The Journey to & around Halong Bay, Vietnam [with kids]

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (24 of 26)

It all started when we were picked up at our hotel by our cruise company, Viola.  We were immediately welcomed by our guide for the trip, Hoi also known as Lucky, and given prime front row seats for the ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay.

rusty old boat at the river where we had to cross

rusty old boat at the river where we had to cross

Having spent 2 full days in Hanoi and taking a couple of taxis and of course walking around the bustling streets we had a fair idea of what the 3-4 hour drive was going to be like.  Oh how wrong were we!

truck full of pigs waiting for the 'ferry'

truck full of pigs waiting for the ‘ferry’

Several times I said to Matt that people driving in Vietnam must be some of the calmest people around because it definitely isn’t a stress free environment.  The horn is used for everything; overtaking people, overtaking people overtaking people, to warn bikes that you are coming up behind them, to tell people to get out of your way.  I don’t think a minute went by without the sound of a horn going off somewhere.

more sights along the river while we waited

more sights along the river while we waited

As for the overtaking; people overtake people everywhere, for someone like me who HATES overtaking even on a 4-lane highway, this makes for a rather stressful journey. The other thing worth mentioning about driving is that it is not uncommon to just drive in the middle of the road, as in on top of the centre line, even if traffic is coming towards you, nor is it uncommon to drive off the road to get out of peoples way.

the boat that pulled our 'ferry' across the river (I am standing on the 'ferry' as we cross the river)

the boat that pulled our ‘ferry’ across the river (I am standing on the ‘ferry’ as we cross the river)

What made this journey most memorable though was a couple hours in traffic just stopped.  Our driver and guide got off the bus and after many phone-calls and talking with other people in the same situation as us we were informed that a truck and trailer had crashed on the bridge at about 4am that morning; 6 hours later it was still no where near cleared up and was blocking traffic in both directions.

we made it to the other side...that is our bus driving off the 'ferry'

we made it to the other side…that is our bus driving off the ‘ferry’

Thankfully our driver/tour company were on top of things and we went some back way, unfortunately it did mean spending another 1.5 hours on the bus; not ideal when traveling with kids but thankfully our kids were entertainable with a steady supply of snacks and movies on the iPad.

Clio just loved the cruise boat & our room!

Clio just loved the cruise boat & our room!

The most interesting part of the trip was when we had to cross the river.  We drove to this small village where we had to get off the bus.  Lucky found a local that was willing to let us all use the bathroom if need be, of course Eden needed to go so we lined up, but before it was her turn the ferry was ready for us.  It was probably a good thing because I am not sure how Eden would have felt about using a bathroom located in a shed that housed cows.

as did Eden!

as did Eden!

The ferry was like a floating dock where all the vehicles and people drive/walk on and it is pulled across the river by a rusty old boat!  Poor Eden, who knew we were spending the night on a boat thought this was that boat!

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (9 of 26)

After crossing the river we jumped back in the bus and were on our merry way.  Then something happened which Clio talked about the entire trip, and still does since being home.  I would say that this is one of 2 highlights of the trip for her, the second occurring a couple weeks later in Cambodia.  Our bus, that was flying along these back roads slammed on the brakes so that a Mama duck and about 50 little ducklings could cross the road.

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (25 of 26)

The rest of the trip just went by in a blur of passing cars, bikes, trucks and of course the continuous sound of the horn.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay

When we finally arrived at Halong Bay our boat & crew were patiently waiting our arrival and after a short boat ride which was made that much longer by a screaming Clio because apparently lifejackets are just not in style, we were welcomed on board.

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (10 of 26)

Before I get into talking about our cruise let me first talk about the company we went through, Viola Cruise. I did a tiny amount of research and ended up settling on Viola, they aren’t the cheapest company around but they also weren’t the most expensive either.  Even with the 1.5 hour delay, that was completely out of their control, they did everything in their power to get us to the boat with minimal delays.  As it turns out all Viola cruise buses made it there (by going this back way) before the majority of the other companies; after all everyone was affected by the truck and trailer crash.

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (11 of 26)

Lucky and the crew had to reshuffle things a little since the timings were now off but we got to do everything they advertised and did not feel like we were cheated out of 1.5 hours at all!

tiny glimpse of our room; twin bed and the bathroom

tiny glimpse of our room; twin bed and the bathroom

Ok, back to our cruise!  We were welcomed onto the boat by the crew and given some welcome drinks then sat down to a delicious, buffet style lunch, before being shown to our rooms.

