Ha Long Bay for flashpackers

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First published 28th October, 2006

Two night/three day mid-range tour
Cost: US$74
Operator: Saigon Cafe Tours

As with the budget tour, we kicked off with a packed minivan, but unlike the previous tour the staff were better trained, spoke better English, and were more informative. Again we stopped off at the crafts centre for the victims of Agent Orange, but were spared the confusion of any more stops and delivered straight to the pier.

Once there we still had to climb over several boats to get to ours, but when we did, we found a beautiful, new wooden junk. There was no top deck, but there were decks fore and aft with sun-loungers that actually had cushions! And tables to sit around, and a big pagoda thingy on the bow to shield us from the sun. More importantly, the boat set sail with a compliment of eight passengers, without packing it full of day-trippers.

The cabins were a vast improvement on the previous tour -- cozy, well-decorated, with tile bathrooms -- a pint-sized version of a midrange hotel room. And the food was a definite notch up as well -- more fresh seafood, better presentation, and the staff were eagre to please.

We saw the Surprising Cave this time, which was a bit more interesting than it's cousin, the Dragon. We won't give away the surprise. The beach we visited was a bit better than on the budget tour and there were no last-minute changes -- we spent the first night on the boat. The small compliment of passengers we wound up with weren't nearly as social as the budget group, and there was no top-deck on the boat to lounge on, so we hit the sack early.

We arrived in Cat Ba early in the morning, checked into our hotel -- a two-star place, no better or worse than the budget tour, then piled into a mini bus and ventured out to explore cave arches in the bay by kayak, and a cavern that had only been discovered five years ago -- the best cave yet. Afterwards we fished for our lunch at a local fish farm and ate what we caught. Following lunch we were given 'free time' to stroll on Cat Ba's seafront promenade or visit one of the beaches. Not a bad day, all told.

Kayaking on Ha Long Bay

When we boarded the boat again in the morning, we found some extra passengers there that had just spent the night on it, for a one-night, two day cruise -- but just a handful. Cruising back to Ha Long Bay in the morning, we would have stopped for a swim, but the weather was against us, so we continued to the pier. Again we had to crawl across four boats to get from ours to the pier and some of the older passengers had a pretty rough time of it. Then there was lunch at Ha Long City, and the van back to Hanoi.

Stick a sail on it and call it a Junk - Junks on Ha Long Bay

Next: Ha Long Bay for budget-busters

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Read 9 comment(s)

  • Sounds good, how can I arrange going on this tour (2 nights), as I'm coming direct to Halong from China?

    Posted by TomSawyer on 2nd July, 2009

  • I would like to make this Tour! :) Great work! How can i find Saigon Cafe Tours in Hanoi? I tryed to look on google but does not appear... Thanks!

    Posted by Diana on 25th April, 2011

  • Did you book this tour using the contact form on their website? This looks like the best deal i've seen so far and i'd love to hear about the booking & pickup process.

    Posted by Bryce on 8th April, 2012

  • Does anyone have any updated feedback to share pertaining to Saigon Cafe Tours? Their prices for both the 2 day and 3 day tours are amongst the lowest I've seen (Aug 2012), but for some reason...I can't find any other reviews about them, and this article was published 6 years ago. Thank you!

    Posted by tania on 28th August, 2012

  • Any update on this? The article was in 2006, so I just want to make sure people still feel the same about Saigon Cafe Tours.

    Posted by Leanne Pittsford on 24th December, 2012

  • Just wanted to comment that after looking at tons of operators/tours, I have decided to go with Saigon Cafe Tours for our 2 day/1 night Halong Bay cruise. I could't find many more reviews either, but they now have a website and I sent them a message asking LOTS of questions about the tour and they responded promptly and answered all my questions directly (in rough English but still answered every question). The plus side for myself and partner for this tour is that we pay in full when they pick us up so we don't have to worry about losing money in the event of a cancellation (we don't have tim to re-schedule). They just sent us a form to fill out with our information and where we are staying in Hanoi, but didn't ask for a deposit. We are paying $79 USD per person for the one-night tour, sleeping on what they advertise as a 3-star junk boat (obviously inflation has caused prices to rise since 2006). As I know many people, like myself, look a lot to Travelfish for traveling in SE Asia, I will post a review of our experience (and hopefully it's positive!). We cruise next week, January 25th 2013, so hopefully I can add an updated review of this company for future travelers, as I know finding a few more myself would have been nice.

    Posted by Kristin Wilson on 19th January, 2013

  • Hi Kristin Wilson! I saw your comment and am thinking about signing up for a tour with Saigon Cafe. Did you enjoy your tour? Which tour package did you use as I saw two options for 2 days/1night. Also, was it with Saigon Cafe Travel? That is the website I found when I googled it.

    Your advice is much appreciated!

    Posted by Kiran E on 27th February, 2013

  • Thanks for your post Kristin. I was thinking the exact same thing in regards to the age of this post. Looks like Saigon Cafe Travel is the way to go. I'm planning a day trip from Hanoi.

    Posted by Paul on 15th May, 2013

  • Here is an updated piece about Saigon Cafe tour.


    Posted by Tommaso Querini on 16th December, 2013

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