Csuise date : April 2012
I searched Tripadvisor for the best Halong Bay cruise provider and found top of the class Bhaya. I knew that a day tour would kill me and an overnight tour shamefully short. So I opted for a 3days and 2 nights package. Upon arrival at my hotel in Hanoi (Hotel de L’Opera, great choice), I received an email from Bhaya informing me that they were offering me an upgrade to their newest boat, the Au Co. I knew about the Au Co from my extensive research online so I was aware that their rate was out of my price range. This was much too good an opportunity to pass up so I kissed my wooden junk cruise idea goodbye. Traveling to Halong Bay on board the Au Co turned out to be one of the most unforgettable travel experiences of my life!
The Au Co was resplendent as expected, unblemished after its launch in the first week of April. My cabin had a queen bed, private toilet and bath, and a balcony, good news to someone mildly claustrophobic like me.A soft bed, down comforter, fluffy pillows and towels, warm water, a welcome drink of orange juice, an unlimited supply of Vietnamese coffee and a sweeping view of Halong Bay’s limestone karsts, and I was a happy girl.But the gods must have known that I needed more coddling because for the next three days I was also indulged with some of the most delectable dishes I’ve ever tasted anywhere in the world. I wanted to weep after the first course, more so when I met the chef during a cooking demo. A virtual baby in the cooking world at 25 years old! A certified chef for sure but with no hard to pronounce credentials – just plain talent.
For the next three days, I explored quiet lagoons on kayak, rode with a Vietnamese road warrioress on a motorbike in Cat Ba island, communed with locals in a floating village, marveled at unusual rock formations at Sung Sot cave, fished for squid before bedtime. Even the weather cooperated with gentle winds, a considerate sun, enough blue skies and a fair respite of clouds.