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A Cooking Boat Cruise of Ha Long Bay! Sailing to Halong caves with Vietnam Food Tour.

halong bay market

No Instagram filters needed, when you’re traveling in Ha Long Bay. The humidity naturally gives you a blurred vignette effect.

Vietnam remains one of my favorite destinations of 2015. I got to live my dreams of being a Pirate… by taking a boat trip through Halong Bay, with Vietnam Food Tour!

Cooking Class on Boat in Halong Bay

We had our very own private ship, thanks to Hoa Binh Cruises. Keep on reading to see how we climbed the mast, dined on seafood, and drifed through Vietnam’s misty mountains.

ha long bay mountains, islands

I’m sure you have seen photos of Ha Long Bay before. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its green, funny-shaped islands.

The name Halong translates to “descending dragon bay” because legend says it was created by a charging dragon.

halong bay mountain backdrop, scenery

My tank top with silver pentagram symbols is by Rat Baby Clothing — get it here! I paired it with a skull scarf.

Shop more Gothic fashion by clicking below:

hanoi traffic jam

If you’re in Hanoi, going east to Halong Bay is a must (it’s a 3-4 hour drive away).

We recommend hiring a reputable driver and guide, as we did with Vietnam Food Tour. They arranged everything for us — the car, hotel, boat tour, activities. It’s absolutely worth it. We could sit back and soak everything in, without having to haggle or stress about logistics.

wet market ha long bay

Since we were on a food-centric tour, we began by visiting the local outdoor market. Like on our Hanoi tour, we saw vendors selling all sorts of fresh seafood that came straight out of Halong’s waters.

street food, vietnamese vendors

A colorful group of vendors. Our guide, Bao, told us about the special squid pie sold here. She picked up a few specialties for us to try during our cooking boat cruise.

vietnam motorcycle tour

Motorcycles zipped around us, as we took in all the colors and action.

fish market vietnam

The wet market section was full of live oddities from the sea. Locals come here to pick up the catch of the day.

halong bay limestone islands

This view is even more majestic in person. Ha Long Bay is dotted with thousands of limestone islands like these.

vietnamese fishermen, boats

We saw Vietnamese boat people refilling their supplies of water. They live and work in these floating homes.

vietnam famous islands, mountains

We learned that according to another legend, a family of dragons spat out jewels, which formed these islets and protected Vietnam from invaders.

vietnam food tour, tourists with cameras

My mate John Skeleton and I took photos non-stop — Ha Long Bay is the definition of photogenic! 

(This skull print scarf protected me from the mosquitoes.)

private cruise ha long bay

We were looking forward to the boat tour of the bay, on a Hoa Binh cruise. However, we were amazed to find… that we had the entire Pirate boat to ourselves! 

 Hoa Binh cruise boat halong bay

Vietnam Food Tour is all about custom, personal experiences — so they book their clients on private boat tours. Now that’s the life for a Pirate.

boat tour vietnam halong bay

Spreading my arms wide as we sailed, I felt like Captain Carmina. The only other people onboard were Long John Skeleton, our first mate Bao, and a few cabin members who served food and drink. (And actually steered the ship.)

vietnam boat dinner cruises

“Yo ho, there be a pirate’s cove of treasure ahead!”

climbing boat mast

John climbed the mast, all the way to the top — as you can see in our fun travel video!

boat to halong bay caves

Before long, our boat was nearing these jewel islands. We prepared for plunder.

(My tank top is by Rat Baby Clothing — more picks below.)

Dau Go Cave island bridge

Most of these islands are uninhabited, and lush with tropical vegetation. I imagined them to be hidden with secrets and chests of gold. We docked on Driftwood Island, climbed up the path…

dao go cave, grotto

.. and found ourselves in the famous Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stakes Cave).

ha long bay famous caves

The humongous grotto is filled with hanging stalactites. The shapes seemed like something from a sci-fi movie, reminding us of bones and Giger’s Alien.   

vietnam underground caves

Different parts of the cave are dramatically lit so that visitors can admire the details. Or in this case, “Hail Miffy!”

stalactites vietnam cave

That’s me at the bottom, arms raised. Like a bat in a cave.

My tiny scale of the photo conveys how grand it feels to be inside this grotto, which dates back to the Pleistocene era around 2 million years ago.

caving, cave tour vietnam

Doesn’t this look like the set from an alien horror movie?