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (12 of 26)

We had a triple room (a double and twin bed) and all rooms had their own showers with ample hot water!  Once we were settled in the room it was time to go back on the little boat to take us over to Sung Sot Cave.  Yes Clio flipped out over the life jacket, again.

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (13 of 26)

Eden did a great job at climbing 700+ steps to get to the cave as did Matt who was carrying Clio!  We were guided around the cave by Lucky, who told all sorts of interesting tidbits about the cave as well as Halong Bay and even Vietnam.  Afterwards we jumped back on the little boat and headed to the beach where we all went swimming.  The kids absolutely loved this.

after going through Sung Sot Cave...Clio fell asleep somewhere along the way!

after going through Sung Sot Cave…Clio fell asleep somewhere along the way!

When we arrived back to the big boat the sun was setting and we were greeted with wine, juice, fruit and mini-muffins; it was just beautiful lounging out on the top deck watching the sunset over such a beautiful place.

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (14 of 26)

Later that evening we sat down to a gorgeous meal prepared by the two cooks on board.  I can not sing their praises high enough; the food was amazing, delicious and all the finishing touches were outstanding, with so much detail; there were flowers made out of vegetables and even a net made out of a carrot to cover the fresh fish.

Clio loving the beach!

Clio loving the beach!

We later found out from Lucky, that the crew only get 4 days off a month! The cooks prepare the menu based on what ingrediants are available and change it up when needed.  They also work incredibly hard, when lunch is over they go straight into preparing dinner & our meal that night took them about 6 hours to prepare for all 26 guest on board.

sun starting to set while we were at the beach...

sun starting to set while we were at the beach…

By the time dinner was over it was definitely time for Clio to head to bed after such a long, but exciting day.  While Clio and I called it a night Matt & Eden attempted to catch some squid, unfortunately the conditions weren’t ideal and no squid were caught but they still had a blast.

but we made it back to the boat just in time for this

but we made it back to the boat just in time for this

The next morning we had the option to have a tai chi lesson on the top deck as the sun was rising; which we ended up skipping in favor of more sleep, but I did hear about a few people doing it.

little glimpses of our boat

little glimpses of our boat..covered part of the top deck, bar on the top deck etc

Breakfast was buffet style serving both Vietnamese and western food and of course it was delicious.  Then it was time for kayaking.  I would have loved to do this but with Clio and her strong dislike of lifejackets we decided it would be better for us to stay back while Matt took Eden.

Clio perched on a chair watching the boats

Clio perched on a chair watching the boats

When they returned it was so fun hearing all about it from Eden; she was super excited to tell me about the monkeys (some even had babies!) that they saw climbing over the rocks; I think Matt even got a little footage which I can’t wait to see.

bottom left; our final meal the Vietnamese wedding lunch, my glorious passion fruit mojito!

bottom left; our final meal the Vietnamese wedding lunch, my glorious passion fruit mojito!

Before lunch the 2 cooks showed us how they made the amazing carrot net and flowers that accompanied our dinner the previous night before Hoi showed us how to make fresh spring-rolls; which we then got to have a go at making followed by eating!

Clio waking up, I can't express how much she loved the room/boat!

Clio waking up, I can’t express how much she loved the room/boat!

Lunch was another amazing meal, I believe we were served a traditional wedding menu!  For every 3 people a huge tray was brought out with a variety of sides, soup and meat dishes, all of it was really good!

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (20 of 26)

After lunch, bills were settled, rooms were checked out of and we lazed about until we made it back to the port to head back to Hanoi.

Fun Flying Four Halong Bay (21 of 26)

I wasn’t that excited for Halong Bay, I am not really sure why, I figured it would just be really touristy and therefore lose some of its beauty.  It was touristy but the beauty definitely was not lost.  We adored Lucky who in return adored the girls and all the crew were fantastic, we loved every minute of our Viola Cruise experience and highly recommend this company.

waiting for Papa & Eden to return from kayaking

waiting for Papa & Eden to return from kayaking

Oh and as we rode the little boat back to the port Clio had yet another meltdown, this time because Matt took too long to put the lifejacket on; I guess she decided they were fashionable after all!

Halong Bay

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32 responses to “The Journey to & around Halong Bay, Vietnam [with kids]

  1. Pingback: Riding The Reunification Express, Vietnam | FUN FLYING FOUR·

    • I am interested to see what their attitude towards travel will be like when they are older; love it, hate it etc!

      • I can’t imagine they could do anything other than love it… but it will be so much fun to see what they remember. I’m ready for Eden to start her own blog now!

