Handspan Travel Indochina
Hanoi based Handspan Travel receives very positive reviews for its numerous offerings but none more so than its one or two-night cruises on an authentic junk cruise on world heritage listed Halong Bay. A four-hour mini bus ride from vibrant and chaotic Hanoi takes us to the large and very busy port at Halong City to board the spacious Treasure Junk which boasts 14 cabins and two suites. After only one-hour cruising in calm and protected waters, we are immersed in emerald green waters surrounded by the world’s most spectacular towering limestone islands. There are nearly two thousand islands in Halong Bay which means that despite heavy maritime traffic, it feels like we have a massive marine park all to ourselves.
Booking, departure and boarding
Booking is easy via Handspan’s website with all major credit cards accepted. It is always good to pay in advance so that the final bill only includes drinks purchased onboard. After many years of perfecting its tours, Handspan has a very efficient transfer and boarding process via a stable tender. There is minimal waiting around which helps to maximise the time spent at sea. The crew gives all guest a very warm welcome and personally shows us around the ship and escorts us to our cabins.
While the regular cabins are very satisfactory, the suites are definitely worth the slightly higher fare and come fully fitted with large bed, sofa, spacious bathroom with a spa bath and private stern balcony. The extra space means that the cabins are a perfect place to quietly and privately relax while watching the incredible tree topped rock formations glide past.
Each well-clean, air-conditioned cabin is well stocked with bathroom amenities, fruit and drinking water. The beds are firm but not hard and the fresh sea air and gentle rocking of the very stable boat makes for one of the best night’s sleep possible.
A real highlight on board is the wide variety of very well-presented cuisine. A combination of western and Vietnamese dishes provides diverse selection for all tastes. Fares include all meals. The substantial breakfast buffet is expansive and is accompanied by tea, coffee and juices. Lunch and dinner are either fixed menu or large buffets with all dietary requirements catered for when bookings are confirmed. Our group was extremely complimentary of the quality and freshness of the meals provided at all stages of our cruise. The service at meal times was faultless and a nice tip for the very attentive staff at departure was well earned.
In contrast to the much larger ships, the Treasure Junk is able to cruise deeper into the islands of Halong Bay and away from the crowds. Our smaller group could also enjoy numerous activities in a more private setting. Some of the all-inclusive activities provided include kayaking through the beautiful small bays and islands and exploring un-spoilt limestone caves formed over millions of years of rainfall seeping through the high limestone structures.
One of the most popular outings was a gentle rowing boat trip around islands and caves past small floating fishing villages and finishing at a fascinating pearl farm.
At 0630 every morning one of the crew leads a traditional Tai Chi class with gently choreographed movements designed to boost circulation and mental well being ready for a perfect new day. After dinner guest can try squid fishing from the tender and then a Vietnam themed movie or TV show at 9pm in the main dining room.
Our guide informed us that exciting new activities are launching soon including snorkeling on reefs, BBQ’s on the beach and candlelight dinner in the limestone caves.
There were many highlights on the Treasure Junk cruise including:
– Exceptional service and organization
– Recommend more than one night to enjoy all the sights and relax
– Very good value for money with meals and activities included
– Relax in the sun-deck enjoying views of amazing emerald water while drifting through towering, scenic islands
– Many activities which are relaxing and interesting
– A wide range of good quality meals
– Spacious and clean cabins and bathrooms – especially the suites
– A very good night’s sleep in protected waters
– Overall one of the most amazing three days of travel in a very beautiful part of the world
Reviewed by: Tony Hall, Editorial Director Asia Pacific, Travel Daily Media Group