Vietnam Food Tour organized our visit so that we came during a less busy hour– so we were able to avoid the tourists.

islands of ha long bay

I flew our flag, upon exiting. I hereby claim these caves for my crew!

luxury boat tour vietnam

A hook for a hand. Arr, there’s nothing like the Pirate’s life.

steering pirate boat wheel

We continued to explore Halong Bay. Our boating adventure is among my favorite memories of the entire year.

vietnamese seafood, mussels

Time to plunder the ship’s seafood. Our crew helped us to grill fresh clams, prawns, sea snails and other delicacies of the ocean.

cooking class halong bay

What a treat, to dine on fresh seafood while taking in these grandiose views of Halong Bay.

 

kayaking halong bay

For a closer look at the grottoes, we piled into a kayak.

islands ha long bay

What can I say? It’s an absolute dream to paddle right up to these mysterious islets, and duck through hidden tunnels that open into lagoons.

kayak tour caves vietnam

But let’s give credit where it’s due… John did pretty much all of the rowing work!

(Watch our Pirate cooking cruise in action, above and here in this video.)

lobby ha long plaza hotel

Some visitors choose to stay overnight on a boat cruise. We chose to only do a day tour, and spend the night at the top-rated Halong Plaza Hotel

ha long vietnam hotels

I was glad to sleep on a stable surface, and in a spacious room. We also enjoyed hanging out at the hotel’s lobby bar, which offers a nice selection of cocktails.

vampire afraid of garlic

Halong Plaza also had an impressive buffet breakfast, which was included with our stay. I tried the steamed rice noodles, a traditional way to start the day.

The restaurant also hangs garlic to keep vampires away!

vietnam hotel swimming pool

John took a dip in the outdoor swimming pool. The large hotel also has a sauna and gym.

ha long bay hotels view

Our room had a magnificent view of the bay and bridge, which lights up with rainbow lights at night.

Halong Plaza Hotel view

The manager took us to the rooftop — what a view!

vietnamese small fish

For dinner, our guide took us to a classic seafood restaurant. As always, Vietnamese food was full of fresh, healthy flavors. We had soup with ginger and this small fish found only in Ha Long Bay. 

ha long bay night market

Then, we went to the Halong Bay night market to shop. The night market has a new location, with a modern setup.

knock off hello kitty

The vendors sell everything from Vietnamese loose tea, to beaded Hello Kitty purses…

stuffed goat head devil

… to a stuffed goat head! Mr Skeleton shows his appreciation for the horned one.

green skull ashtray

The goat was a bit too large to take home, so he decided on this green skull. Pop the top, and there’s a space to keep treasures.

halong bay 4-star hotel

Thanks to Halong Plaza Hotel for the excellent service and big rooms. They’re one of highest rated hotels in Ha Long Bay for a reason.

north vietnam cruise tour

And of course, to our guides Vietnam Food Tour. Their Savor Vietnam package, which includes sailing around Halong Bay, let us see the best of Northern Vietnam.

halong bay unesco heritage site

Have my Vietnam travel stories convinced you to come here yet? If you have questions about traveling, or anything at all, please let me know in the comments! 

SHARE & COMMENT

32 Comments

  1. Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    <3<3<3<3

  2. Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous!!

  3. Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    this is the trip of my dreams too

    • Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

      One of my favorite days of this entire year.

  4. Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    very beautiful

  5. Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    :D

  6. Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Love the photos! Absolutely beautiful!

  7. Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful…!

  8. Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    love your coutfit!!

  9. Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    GREAT

  10. Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow!

  11. Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    TAKE ME THERE! I

    • Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      Vietnam food tour can!

  12. Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    A few weeks and we’ll be there! Can’t wait.

  13. Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    you need to come to malaysia pls

    • Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      I really want to.

  14. Posted December 6, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    you cute :)

  15. Posted December 6, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    thank you so much for the photos of vietnam

    • Posted December 8, 2015 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      I took so many – what a beautiful country!

  16. Posted December 6, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing. It was such a joy to have you here

    • Posted December 8, 2015 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      Aww thank you!

  17. Posted December 6, 2015 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    how do you decide where to go next?

  18. Posted December 6, 2015 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy your blog thoroughly XX

  19. Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    come back to Hanoi!

    • Posted December 8, 2015 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      We want to soooooon

  20. Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    beautiful :3 :)

  21. Posted December 8, 2015 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    take me

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