Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

junk cruises Halong bay

Posted by kevnic on 8/6/2011 at 06:18

Has anyone been on a junk cruise in Halong bay with Intrepid? I am told they own & operate their own junk boats using local crews. I am very interested what peoples experieces have been. I have found the more research I do on this the more confused I become, looking for an affordable company that have high safety standards, have read a lot of horror stories re- junks, sinking, scammers, rats, cockroaces etc. Also debating if should stay one or two nights.

#1 kevnic has been a member since 7/6/2011. Posts: 2

Posted by riverspot on 9/6/2011 at 06:01

Posted from within Vietnam.

My advice is to get a big poster sized picture of the place and spend ten minutes looking at it. That way you can see it and save money. Just been and put simply it just aint worth the hassle. If you insist on subjecting yourself to the actual experience of being mass moved through a phalanx of traffic, people and junks accompanied by rubbish and overpowering deisel fumes, then at least buy your ticket at the official (whatever that means) tourist booth next to that statue thing on the east side of Hokean Lake. They don't charge commission - if you believe them but our "deluxe" tickets were 10 dollars cheaper than other people's standard tickets on our junk

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Posted by busylizzy on 9/6/2011 at 08:35

Hmmm... riverspot certainly has one view of the experience, and one that I know that some others will agree with. My view is a bit different.

Is it a 'must see'? Well, I'm glad that I did it, and I had a fantastic time. But I wouldn't necessarily repeat the experience.

I paid more for a quality cruise (Columbus Cruises, although there are rumours that they may not be operating anymore). The food was divine, the cabin very nice, clean and comfortable, the boat appeared to be fine, and the staff were excellent. Yes, you get shepherded around to do the standard cheesy touristy things (the cave, the kayak trip through the cave, the floating village tour, etc) but overall I thought it was a nice and pleasant experience, and one that I would recommend. (And this was after reading of cockroach stories on this particular boat).

Yes, there are lots of boats on the water, but with the lovely natural background, I looked at it as a fantastic photo opportunity. You will see locals cruising by in their fishing boats - and you will have local floating touts still trying to sell you Coke and other snacks.

I did the 3d/2n tour - and personally, I think it's worth going for the extra day as you will get taken out a bit further and will have a few less boats around where you stay the night. I also did my trip in early December, so maybe that made a difference to crowdedness, etc.

I have no knowledge of Intrepid cruise specifically, but I know of several people that have done tours with them generally, and always speak very highly of them. (UPDATE: Just spoke to a girl at work who did a one-day Halong trip with Intrepid and she thought the boat was fine. But a 1-day boat is diff to an overnighter of course).

Yes, there have been boat sinkings. But if you look at how many boats are out there each day (literally 100's), the number of sinkings is very low. (I only heard of one in the last year, and maybe one the year before. Have there been more?)

Don't let the stories put you off. Just do your research (as you are doing) - and be prepared to pay just a bit more to get a decent experience. It's hard to know what you are going to get in terms of safety, quality, etc - so you can only go by people's recommendations. There have been lots of discussions on this site in the past so troll through those, and maybe there are other/better alternatives to Intrepid.

#3 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by riverspot on 9/6/2011 at 10:06

Posted from within Vietnam.

Depends on where you set your standards BL - also having done lots of preparation and still finding out you get shoved from pillar to post, boat to boat by "staff"at the Bay according to whatever criteria they use, it would seem that the company you book with doesn't really matter. Cost is also not the only indicator of quality. We met people who paid hundreds and got rubbish. Going to Halong Bay still seems to be a lucky-dip for service against a backdrop of rubbish, deisel fumes and more junks than you would see in a Cecille B DeMille movie. If you can find a satisfying experience in there somewhere then good luck to you - but I would have thought, BL, that having some of the well preserved and managed natural wonders that you have in NZ, you would have set your standards a bit higher.

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Posted by busylizzy on 9/6/2011 at 12:17

Hey River,
I guess I didn't go having expectations that it would meet 'NZ standards' - there would be no comparison really! It is a different type of experience to what I would get here at home - but it was an experience all the same. When travelling in Asia, I know that it is rare to find an areas of solitude, with the lush green, clean, unpolluted environments that I am used to. I don't necessarily like what goes on in Halong Bay, but I accept it for what it is. And because I had researched it and knew what to expect in terms of the qualities that you mention, I was prepared for them. (I should also point out that there was no way I was going swimming in the ocean after seeing what get dumped in and what floats by).

As I said earlier, I wouldn't repeat the trip (unlike other activities that I have done in Asia) but I'm glad that I did it. Our trip went reasonably well, we had good people on the boat, good food, etc - so maybe we were just lucky.

Each to their own. Maybe I was just in a particularly relaxed, easy going mindset at the time. On another day, I could have had a different reaction to it all.

#5 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by riverspot on 9/6/2011 at 13:41

Posted from within Vietnam.

Hey Elizabeth, (my friends just call me "Spotty"). I like all sorts of places and I don't like all sorts of places. I have put Halong Bay into the latter category- sort like a toothache, glad that I've had one to justify cleaning my teeth and going to the dentist ...... and to keep me going back to Northern Laos and Burma. I reckon that within the next decade Halong Bay will go on the list of "off" places for travellers and what will be left of the place? - a few big rocks in a sea of porridge with a lot of expolitative people sinking back into poverty. Its a pity because with a better outlook on management and preservation, a visit to HB could be a transforming experience - for the better. But now, too many people will not see the elephant in the room and keep rambling on about what a great place it is - we should be outraged by the treatment the place gets and the ripping off of well intentioned travellers.Maybe if visitor numbers went down the authorities would do a better job looking after the place.

#6 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25
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Posted by kevnic on 9/6/2011 at 19:29

Wow, thanks very much for your views (I think), I am really none the wiser though, it seems it may be overrated and over touristed but .............

#7 kevnic has been a member since 7/6/2011. Posts: 2

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