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Friday, December 15, 2017
Authors Posts by Carin Skowronsky

Carin Skowronsky

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Carin is a zealous, razzle-dazzle, granola-making, wine-drinking Minnesota travel writer and the master mind behind Pairs Well With... blog. Pairs Well With…is a deep dive into the fascinating dynamics of travel, culture, growth, love and overall personal well-being. Just like perfectly paired wines can accentuate the flavors of a meal, the pairing for each of her posts enhances the emotional depth of her relatable life experiences. A marketing maven and brand builder by day, a vivacious world travel writer by night, Carin shares her worldly adventures through her writing while being part of the Remote Year program.

Review 2 Days 2 Nights trip in Halong Bay, Vietnam | Carin Skowronsky

Ha Long Bay, located in northern Vietnam and accessible from Hanoi, is a must-see destination on your Vietnam travel. Ha Long Bay offers exhilarating experiences, from unforgettable seaplane rides with Hai Au Aviation to kayaking in some of the bay’s most coveted area. The enchanting activities in this northeast region will make you want to stay longer than you had originally planned, and heighten your sense of wanderlust. Halong Bay seaplane flight review Halong Bay

Shortly after moving to Vietnam, I decided to plan a peaceful, out of the city quick trip.  I chose to visit Ha Long Bay with a quick one-night stop in Hanoi.

To get to Ha Long Bay, you will first need to get to Hanoi.  While there are plentiful options for transportation, I chose to travel by Hai Au’s scenic seaplane tour. Therefore, I could get a good aerial view of the bay.  When you Google “Vietnam,” you’re almost always bound to have pictures of Ha Long Bay come up in your search. These images will fill you with wanderlust beyond belief.  The bay is an absolute must-see, and I wanted to see it from a different angle.  Now that I had my transportation set, I was ready for my big adventure!

DAY 1: ENJOY THE MAGNIFICENT VIEWS

review Halong Bay trip review Halong BayTravel day arrived, and I greeted it with my new favorite, a Vietnamese coffee.  I spent most of the morning, and my hour long Uber ride to the airport, thinking about the fun flight ahead, as well as what I wanted to do with my two short days in Ha Long Bay.  With a few ideas in mind, I decided I would finalize plans upon arrival after I talked with local excursion companies.

Halong bay view from seaplane review Halong BayUntil then, I planned to sit back and enjoy the flight and its magnificent views. (If you ever have the chance to ride on a seaplane, don’t hesitate – book it!  There’s nothing else like it.)  I don’t know about you, but the thrill of a water landing excited me since it was something I’d never done before. The scenic flight gets you to Ha Long Bay in a quick 45-minutes, plus a 15-minute tour up close and personal around the bay. The Hai Au Aviation staff is friendly and makes your flight a memorable one.  What better way to arrive in style than with a splash landing in radiant turquoise waters?

Carin's Halong Bay window view from seaplane review Halong Bay

Hai Au Aviation operates out of Noi Bai International Airport, the closest airport near Ha Long Bay, Vietnam; and offers daily flight times, as well as charter and tour package options.  Worth every penny, you’ll experience the best aviation in Vietnam.

review Halong Bay tripWhen we landed in the bay, I finalized the activities I wanted to pursue and headed to my accommodation to change, lock in my next day plans and get back out the door to explore. I walked the streets for a while, wandering aimlessly, but taking in every little bit of culture. Fortunately, I discovered a market where vendors were selling street food including seafood dishes, fresh fruit and Pho. I also purchased a handful of items, which I’d cook for dinner at some point. All of the scents from the market made me hungry and drove me into the first café I spotted. I noshed on a late lunch of beef stir-fry, a good dish to warm me up on this brisk afternoon.

review Halong Bay

Not too long after lunch, it started to rain, so it was back to my Air B&B to work the remainder of the evening and prepare for the one-day cruise I booked through Ha Binh Cruises. You’re probably wondering why I brought my work with me to such a beautiful destination.  After all, I am in Ha Long Bay. The beauty of travel writing is that it allows me to work on the go from all over the world. No complaints here!

Tips

One thing to note if you’re traveling to Ha Long Bay this time of year, bring warm clothes for layering as it can be chilly. While you’ll find it to be more hot and humid between April and September, you can expect October through March to be dry, but also chilly at times, especially if you’re on the water moving at a fast speed.

