*I was not paid or sponsored for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
Going on a junkboat cruise in Halong Bay was always at the top of my bucket list for Vietnam. After seeing the photos of towering limestone islands surrounded by endless blue water, I knew I wanted to experience it on a tour I would never forget. When choosing which tour is right for you, there are a million different companies you can go with and which one you choose really just depends on the type of experience you want. Party cruise, day cruise, overnight cruise, your choices are numerous. It’s really up to you and your preferences.
As you probably know from my About Me page, I’m a slightly older traveler at 31 years old and I was able to save for a while ahead of my “Grown-up Gap Year” to be able to afford experiences that aren’t in your typical backpackers budget. This coupled with my desire to choose a more luxurious and unforgettable tour led me to Indochina Junk Luxury Tours (which was actually recommended by a friend). So I visited their website, chatted to the representative, and booked a single cabin for a 2 day overnight cruise through Halong and Bai Tu Long Bay.
I want to point out that venturing to Bai Tu Long (as well as the staff) is what really sets this tour apart from the others. I heard from other travelers that the Halong Bay they experienced on their tours was dirty and overcrowded, which is a shame that tourism is ruining something so beautiful. If you want to get away from that, I would really recommend choosing this tour.
So let me breakdown the experience….
Booking the Tour
You can book via the wesbite and I personally just found it easier to use the customer support chat option. They don’t really publicize the prices of the cruises and I think it’s because it can change depending on when you go and at what time you book. I ended up booking my single cabin for $190. I went at the end of October and only booked a few days in advance. That included accommodation for the night, all food, and activities throughout the 2 days as well as return transport from the hotel to the pier. After drinks and tip, the total came to around $250. Drinks are about £6/7 each.
Getting to the Pier and Boarding the Boat
I was picked up in a swanky VIP van that had leather seats, air con, and wifi. We then drove to two more hotels to pick up other customers. After that, we set off on the 3 hour drive to Halong Bay Pier. They stop at a rest area on the way and let you grab snacks and shop a bit. There are vendors selling hats, jewelry, woven murals, etc. The 3 hour journey went by really quickly as it gives you time to get to know your fellow passengers. I met 3 amazing couples from Germany, Ireland, and Canada in my van and we quickly became friends and enjoyed the whole experience together.
Once we got to the pier, we waited for about 20 minutes in a very nice, air conditioned, large room while they organised the groups.
We then boarded a small boat which took us straight to our amazing junkboat. This was by far the largest and nicest boat in the whole pier. I could’ve cried when we pulled up I was so excited and pleased. The staff were unbelievably welcoming and organised with huge smiles on their faces waving hello.
Day 1 Aboard the Boat
Once we boarded the boat, we were all seated in the main galley and given a quick introduction and safety overview. The staff all introduced themselves and had us laughing and smiling with their presentation. Tea and wet towelettes were provided.
Next, we checked into our cabins. I couldn’t believe how nice and spacious mine was. It was one of the nicest places I’d stayed in all of my travels throughout South East Asia, and it was on a boat!
I sat in awe on my bed as I watched the incredible scenery go by. I literally couldn’t believe how beautiful it all was. It exceeded every expectation I had.
We quickly regrouped for a 5 course lunch outside on the deck. The food and view were both incredible! I want to point out that they cater to all different types of allergies and dietary requirements and are VERY careful in sticking to it.
Next we enjoyed an activity of our choice. You could either kayak or enjoy a leisurely boat ride to an island with a small beach and limestone cliff. We were able to enjoy the beach and swim for around and hour or two. A small boat picked us up and took us back to the main boat.
After we got back, we had some free time to freshen up, grab a cocktail, and enjoy the incredible sunset from the top deck.
Next came the dinner and entertainment. The food was again, incredible! For the entertainment, one of the staff members played traditional Vietnamese music while another did some magic tricks which stumped even the most skeptical of our group.
That evening I had one of the best sleeps ever….
Day 2 Aboard the Boat
The next morning I woke up bright and early to enjoy some Tai Chi on the top deck. Afterwards, breakfast was served. We could choose from either Pho or Western style breakfast. We all opted for Pho and it was super yummy.
While we enjoyed our breakfast, the boat sailed to a small island where we were then dropped off for a tour of the limestone caves and some incredible views from the top of the cliff.
After that, it was a short cruise back to the pier. We regrouped in the vans and they drove us to our next destination to watch a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show.
After the show ended, our new group of friends said our goodbyes and we made the 3 hour drive back to Hanoi.
This was hands down one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on my travels. Everything was perfect from the amazing staff and food to the activities and the new friends I made on board. I would happily recommend this cruise to anyone looking for something upmarket with an older but fun crowd.