Our overnight train from Lao Cai back to Hanoi was about as uneventful as our first train ride. I managed to get a bit more sleep this time around though, probably because I was exhausted from the past two days of trekking. We arrived in Hanoi around 6am and were greeted by TinTin (YAY!) and our driver. We were very happy to be reunited and were looking forward to catching up with them both on our drive to Halong Bay.
The drive to Halong Bay from Hanoi took about four hours. We broke it up a bit by stopping for breakfast just outside of Hanoi and then again at a pearl farm. At the pearl farm we learned about cultured pearls and how the process is done. If I remember correctly (don’t quote me) a nucleus bead (hard shell bead) and a small piece of mantle tissue from a donor oyster are placed inside the host oyster. The host oysters are then returned to the water to process. It can take up to 2-3 years for a pearl to form.
After our pearl farm visit we had about two hours left of driving before arriving at the cruise port for our Halong Bay adventure. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site with limestone pillars, rock formations, caves and grottos making up around 1,600 islands. (This is also where the newest King Kong was filmed for those that have seen it!) Many tourists take boat tours around the islands to get the most amazing views. We chose to do a 2 day, 1 night cruise on the Bhaya Classic Premium boat with Bhaya Cruises.
Our boat was absolutely amazing and I cannot recommend Bhaya Cruises enough! From the moment we were greeted by our guide through the end of our stay, we were treated like royalty. There were six French tourists on the boat with us plus the crew. We were not expecting this after having seen other boats pass by with nearly 50 people crammed on them. It was definitely worth the extra dollar to have a smaller group.
The food on the boat was delicious. We were served lunch shortly after arriving on the boat and then taken to the Dark and Bright Lagoon to explore on our own kayaks.
We learned about the legend of Halong and how it was believed that dragons were sent from heaven by the gods and created the islands by spitting jade jewels into the sea. The fog around the islands provided a great backdrop while hearing the ancient legend, making it easy to picture in our minds. The mystical look also made for some great photos.
After exploring on the kayak we cleaned up and went to the main deck restaurant for some drinks before dinner. Our guide showed us how to make Vietnamese spring rolls and taught us the proper way to take a shot/cheers (mot, hai, ba yo) meaning one, two, three – cheers.
The next morning we woke up early for a quick bite to eat before exploring Surprise Cave. It was a lot larger than we expected with breathtaking formations. The path inside the cave had quite a few stairs that led up to an amazing viewpoint.
After spending about an hour in the cave we made our way back to the boat for brunch. We had about 30 minutes after eating to relax on the top deck before our boat made it back to the harbour. We snapped a few photos and took in the views, reminiscing the last few days as our trip neared its end.
Our drive back to Hanoi was a little depressing since we knew we would be leaving the next day. We had such an amazing time in Vietnam and were sad to say goodbye. From the wonderful people and incredible food to the breathtaking country landscapes of Sapa and hustle and bustle of Hanoi, this trip is definitely one we will always remember. A part of my heart stayed in Vietnam when we left that next day. I’m hoping one day I will be able to venture back and create new memories in one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. Until then; goodbye, Vietnam. xoxo ❤