Halong Bay, Vietnam ~ Cruising on a Wooden Junk

Halong Bay Cruise-7

Cruising on the Prince II

“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” Diane Arbus

The only way to really experience Halong Bay is to cruise on a junk and spend more than one night. October was the month we traveled. The temperatures were mild and I must say conditions were perfect. One needs ideal weather to enjoy this cruise. Not one to book in winter rain, cold and fog when you spend much time out doors.

There are large junks with 16 staterooms, but that is not our style. We did observe one junk go by with one stateroom, designed with honeymooners in mind. A smiling young couple, waved at us clearly enjoying themselves from their hammocks swinging on the back deck.  Can’t blame them.

The boat we chose was the newly launched Prince II with four lovely teak lined staterooms. They were small and comfortable, each equipped with its own bathroom. Early on, we turned off the air conditioner and opened our large panoramic windows to the breezes.

Halong Bay Cruise-2

Our room with a view

There was a deck for viewing, sitting, and relaxing while taking in the breathtaking sights and an outdoors covered area for dining. The travelers aboard included a couple who lived in Paris, she Danish and he, Russian, a couple from Sydney and the four of us from the US who were traveling together. Being a small junk and the fact we were all close in age put us on common ground allowing for stimulating conversation. Books and our various book clubs being one such exchange.

Halong Bay Cruise-13

Morning coffee and tea

Halong Bay Cruise-13

Squid fishing

By reserving the two nights, three day cruise, we were able to travel further from the numerous junks all departing approximately the same time. We could become lost in the landscape, whereas the one night cruise junks tend to stay clustered. However, on our second night, we anchored with three other junks in a protected bay from the wind. A standard procedure when the really strong breezes kick up. Besides having time to read, journal, and visit with the guests, our activities included kayaking. Being at water level made us feel very small next to the giant stone karsts jutting upward.  Ron and I seemed to be going in circles while the couple from Sydney who kayak in Sydney Harbour weekly, knew what they were doing. That evening, Ron tried his hand at fishing for squid but had no luck. As a fisherman, he had to try.

Halong Bay Cruise-13

Kayaking Halong Bay

Swimming and picnicking on a lovely beach was another activity and much enjoyed. When one of the crew saw me disappear along the shoreline to collect shells, he immediately ran after me, holding out a rubber glove to store my treasures and pottery shards in, the only thing available. I appreciated his resourcefulness and the glove, shells and sand came back to the states with me.

Halong Bay Cruise-13


The highlight of the activities was visiting a floating village comprised of fishing families. This village was small and off the beaten tourist area which provided us a glimpse into their culture.  That will be a separate blog.

On our last morning, we visited a cave located midway up a karst by climbing 65 steps. The vegetation along the way was lush and plants were in bloom. The cave itself was small but interesting. Unfortunately so much has been stripped from it before it became a UNWH site. Even stalagmites were removed for use in bonsai. The views from this location were beautiful including the view of the Prince II with its oriental sails displayed.

Halong Bay Cruise-13

Exploring a cave

Evenings were spent dining on deliciously prepared dishes, one course at a time, and being entertained by the talented crew with singing. Such camaraderie. Duc, our guide and interpreter had a beautiful voice and was the story teller.

Halong Bay Cruise-13

Food carving extraordinaire

For the eight travelers on board, the staff consisted of nine including an engine expert…just in case. I can’t say enough about the junk and the crew. They were well trained, accommodating and genuinely friendly. We were, I feel, an easy and compatible group to have on board. Guides really do have an affect on one’s total experience and we were assigned a most excellent young fellow.

Bed time with the windows open to the breeze captured new scents…perhaps  something blooming along the rocks intermingled with the familiar smell of salt water. Looking out the window from our darkened room, we could see the glow of the fishermen’s lanterns through the mist and fog, a welcome presence as well as the faint rhythmic put-put of their engines.

I slept like a baby.

Halong Bay Cruise-10

Peaceful sleeping

All photos by Ron Mayhew

About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
This entry was posted in Bucket List, Musings, Travel, Vietnam and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Halong Bay, Vietnam ~ Cruising on a Wooden Junk

  1. Great post, Lynne. One of my favorite travel experiences, and one where I felt the happiest ever, was my own trip by junk to Halong Bay. You might like to read it: http://catbirdinthemekong.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/junkin-it-on-halong-bay-the-happiness-cruise/

    Your pictures are wonderful. I think I must have gone to the same cave as you did. And the bay where you anchored looks similar to the one where we anchored. I only stayed one night, but wish I had stayed two like you did! I can just imagine: two full days of bliss!

  2. Gigi Galore says:

    Oh, beautiful! So dreamy, right the way through. That last photo and your description … sweet dreams! 🙂

    • Thanks, Gigi, for your comments. It was a great experience, right down to the sleeping part. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather which is necessary for this trip. Ron’s photos tell the story.

  3. vbholmes says:

    Interesting introduction to a new area for me. Thanks.

