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Travelling in your 30s can be an exciting time, especially if you have some money saved up to indulge in a little luxury. While I typically enjoy exploring new places on a budget by visiting humble restaurants and staying in hostels, there are some experiences that are worth splurging on.

One of these experiences is booking a trip on a traditional junk ship to sail through the enchanting Hạ Long Bay.

Legend has it that a dragon and her offspring were sent to assist the Vietnamese in a battle against foreign invaders. During the fight, the dragons spewed out jewels that scattered all over the bay, forming a barrier of towering limestone rocks that kept out unwanted visitors. This bay was named Hạ Long Bay - "descending dragon."

If you have at least two days to spare, I highly recommend taking a trip with Indochina Junk, a company that I have personally travelled with twice. You'll get to sail through the mystical Ha Long Bay and explore the quieter area of Bái Tử Long (which translates to "thanks to the dragon children") with fewer boats and more peaceful surroundings. The service on the junk ship is professional, the food is delicious, and the boat itself is beautiful.

As a taster of what it’s like, here’s a two day, one night itinerary:

Day 1

Our luxurious van arrived at our Hanoi hotel at 7:40am. It was decked out with leather seats, marble accents, and even had WiFi - a truly glam experience! The journey to the bay took 4 hours, during which water was provided.

Once we arrived, we boarded Chinese junk boats with modern bedrooms and bathrooms that offered stunning views of the bay. There were three of us in one room, so an extra bed was squeezed in but it was fine!

After checking in, we had the option to either kayak or take a small boat tour. My sister and I chose to kayak, while our mum opted for the relaxing boat tour. As we paddled, we discovered a beach where we saw the boat, from the boat tour, anchored, where our mother was relaxing in the shade. We also had the chance to swim in the refreshing water amidst the summer heat. On the way back, all the kayaks were tied together, allowing the boat to tow us all back to the junk boat and giving our arms a rest!

Dinner was served on the terrace of the boat, and service was excellent! We definitely felt like we were on holiday!

Day 2

We started the day at 6:30 am with an optional tai chi session on the top deck before the day's heat became too intense. It was a great way to begin the day. Following a delicious breakfast, we visited Thien Can Son cave. To enter, we hiked up a mountain, offering breathtaking views along the way.

This cave is one of the most spectacular in the bay, and back in 2012, we were lucky enough to enjoy a candlelit dinner organised by Indochina Junk. Unfortunately, the Ha Long Bay management board has since prohibited such events within the cave to preserve its natural beauty. This decision will undoubtedly help maintain the cave's beauty for generations to come.

As we sailed back to land, we took in the views of the limestone rocks and savored the tranquility before returning to the chaos of the capital. I highly recommend visiting Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long, as its iconic scenery is an essential part of any trip to Vietnam.


Tour or Explore?

Verdict : Tour!

Unless you have your own boat and permission to sail into Ha Long Bay, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to experience the mystical waters in the way we did. However, taking a cruise isn't the only way to see Ha Long Bay. If you travel to Cat Ba Island, you can also opt for short boat tours that offer stunning views of the bay.


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