Handspan tours are a little pricier than some of the other tours, but the quality is just what you'd expect. We paid $35pp for a 2-day trip into Halong Bay, including all meals and an excursion to a cave. You can't beat that price anywhere else in the world!
Halong Bay is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world, surely among the best natural wonders. High limestone cliffs loom out of emerald waters, cast in fog. There are moments of quiet where you might think you are all alone in this bay. The water is so calm and warm that you can swim right off the side of the boat.
Our tour stopped off at a cave, all lit up like Disneyland and filled with Vietnamese tourists. I have to admit that the cave tour wasn't all I expected, but it's a nice break.
In the evening, we docked the boat near a fishing village and sat on board all night talking. One option was to take a small boat to the fishing village, or over to a nearby island. However, we enjoyed our little tour group - 13 in all - so much that we spent the night drinking wine and sharing stories.
Our tour guide, Bich (pronounced Bic), was fantastic! She gave us a great perspective on Vietnamese people today, and was really fun to hang out with. Handspan's staff is another reason to travel with them! In addition, Handspan is very aware of environmental issues and takes care not to pollute. Halong Bay is beautiful from any boat, but the Handspan company is a joy to travel with.
Some Handspan tours are longer, and permit visitors to kayak to a small private island to spend the night. Other tours stop off at the beautiful Cat Ba island, a national park. They also go up for hill tribe treks in Sapa, and on motorcycle rides around the countryside. I had heard that their Halong Bay tour was the best, and furthermore that it was very difficult to do Halong Bay without a tour group.
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