Today was a memorable day full of fun activities and with great company. Together with our friends Amandine and Laurent (from AmandeLolo), we started our overnight Ha Long Bay cruise with Bhaya Classic, a luxury cruise company. We kayaked and swam in the bay, participated in a fun Vietnamese cooking class and enjoyed delicious food and drinks on the boat before watching other guests catch squid at night.
The day started at 7 AM when we woke up and met yoloamlo for breakfast at the Holiday Gold Hotel.
We all opted for the banana and chocolate crepes. We finished quickly and checked out. Fortunately we were able to leave our main bags at the hotel and only take the stuff necessary for the Ha Long Bay overnight cruise. The hotel staff was extremely accommodating as we asked them to keep our stuff not only for the next night but also for the following two as we will be going to Sapa and back right after the cruise. Very nice of them considering that we only stayed one night at the hotel! We then waited for the shuttle to Ha Long Bay which came soon after.
The three hour ride there was very comfortable. Laurent sat next to the driver since he tends to get sick in bus rides. He made friends with a couple of retirees from Australia that were sitting in the next row behind him. Meanwhile, the two of us and Amandine chatted about various experiences we had during our trips so far. Like us, they have been traveling through Southeast Asia for a while now.
Midway through the ride, we made a stop at a large souvenir shop that was selling everything from Buddha statues to paintings and clothing. Half an hour and an ice cream later, we were back on our way to Ha Long Bay. Mimi worked on the blog while Amandine and I chatted some more.
We eventually arrived at the pier at 12:30 PM. There we were welcomed with drinks by the Bhaya staff. We waited for a few minutes before boarding Bhaya Classic IV, a beautiful cruise ship with only seventeen rooms. As we stepped on the boat, crew members welcomed us in Vietnamese while another lady threw rose petals above our heads.
We checked in our respective rooms. The room was well equipped, beautifully decorated and certainly more spacious than we had anticipated.
Yoloamlo were lucky and got assigned to the largest room on the boat that had double windows while others had only one. Lucky them.
Shortly after checking in, all passengers were requested to come to the restaurant for a safety briefing. Then we were given the program for the day before getting lunch. We had told the cooks about being vegetarian (I supported Mimi out of solidarity) and they accommodated us remarkably well.
Lunch was served buffet style, many of the options had meat but we instead were given vegetarian dishes prepared especially for the two of us. There was no other vegetarian among the guests.
We asked for two bottles of water without realizing they were not free. It turned out they were $2 each, for a small bottle of purified water, not even a large bottle of mineral water. Completely ridiculous and a total scam for sure. We refrained from ordering bottles of water for the rest of the cruise as a way to protest against these outrageous prices.
During lunch we were surrounded by the amazing islands of Ha Long Bay. It was a struggle to resist the temptation of going on the roof to take pictures. But as soon as I finished eating I went upstairs and took countless photos and videos. Mimi was not done with lunch yet but told me to go ahead and enjoy the scenery.
This was another beautiful cruise ship around us.
The Vietnamese flag raised on the boat was waving in the strong wind. We unfortunately did not get the blue sky weather we were hoping for, though we still appreciated the beauty of Ha Long Bay and its infamous limestone karsts that made it the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site that it is.
In the meantime Mimi – the slowest eater in the world – was still slowly finishing her desserts.
Another small boat passed in front of us.
I went downstairs once again to check on Mimi who was finally done with her meal, ready to act silly. Here she parodied I’m On A Boat.
After that came the parody of Titanic’s infamous “I’m flying” scene. Since I refused to participate in this cheesy exercise, she had to fallback on Laurent who wholeheartedly accepted.
Finally taking a normal pose with the right guy!
On the boat roof there was a bar shaped like another boat. I improvised as its captain while nobody paid attention to me.
They were too busy telling jokes and laughing.
While most boats we saw that day were other cruise ships for tourists, we also saw a few fishing boats, small and large.
We came back to our rooms to relax a little before the activities scheduled for the afternoon. The restaurant area on our floor had already been cleaned up by the staff and was set up for a classy dinner later in the evening.
