I’m still always surprised at how far a dollar can go when you’re traveling outside the US.
I think the original reason I went to Vietnam was to see Halong Bay and the way to do it is on a cruise.
Of all the places I've traveled to alone, this one was extremely beautiful and a little awkward. If you want to choose the best option for yourself, read below and maybe do things a little diffeently.
There are a few options but for me, it boiled down to a party cruise or non-party cruise. I know it sounds strange but after Thailand, I had about had it with drunk hostel parties so I went for the non-party option.
It turns out the non-party option is for older people and families and honestly, I was kind of acting like a grumpy old man at the thought of more drunk 20-year-old Europeans so it's my own fault.
I got a cruise for $95 for two days and one night, and for once it wasn’t the cheapest option! I think if I had it to do over, I’d do a party cruise. It’s probably the way to go as a solo-traveler.
That being said, I had a great time. It was just kind of awkard.
It doesn't make a ton of difference which agency you book through, all cruises are very similar. It's just about who you get on the boat.
It turned out to be really nice ship with a comfortable boat and good food.
The only weird part was there were only two of us on the boat who were traveling alone, me and a South Korean man named Jun, so we had to share a room and a kayak and all of that. He was a good sport about it even though he barely spoke English.
At this point I had stayed in so many hostel dorm rooms that sharing a room with a complete stranger was not uncomfortable at all, but I think it was uncomfortable for Jun.
There was also a Chinese family, a couple from Russia and a group from Germany. When the Russians asked me where I was from and I said the US, the man replied by punching his two fists together and making an angry face. I assumed that was symbolic of the US-Russia relationship and laughed. I think he felt bad because he immediately kissed my hand and said, “so sorry, you a very lovely lady.”
The bay itself was incredibly beautiful. This trip is kind of a photographer's dream.
Not being a photographer, I used my iPhone and did what I could but you could really have fun with a nice camera here.
After the craziness and non-stop traffic of Vietnam, it was so peaceful to be on a boat quietly winding between the islands.
We did day activities like kayaking through the tunnel in the bottom picture. I said, “it’s really pretty here, isn’t it Jun?” He said, “Yes, but all I am thinking of is Avatar.”
There were also caves, some aggressive monkeys and time to read and relax.
Bring a book or something to do.
It rained most of the time but it is so warm you don’t really notice. You could sit out on the upper deck and see schools of fish jumping out of the water in unison below.
At night all the boats light up with their lights shining across the water. There’s a bar onboard the boat and like everywhere here, karaoke too.
Little long boats pull up alongside us selling wine and snacks. It’s incredibly peaceful. It’s also funny because you look out on the bay and you can hear the party boats playing music late into the night.
I really liked this trip. I liked it because it was peaceful and scenic.
The social aspect was a bit uncomfortable.
If I had to do it again, I think I'd go with a party cruise but it would also mean missing out on some of the tranquility of the experience and that was really something I needed after the chaos of travel the last month.
So choose what option feels best for you. The activities are pretty much the same either way. It's just about how you want to experience it.