Our second stop in Vietnam was Ha Long Bay. A world heritage site famous for its limestone mountains and only a 4 hour drive from Hanoi including a 20 minute stop. The journey itself provided much to be seen and I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty I saw.
The children managed this journey quite well. Firstly, a good breakfast was had and tablets provided much entertainment. We had a portable WIFI device for the family to use as this was a cheaper alternative to using our mobile phones. My 18 month old slept in her car seat for two hours of the journey and my 6 year old also had a snooze for an hour or so. It helped that we had travel pillows and a blanket for comfort.
We boarded the Paradise Elegance cruise ship for a two night, three day cruise.
The ship was beautiful and our room was complete with an ensuite and a dressing area which was big enough to have space for all our luggage. We even managed to set up the travel cot in there. That said, we would have all slept very comfortably on the super sized and extremely comfortable bed!
The staff were very polite and will assist with everything you need. They even facilitated a 6 pm dinner for our family (since our children needed food earlier) when the normal dinner time was 7-10 pm. You will find that it’s a bit difficult to understand the English spoken by the staff so a translator app helped to get our message across, since you know, we don’t speak Vietnamese! ☺️
The food was surprisingly really good. There was buffet breakfast and lunch and an a la carte dinner. There was something for everyone, even the fussiest of eaters.
There were enough activities planned for those who wanted to do more, such as visiting caves, a pearl farm, a floating village and a bamboo bridge, kayaking, a visit to the beach, Tai Chi and a few more.
The ‘could be better’
Whilst most of this cruise was fantastic… there was only one downside. What happens when it rains? Unfortunately, we had thunderstorms for most of our first day.
The original schedule included a variety of activities with lunch on an island and then we’d return to the ship around 3 pm. Whilst we were supposed to be off having a lovely time doing said activities during the five hours, the ship would make its way back to port to drop off other passengers who were checking out and pick up new passengers. Am guessing they also carry out other necessary activities to ensure smooth running of the ship.
Due to the storms, we couldn’t do the activities, instead we headed back to port and observed the chaos that descended. We used the time to drink coffee, eat cakes and have massages, I even read my book, so perhaps not a total waste of time but it would have good to have some alternative activities for occasions like these.
Now that I’ve told you what the only downside to the cruise was, I can let you in on the wonderful. If the sky is clear, you’ll experience a beautiful sunrise around 5.30am and sunset around 6.30pm during the summer months. At six am on both mornings, you could participate in tai chi on the deck, followed by first breakfast of pastries with Vietnamese coffee. I loved drinking my morning (7 am) coffee on the deck surrounded by such beauty. My hubby enjoyed sleeping late and slept in with the kids. (Chalk and cheese).
Sung Sot (Surprise) Caves
We visited the Sung Sot (Surprise) caves which were spectacular. It’s a bit of a trek with approximately 700 steps to climb but totally worth it. The view from the top of the steps is incredible.
Cooking class for kids
There was a Vietnamese cooking class on the upper deck on both evenings where the children were invited to participate. My six year old son learnt to make spring rolls which he also got to eat! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ !
Ha Long Bay Pearl Farm
Set amongst the limestone mountains the pearl farm was an absolute gem! We had an opportunity visit to a pearl farm in Ha Long Bay which turned out to be very educational not just for my son, but also for me!
There’s so much to learn about culturing pearls and so much work involved. They staff were very thorough in explaining and demonstrating exactly how pearls are cultured and how long it takes.
These are just some of the “wonderful” of Ha Long Bay; other activities that were also fantastic were squid fishing and kayaking. If you ever decide to visit Vietnam, the limestone mountains of Ha Long Bay is definitely a place to visit, with or without the kids!