Everyone we spoke to about our upcoming time in Vietnam suggested we visit Halong Bay. Located in northeast Vietnam, it's known for its bright blue waters and towering limestone islands dotting the horizon.
We'd heard the area could get really touristy, expensive and overcrowded, so we opted to spend the money on a small boat tour.
There are a number of junk boat tours, but we opted for Indochina Junk's three day, two night tour with a stop at a floating fishing village and plenty of opportunities to kayak.
We ended up having a fantastic time. The boat could accommodate up to 40 or so guests, but we only have a group of about 30, so there was plenty of space.
Our rooms were incredibly nice and large. After our 28-day cruise on the Mediterranean, I was expecting tiny cabins.
My favorite part of our cabin was the bathroom though. This was the view from the tub:
Each meal was seated with multiple courses, and we had fun joking with our waiter, nicknamed Tom Cruise. Although the service was great, every meal was comprised of local dishes (very meat heavy), and I was hungry for some western options by the end of the tour.
Each morning the crew offered tai chi on the roof top dech, so you could have a nice early morning stretch while watching the limestone islands float by. It was a great start to the morning!
During the course of the cruise, we took smaller boats out to an abandoned fishing village.
We also visited a pearl farm and got to see how salt water pearls are grown and harvested. An employee even popped open an oyster right in front of us and fished out a pearl.
From the ship, we also had plenty of opportunities to kayak, swim or just relax and take in this gorgeous view.
All told our tour cost $356 per person for three days and two nights. That covered our accommodations, all food and activities, plus private transfer in a really nice van (with wifi!) all the way to and from our hotel in Hanoi.