We landed in Hanoi in Northern Vietnam around 9pm on Saturday May 7, 2016. We took a taxi to the hotel we booked for the evening and went in search of nourishment. Everything in the area started closing early (despite being a weekend) and it became increasingly more frustrating as the hanger settled in. Eventually, we ended up going to a little restaurant next door to our hotel which was enough to tide us over.
The next morning, we had breakfast in the lobby and checked out as the luxury van pick-up for our cruise arrived. We had decided to splurge on a luxury cruise with Indochina's Dragon Pearl junk boat cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay. There were many options for Halong Bay tours, however Indochina is the only company with permission to tour Bai Tu Long Bay, next to Halong Bay but much less touristy. It was one of the best decisions I had made!
The area on the Bay was lovely and lush. It was refreshing not being surrounded by a crowd of other tourist boats, and actually quite relaxing. We kayaked through the Bay 2 of 3 days of our tour, but the highlight was the dinner in a cave. We spent the few hours before dinner on a private beach on the island the cave was located. We took a kayak and went out on the water circling the near islands before heading back to the ship to get ready for dinner. I had secretly arranged for a special birthday surprise during the cave dinner and Indochina delivered! They surpassed all expectations and I was so happy they were able to accommodate. Though it was a day before his actual birthday, it was certainly a surprise and definitely memorable. After a fabulous and romantic 10-course dinner in a cave (as romantic as it could be with 20 people!), they asked him to close his eyes and surprised him with a birthday cake and a small souvenir of a shell with "Halong Bay" written on the side. The whole experience was simply amazing.
We spent the next two days exploring Hanoi, including a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake, and a stop by Cafe Giang for authentic egg coffee; a specialty of Hanoi. We made friends with the other guests on the cruise, and we even managed to meet a few for drinks in Hanoi before everyone departed to continue on their separate journeys. We met at Beer Corner, a popular area for drinks among locals and tourists alike. Hanoi is a well known destination for young budget travelers, especially with its countless happy hour deals. Certainly an interesting experience!