Halong Bay Vietnam is one of the Seven Wonders of Nature and should be a mind blowing experience…right?
Not for me it wasn’t!
When I arrived in Hanoi, my friend living there helped me arranged a tour with one of the local companies. Halong Bay is actually not located in Hanoi. But, it’s the closest big city that people arrive in to join a tour.
The journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay
The very next day, my friend dropped my off at the opera house in Hanoi. This is the location where tourist get picked up to be taken to Halong Bay. The process seems simple enough. You drive to the city of Halong, get loaded up on the boats, then start your tour.
Unfortunately for me, things aren’t going as smoothly as expected…
Right when I arrived at Halong, they didn’t know which tour group to put me on. I ended up sitting in front of this coffee shop for hours before someone randomly said they I can join their tour. So much for organizing the tour ahead of time.
After paying for the tour which costs me 660,000 VND (about $45 CAD), we were on our way to Halong Bay. More problems began as soon as I boarded the small boat. Tourist from Thailand are screaming at the tour guide calling him a liar and they don’t trust him. I wonder what that’s about?
I’ll soon learn later that the tour group has this tendency to sneak in extra expenses to the tourist which upsets many people.
The Halong Bay tour begins
The tour itself was just okay, I thought Halong Bay was nice but it wasn’t mind blowing as I thought it would be. Perhaps it’s because I was distracted by all the conflict in the ship to focus on relaxing and enjoying the natural wonder.
During the tour, we were fed with Vietnamese food that is included in the tour. The food itself was okay, but nothing to rave about.
The boat took us around Halong bay to see the famous rock formations that cover the port. We also docked by a cove where you can pay extra to try kayaking.
After the cove, we docked at a port where you can hike the inside of one of the Halong Bay caves.
After the tour was complete, we headed back to the city of Halong. Suddenly, the tour group dropped the bomb on me. My bus ride back to Hanoi is not included and I have to pay extra. What? They told me it was included as part of the fee I paid… No wonder the Thai tourist were angry earlier because of their dirty tactics tacking in extra expenses to tourist.
After arguing with them and clearly being upset, they gave in and “let me” board the bus without paying anything extra. Their slimy tactics and lousy customer service is disheartening and partially ruined my experience seeing Halong Bay.
I honestly did not enjoy visiting Halong Bay thanks to the poor service I received. Quite honestly, the best way to enjoy Halong Bay is to shell out good money and pay for a quality tour operator. People in Hanoi are generally unpleasant. It’s probably because it’s always dark, gloomy and raining there. The lack of vitamin D is making them grumpy.
If Halong Bay wasn’t so close and if I didn’t have a friend that lived there, I would not visit Hanoi. The chance of me returning to Hanoi or Halong Bay is very slim.
Out of all the Seven Wonders of Nature I have seen, at this point, I would rank Halong Bay at the very bottom of the list. Places like the Philippines’ underground river or Indonesia’s Komodo Dragon tour is so much more better. I think the Vietnamese tour groups have a lot to learn about customer service from their neighbouring countries who also have their own Seven Wonders of Nature.