      • I am excited for Eden to learn to read & write as I have so many plans for her to document her travels, right now I write postcards for her but it will be fun to see how she remembers things/her perspective

  2. Pingback: How we spent less than $25 per night in Vietnam & Cambodia! | FUN FLYING FOUR·

  3. Love the Halong Bay pics. I’ve got our trip fully booked now, minus a couple details, and this will be the highlight. We opted for the 3-day, 2 night cruise. Most of the blogs that i’ve read had comments that they’d wish they had done a longer stay there. Thank you for sharing.

    • Amazing! I’m so excited for you! Yes if we had more money/more time I definitely would have done the 2 nights cruise! Also, in hindsight I would have spent less time in Ho Chi Minh City and either spent 1 more night here or elsewhere!

  4. I love haling bay. we camped out and kayaked, which slightly older kids would love. but for this age the boat seems perfect. hope the return journey was faster! visiting from #wkendtravelinspiration

    • Wow camping and kayaking sounds amazing! I never knew you could do that! I have a friend going in a few months time with older kids..:I am totally going to mention this to her!

  5. Glad to know your family had a great time here. Your daughters are so cute and they look so happy. All the driving details remained me of Puerto Rico where drivers take the cars thru the emergency lane and green areas (and do way more crazy stuff). Definitely stressful. Thanks for joining this week’s #TravelPhotoThursday.

    • Too funny! I would love to visit Puerto Rico one day so I’ll make sure I am mentally prepared for another stressful driving experience!

  6. I laughed when you mentioned all the cars honking their horns. When we left Vietnam it was suddenly so quiet. Loved Halong Bay and loved everything about the cruise and about Vietnam itself.

    • Lol it really is loud! We really loved everything Vietnam had to offer too, I definitely hope we get to return someday!

  7. The cruise looks fab! I’m not so sure about that rickety bus though. I do wonder how people get so immune to the chaos and honking etc on the roads in some of these countries. It definitely bothers me!

    • I started to wonder that too, it felt like EVERYONE was honking but no one was listening! I wondered how effective all the honking was!

  8. The bus ride was entertaining to read about, but I’m not sure I want to be in it with my kids! I laughed out loud at the duckies!! But the cruise does look amazing, I think my kids would love it. Singapore (where I’m from) is so close to Vietnam, but yet I have never thought about visiting it with young kids. You have inspired me!

    • Oh you should totally take the kids to Vietnam! Our girls loved it (and Cambodia too) everyone was SO friendly and gave the girls lots of attention! We travelled around but I know plenty of people who just stayed at a beach resort too which also sounds lush!

    • I have been to Thailand but only Bangkok and when I was 13! I would like to go back but it definitely isn’t at the top of our ‘bucket list’

    • Thank you it really was an amazing trip….although it feels so long a go now (in reality it was less than 2 months a go!)

  9. Pingback: Show Your World, round up 13: Singapore, Canary Islands, California, Vietnam, Taiwan, Namibia, Denmark, China | Tiny Expats·

  10. Just discovered your blog! Thank you for sharing your adventures! We have 4 children we plan on taking with us in November to Vietnam! Oldest is 15, 7, 4, and a 4mth old. The kids have never stopped us from exploring. It does make it a little more challenging and you definitely need more patients but it is so worth it looking back on our pictures as a family and seeing all our adventures! I usually book each event as you have done but was thinking of going through a travel agency…..what are your thoughts on that?
    Again thanks for all your tips and I look forward to hearing from you! (By the way we live in Seoul and are always open for visitors!:)

    • You will love Vietnam! What places are you planning on visiting? I actually found it very easy to book it all ourselves, I started with flights, and because I knew which areas I wanted to visit I simply just worked out the best route, booked hotels etc. for airport pickups I emailed the hotels directly and asked if they could organize…I am so pleased I did this because some of the places were a tad overwhelming with 20+ people screaming at you that they will take you! It was definitely nice seeing our name being held up on a little piece of paper! I tend to stay away from travel agencies but mainly because I always find them too expensive but also because I love the research and planning part of trips so I have a good idea about what I want to do! But I have nothing against them either!

      Feel free to email me hannah @ funflyingfour . Com if you want to chat more about your upcoming trip! We LOVED Vietnam so much I am sure you’ll have a fab time!

      We also flew from Oki – Hanoi via Seoul with Asiana; I really liked Asiana as an airline, they were super kind, I felt like they had more leg room than other airlines and gave us meals etc.

      How long have you been in Seoul? I took my then 4.5 year old a couple years a go and we had a wonderful time…I definitely would love to return!

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