The plan for the afternoon was kayaking and then swimming. For us, kayaking was already included in our package but other guests had to pay extra. The boat arrived to the kayaking spot around 2:30 PM. It was an area of Ha Long Bay where water is very still thanks to the particular disposition of the surrounding islands.
We changed to our swimsuits and got into the smaller boat that brought us to a floating platform in the water where kayaks were waiting for us. There were only three couples in our kayak group and one guide to lead the group. Safety first of course, so we all had to wear bright lifejackets.
Laurent got extra protection by two ladies aka Laurent’s angels.
Amandine and Laurent took the first kayak.
Kayaking in the very calm water of the ocean in this area of Ha Long Bay was a unique experience which we all loved. The water had this consistent green color even despite the gray sky. We passed through a few water caves with just a few meters of air between the water surface and the cave’s ceiling, that was beautiful and impressive.
We arrived in an area where the water was stagnant because it was completely surrounded by land. I kayaked for the two of us while Mimi took a selfie video.
We asked Amandine and Laurent to wait for us so we could hand them the camera and have them take some better pictures of us.
And of course we took pictures of them too. They seemed a lot less tired compared to us.
We passed by another beautiful water cave and crossed path with a huge group of kayaks coming in the other direction. These were not from our cruise ship but the area is very popular as a kayaking spot.
Few minutes later we passed by yet another water cave, that one much smaller.
I desperately tried to catch up to Amandine and Laurent who were well ahead. But with Mimi too busy taking pictures it was a lost battle.
Amandine and Laurent were chilling in the front, with no visible sign of exhaustion contrary to me.
They were the winning team today.
We came back to the floating platform with our arms pretty exhausted. We took our lifejackets off and then it was time for swimming. We were told we could just swim around the boat but should not go too far from it. Amandine was the bravest and the first one to jump in the super cold water, followed by me, then Laurent and finally Mimi. Laurent was arguably the best diver among us, ready for the Rio olympics. And I mean, girl look at that body!
The water really was extremely cold so we did not stay in it for too long but long enough to take some group selfies, all of which were absolutely terrible. One of the other guests was nice enough to finally take an acceptable picture of us shivering.
We then saw one of the other guests jump into the water from the roof of the boat, about ten meters above the surface! The crew seemed OK with us jumping from up there and it seemed quite fun so we decided to give it a try. Laurent and I were the first ones to go. That was significantly higher than the high branch of the tree in the blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng. Amandine did it as well after a few seconds of hesitation. Mimi preferred to pass, as she really doesn’t like the feeling of free fall. Laurent wanted to go a second time but we were told it was time to go back on the boat as it needed to start moving again.
We took a quick shower and then met everyone else on the boat’s roof for a Vietnamese cooking class. It was really more of a show with demonstrations though both Laurent and Amandine were picked to participate. Laurent and another Belgian guy were tasked to roll spring rolls with their hands behind their back, without looking,
And when they were done they were asked to identify which one they rolled. Of course they both claimed the better looking one.
The spring rolls were excellent, at least the ones that Laurent did not prepare! Mimi and I got special vegetarian rolls. We also took advantage of the happy hour and ordered cocktails.
We stayed on the roof for a while, enjoying Ha Long Bay and taking more pictures in our evening attire.
Ha Long Bay shortly after sunset.
We also talked quite a lot with a group of four women from the same family from Texas that were sitting next to us at lunch. It was then time for dinner. This time it was a fixed menu but again Mimi and I were served with custom vegetarian options.
Dinner lasted for a while and we all had a great time talking amongst ourselves and with the Texas family.
After dinner we went to the front of the boat where people were catching squid.
A bucket already contained a good dozen squids of various colors and sizes. Some of them were already dead. Amandine and I stared at them for a while, completely fascinated.
Later the four of us went back on the roof to chill. We stayed there until about 10 PM when we decided it was time to call it a night. Most guests on the boat were already sleeping for a while by then. The fact that there was a tai chi session scheduled for 6 AM the next morning probably explained why. From our cabins, we could hear the music blasting from another boat not too far from ours. That boat also had a light show going on, a real party. We thought the crowd on that ship must be quite different from ours!