Friday, October 29, 2010

Halong Bay

No one in sight

A visit to Vietnam usually requires a stop at Halong Bay. It is probably the number one tourist attraction in the country and locals and foreigners a like flock there in numbers. Within the expat community the Halong Bay stories I have heard have usually been ones of disappointment; tours have been overcrowded, the service has been rubbish and any other number of reasons have resulted in an average at best experience.

Part of the local fishing village

The only glowing reference I received was for a company called Eco Friendly Vietnam. We took our friends suggestion and used these guys a few months ago. The trip was amazing. With my Mum and younger brother in town I had no hesitation to use these guys again. Generally I hate taking tours. I like authentic experiences and most tours rarely offer that. They take you to the touristy places with a bunch of other tourists so you can do touristy things.

Tim catching a few rays

These guys offer only private tours. They pick you up from your house in a van and drive you to Hai Phong. From there you take a fast ferry to Cat Ba island. The ferry is about 45 minutes. Once on Cat Ba island your tour guide meets you and takes you too your boat. When you board there are no other boats around. The main idea of their tours is to take you away from the masses. You spend the remaining day, that night and the following day until 2pm on the boat. In that time you come across maybe a handful of other boats, most from their small company. We spend the two days navigating around the limestone karsts, stopping at secluded little beaches, kayaking through caves and swimming in beautiful clean water. You really get the feeling you are in a relatively untouched part of the world. It is hard to believe that not too far away thousands of people cruise around the same area with boats connecting side up side at night.

One of the small beaches we stopped at

We slept in a cove surrounded up steep imposing cliffs. There is not a sole in sight when you wake up in the morning; a perfect opportunity for an early swim. The food on the trip is delicious with massive servings; predominantly fresh seafood, purchased from a nearby fish farm. The trip is relaxing and the crew leave you too yourself, also giving you the option to choose how you want to spend your day; swimming, kayaking, visiting caves and/or small uninhabited beaches are some of the options.

Mum writing

For three people it costs $128 per person. If you have four people in your group the price comes down to $110 per person. For what you get I think it is definitely worth it. I don't even bother looking at other options.

The old lady and my younger brother were very impressed with the trip, comparing it to some of the most beautiful landscapes they had ever seen. They left content and relaxed. I am not one to recommend tour companies but if you are heading to Halong Bay and want to get away from everyone else while seeing some magnificent scenery then I suggest getting in touch with these guys.

For my previous post, and trip to Halong Bay, which follows the same thought see It pays to pay Halong Bay


  1. Hi Dan, I hope you are real and this isnt some fake blog set up to try and lure people to use this company as it sounds like a great way to see the bay. What was the boat and its facilities like? Also what was the food like? Im seriously contemplating doing a halong tour with them but Id like to see some pics of the boat first. Their website only has one pic of a very large boat which I doubt is the one used for smaller private tours. Its sounds too good to be true. I dont want to show up to find some rickety smelly old thing. Any more pics available? Cheers Ben

  2. Hi Ben,

    I assure you I have no connection with the company apart from enjoying their service. The boat was fine in my opinion. It is not amazing but more than adequate. The rooms consist of a double bed and a small bathroom. Apart from that there is not much room; an area to throw your bags. In saying this your spend mext to no time in the room - only to sleep. The deck is great with plenty of room to spread out and relax. The boat is not the highlight though; where they go, and where others don't go, is what makes it great. The food is amazing if you like seafood. If you don't you may have to call them to work out another option. You can I am sure get a much better boat but you would have to pay more. Have a look at my flickr set for more photos.

  3. Hi
    I have contacted this tour group regading an 18day tour - just the 4 of us - but the section on Halong Bay is shared with either 30 or 20 others depending on the boat.
    We were not given an option of a small boat for ourselves.
    Thanks for the heads up - I will contact them again to see if this section can be changed to an experience similar to yours.

  4. Cathy,

    Are you sure it is the same tour company? Did you click on the link in this post? Because to my knowledge they only do small private tours and they don't have boats that accomodate that many people. Avoid any kind of tour that has that many people. I wouldn't trust it - that is of course you want to party hard and don't cxare so much about the scenery. If you have any questions let me know but it sounds like you have been talking to a different company from the one I know.

  5. Hi Dan
    You are right- I was looking at a company called Ecotravel - not Ecofriendly.
    Have now found the one you are talking about
    Thanks heaps Cathy