  4. Beautiful photos. It looks like you had better (sunnier!) weather than I did during my Halong Bay tour!

  5. Hi there. From what I gather, we lucked out with beautiful weather compared to feed back I am receiving. Thanks for your comments and I look forward to visiting your blog.

  6. Lynn Sarda says:

    What a wonderful experience…so glad you and Ron shared it…..and thank you for sharing with us.

  7. Pingback: Blogs about Vietnam I « herdailydigest

  8. Just gorgeous! I cannot wait to go there. Am filled with fantasies of leaving the kids home with the nanny for some much-needed adult time with the husband. Thanks Lynne!

    • Hold on to your fantasies. Your day will come. Right now I’m enjoying your posts from Vientiane and always look forward to the photos of the twins who pop up now and then.

      • Well I’m toying with the idea of combining my personal family blog into this one which you would then get tons of the kids’ pictures but I haven’t gotten comfortable with the idea just yet. Glad to hear your feedback though and it might just motivate me to do just that. Thanks Lynne!

  9. Madhu says:

    Lovely post Lynne! And Ron’s dreamy pictures capture the tranquility so well!

  10. Thanks, Madhu. It was tranquil…but never boring. Ron’s photos certainly capture it. I agree.

  11. Beautiful! No wonder you slept like a baby!!!

  12. Sweet dreams…that’s for sure. I loved the glow of the fishermen’s lanterns.

  13. Margaret says:

    I would love to do the kayaking! It looks beautiful

  14. It was an enjoyable experience because there were so few of us…making it seem like we had the entire world to ourselves. Thank you Margaret for you comment.

  15. William Bui says:

    wow! congrats for a great post on Halong Bay, Vietnam Lynn. I love your writing and your photos too

  16. Thanks, William, for your kind words and visiting travelerlynne.

  17. ursulamanso says:

    Amazing! But I would be very happy if you could also take a look at my blog: http://travelingtobrazil.wordpress.com

  18. Lynne, your recounted tales from Ha Long Bay bring back fond memories of a trip I took there in early 2009. It’s fun to see that you busied yourself with a lot of the same activities I did then. 🙂

  19. Our trip was in 2010 and we definitely lucked out with delightful weather. As travel writers, our experiences will intersect and connect. That’s what is so enjoyable about sharing our perspectives. Thank you Tricia. I’ll certainly visit your Halong Bay post. Your Luang Prabang posts have brought back favorable memories of Laos.

  20. Amazing!! The pictures, and your words to take us through them… And love the cave with the sand-stalactites!! Great trip1! 🙂

  21. Thanks, Sumithra. It was an idyllic trip. We lucked up with great weather making visiting the cave and doing the other activities worthwhile. Take care and the best to you with final exams. 🙂

  22. Lisaman says:

    Wow that does look like a great holiday destination…would love to do a junk boat holiday!!

  23. I’ve never heard the term ‘junk’ before in reference to boats. I thought it was going to be a post about a leaky boat LOL 🙂 But this looks sublime. Especially love your room with a view 🙂

  24. Thanks, Alarna. It was sublime and thank goodness not leaky.:)

  25. Beneficial info and excellent pictures you got here! I want to thank you for sharing your ideas and putting the time into the stuff you publish! Great work!!

  26. Great post, as with the others! Thank you for bringing that part of the world a bit closer! Z

  27. Thanks, Lisa. The response has been great. Yes, It is a beautiful part of the world as is yours.

  28. Thank you very much for your comment and for visiting travelerlynne.

  29. Amazing food carvings, but I think my favorite was the restful sleeping photo. You have the most beautiful photography!

  30. Thank you, Marylin. The series on Halong Bay was a joy to write.The food carvings were quite amazing, but like you, I enjoyed a peaceful slumber.

  31. bocotypo says:

    Sounds like a great trip. Sleeping on a boat is the best ever. Never did like water beds. Happy trails!

  32. Auds says:

    Fantastic pictures! I bet you really enjoyed this one.

  33. Yes, it was a lovely trip.Thanks for your comment.

  34. barbie says:

    that sounds really fun! im really interested in the pottery shards that you found while on the beach! i collect pottery shards from beaches around the world and make jewerly out of them , and im planning a trip to vietnam now. Did you find alot? please write me at piecesofthepast@hotmail.com and let me know!!

  35. Victoria B says:

    Hi Lynne,

    I just wanted to say thankyou very much for your fantastic blog. We are due to go to Halong Bay next weekend (11-13 October) and Dragon Pearl was full so the company suggested Prince 2 junk. Your descriptions made us feel much more confident about booking this trip, so much appreciated. Fingers crossed for good weather! All the best, Victoria

    • I will keep my fingers crossed for good weather and a great travel experience. Am glad the blog descriptions helped. I’d love to know how it all goes. Best to you. Safe travels. Lynne

  36. Nice pics you have there! You should also try El Nido! 🙂

  37. cindy knoke says:

    Amazing, and that cave shot is outstanding!

  38. The cave was an unexpected bonus, even the rugged up hill walk to get to it. 😊

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s