At 5:30am, I look outside from the balcony. We're already there. We are in the roadstead in Halong Bay. It's only 15 degrees and it's cool and hazy. And it's still dark. Even at 6:00am we still can't see much.
Rock islands of Halong Bay
We booked a boat tour of Halong Bay with Celebrity Cruises. Our tour is supposed to start at 8:00 am, so we're up early. Halong Bay is still in the haze. We hope that will change as the day progresses.
Boat tour in Halong Bay
The tour planning is chaotic. At 8:00am, the participants of various tours meet in the theater, and the line of people extends to the casino. Our tour is called at 9:00am, until then the information is zero. At some point it starts. And once again we know why we prefer to do our shore excursions on our own.
We take the junk Halong 68, our guide is called Minh. Our first destination is the Thien Cung cave, a stalactite cave on the island of Dau Go. There are 100 steps to enter the cave. The cave is huge at 3.000 square meters.
Dripstone formations of the Thien Cung Cave
We walk through the entire complex on well-lit paths. Minh repeatedly explains where we have to look so that we can see the most beautiful objects. He's doing a really good job.
Then we drive around many of the limestone islands in the bay. It's very quiet, you smell more than you hear. The boat glides between the islands in the haze, everything looks very unreal. What an extraordinary experience. Three hours after the start of our excursion, we are back on the Millennium.
On the beach and in the amusement park
In the afternoon we are back on the road. Unfortunately, the tender boats go to the wrong side of the village and stop on the beach side. We don't feel like taking a taxi to the center, so we walk along the beach to an amusement park. The park is very nicely laid out with flowers and plants and also nice to look at. However, the system is very reminiscent of socialist models, which is very strange to us. After an hour we go back and take a tender boat to the Millennium.
We spend the evening in the Cosmos Lounge. We are dog tired, the time difference is probably still in our bones. While having coffee at Al Bacio, our eyes keep falling. So go to bed early.
Another day in Halong Bay
The alarm goes off at 5:30am The meeting for our tour today is 7:30 am. We take the tender boat to the pier. Our bus is waiting there. We drive along the beach and then over the bridge to the urban area. Our first stop is at the Quang Ninh Provincial Museum.
Halong Bay - Quang Ninh Museum
What is surprising for us is how the tour goes. We interpreted the program very differently and expected a panoramic drive along the coast. The museum is, however, extremely interesting.
At the fish market and in Halong City
Afterwards we drive to the fish market on the water and on land. We see live fish in bowls. Sometimes the fish jump out of the water and die miserably in the dirt next to the bowls. It's utterly gross. A tour of the market follows. Then we have time to explore the place on our own. Most of the fellow travelers stay in the closed market and buy all sorts of things. We walk around the block, past a temple and through very poor alleys and courtyards.
Our tour then leads to the temple again. There is little to see in Halong City. We take the bus back to the pier, then take the tender boat to the ship. Conclusion: we could and should have done this tour better on our own.
Good bye Halong Bay
At noon we leave Halong Bay. We spend the departure on the Heli-Point, the helicopter landing area on deck 5. This is exactly the right place. We have all-round visibility and see the small islands in Halong Bay up close. The journey takes 1 ½ hours before the Celebrity Millennium hits the open sea. What an experience.
Halong Bay - Rooster and Hen rock formation