 on 19/4/2007 at 14:53 admin

Just in response to Peter's post above, Ocean Tours gets extremely mixed reviews -- people either love them or hate them. Very, very few operators actually own their own boat and I'm quite surprised to read that Ocean Tours claim to own theirs.

I do agree with Peter though that you get what you pay for when it comes to Ha Long Bay tours. We've got a series of stories here on Travelfish on Ha Long Bay tours which you can read here:

Ha Long Bay for backpackers
Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
Ha Long Bay conclusions and a confession

Good luck!

#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,498
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Posted by CatBa on 19/4/2007 at 18:11

Posted from within Vietnam.

The advantage of using a Ha Noi Tour Op is that they buy space on any boat whereas D-I-Y will find going to Ha Long requires renting the whole boat.

The best deals are going direct to the boat OWNER such as Emeraude (50+ passengers) or Tropical Sails < www.tropical-sails.com > for 12-15 people.

Any boat tour dumping passengers on Cat Ba for the night takes away from the 'cruise' aspect of a tour. What can be more pleasant than going to sleep listening to the waves slapping against the hull.

You can get to Cat Ba from Ha Long City - but do it early before the hotels fill up.

#5 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349

Posted by pvhaa on 21/4/2007 at 12:44

Posted from within Vietnam.

Agreed with CatBa, an aceptable tour to Halong Bay can starts from US$ 80 up. Better to book Emeraude at < www.emeraude-cruises.com > or Tropical Sails < www.tropical-sails.com >. The luxury trip comes with a price tag, of course, but the 2-day, 1-night cruise is well worth it.

#6 pvhaa has been a member since 23/11/2006. Posts: 7

Posted by lingct on 23/4/2007 at 16:20

Am planning a Halong Bay trip in first week of May 2007. But a friend who was there 2 weeks ago said the trip was a let down due to the fog. Did anyone else face the same issue? How bad would it be if the fog is thick? Halong Bay was supposed to be the highlight of my Vietnam trip as I heard so much about it. From what I have read so far, apart from the bad tour operators, it seems that a bad weather will spoil the fun!! =(

#7 lingct has been a member since 23/4/2007. Posts: 1

Posted by peterlaqua on 23/4/2007 at 17:09

When we were at Halong Bay we had a window of sun for about one hour at sunset. It did look magical whilst the sun was out but the rest of the time it was slightly misty but this did make is seem more mystical. We did walk up a hill for an hour and the view was amazing even with a bit of mist.

#8 peterlaqua has been a member since 11/3/2007. Posts: 3

Posted by vivian on 24/4/2007 at 14:06

We did the Halong Bay 2D/1N tour with Ocean Tours last week. Some parts during the tour were disappointing, concerning food and cleanliness.

Note to vegetarians: Do not depend on the food on board. Bring your own, esp bottled water, fruits and snacks. The boat operators will charge extra when you buy food/water from the floating vendors.

As for entertainment, bring some movies or games. Everything else on the boat is either local or Chinese karaoke music.
Be really careful about leaving your belongings in the boat while exploring islands. I kept my daypack with me at all times, even during meals.

There were also RATS on the boat. I have no doubt that they would have crawled into the kitchen because I spotted rat fur TWICE in my food. I am not kidding. The boat operators seemed oblivious to the rats and feigned ignorance when we complained. The whole crew doesn't speak a word of English and our OT guide was helpless.

Good luck to the rest who are planning the trip to HB. Enjoy the view and don't expect too much.

#9 vivian has been a member since 17/10/2006. Posts: 1

Posted by jordanclay on 3/5/2007 at 18:47

I paid $105 for an overnight with Hailongjunk .com last month and thought it was fantastic. Clean boat, good size ensuite with aircon and great staff. I felt my belongings were very safe and all the other travellers had the same good vibe.
There were even 4 guides onboard who spoke all the languages you could think of. i will certainly choose them again if I return. They also have several junks of different sizes to choose from

#10 jordanclay has been a member since 12/11/2006. Posts: 9

Posted by jordanclay on 3/5/2007 at 18:48

I paid $105 for an overnight with Hailongjunk .com last month and thought it was fantastic. Clean boat, good size ensuite with aircon and great staff. I felt my belongings were very safe and all the other travellers had the same good vibe.
There were even 4 guides onboard who spoke all the languages you could think of. i will certainly choose them again if I return. They also have several junks of different sizes to choose from

#11 jordanclay has been a member since 12/11/2006. Posts: 9


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