DAY 2: ONE DAY CRUISE HALONG BAY

Revived and ready to go after an early morning wake up call and pick up by Ha Binh Cruises, I boarded the bus that would take me to the Tuan Chau Marina where we would set sail. The 6-hour cruise I booked included the things I wanted to see and do: kayaking, floating villages and the Thien Cung Cave.

review Halong Bay tripThe first, and maybe my favorite, stop on the cruise was to Thien Cung Cave. Beautifully lit, this cave’s ambiance is one to be unmatched against any other cave I’ve seen. You’ll walk the guided concrete paths while taking in the stunning rock formations and natural beauty that lies within.

review Halong Bay tripMy other favorite stop on the cruise was for us to go kayaking. But I didn’t realize it would be within the Ba Hang floating villages!  It was the most fantastic time.  For a small fee, Ha Binh offers the option to self-paddle a kayak or ride in a bamboo boat while having a local lead the way.  I chose to paddle in and out of the boat villages for a closer look at the way these locals live.  While you’re floating by, you notice the simplicity of the floating village lifestyle – and it is fascinating.review Halong Bay trip - floating village

The remainder of the afternoon on the boat consisted of a family-style lunch, mingling with other fellow travelers and cruising on the water while taking stock of the main islands as we’d pass by, occasionally stopping to visit a few. review Halong Bay trip

One of the best parts about traveling is meeting other like-minded individuals from all over the world. In the travel time between destinations throughout the day, I had the chance to converse with many individual. All shared their personal backgrounds, travel history and reason for this particular visit to Ha Long Bay.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about each person’s life journey.

Review Halong Bay tripAs our day concluded, I realized how much activity I was able to fit into one day. Man, I certainly got a lot done, didn’t I? Somehow, I was starting to get hungry again.  It must have been all that hard work paddling through the bay. I thanked myself for buying goods for dinner at the market the day prior. So by the time the shuttle dropped me off, I was tired from the big day I’d had.

This good ‘ole day deserved a glass of wine. After all, this trip had been a major success.  Who says you can’t do a lot in two days time? With that, I whipped up a tasty and easy pizza made with fresh local ingredients and raised a glass to the fact that I had a magnificent time. 

The next morning, with only a few expendable hours before my return seaplane flight, I stopped at the café around the corner from where I was staying.  As it turns out, there were a few English-speaking locals. They were interested in my profession, and we chatted briefly about work over matcha lattes.

The time had come for me to say goodbye to Ha Long Bay. With reluctance for leaving this exquisite city and World Heritage site, I boarded my flight.  At least I would be able to enjoy the extraordinary views one last time before flying back to Hanoi.

This is, and always will be, a trip to remember.

Amazing round trip flight Hanoi to Halong Bay with Hai Au Aviation

Right before moving to Vietnam for the month of March, I spent time researching places I would visit and activities I would check off my bucket list. What city was on the top of my list to visit? Ha Long Bay, of course!  It was only a question of how best to travel  there.

travel Hanoi to Halong BayThere are many transportation options available to get you to Ha Long Bay, but I wanted the most exciting, especially since I was planning the trip of a lifetime. For me, that meant traveling by seaplane, where islets and islands feel just beyond reach, and the water landing makes you feel as though you are practically walking on water. There was only one option for this experience: Hai Au Aviation, the first and only seaplane service in Vietnam. With that, I booked my flight and the countdown until takeoff was on.

ARRIVAL IN HANOI CITY

I departed for my journey to Ha Long Bay from Ho Chi Minh City. I booked an Uber, an easy $4 USD and fast 20-minute ride to the Tan Son Nhat International Airport for my flight to Hanoi. To get to Ha Long Bay, you will first need to fly to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. Based on pictures I had seen, I felt it necessary to leave a day early so I could stay a night in the capital before my flight with Hai Au Aviation.

I woke up early after my night in Hanoi, extremely excited to seize the day by seaplane. I left my accommodation in Hanoi earlier than necessary – and good thing I did! What was estimated to be a 40-minute commute to the airport ended up taking just over an hour with the considerable amounts of traffic on the road. Always plan ahead and leave early!

CHECK-IN AT NOIBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

travel Hanoi to Halong Bay

Upon arriving at the Noi Bai International Airport, I went in search of Hai Au Aviation check in which is Counter 109, Lobby E, Terminal 1. The gentleman at the counter warmly greeted me with a friendly smile and hello.  He asked for my passport, whether I was carrying any weapons or other dangerous contaminants, and then weighed my luggage.

Hai Au allows only 7 kilos of combined luggage (carry on + a personal item), so pack accordingly. To ensure that the flight doesn’t exceed weight regulations, they will ask you to step on the scale. (Don’t worry, those numbers are strictly between you and the airline, but it is for everyone’s safety.) 

travel Hanoi to Halong BayOnce the airline gathered all of my information, I was given my fancy looking paper ticket and personally walked over to the boarding gate, a nice touch and a nod to the excellent service of the airline! I felt like a million bucks. Overall, check in was a smooth, seamless and pleasant process, not something I’m always confident in saying when I travel. Rest assured your experience will be just so.

travel Hanoi to Halong BayOnce I got through security, I had 30 minutes to spare before boarding. If you have extra time before your flight, consider fueling your day with a traditional Vietnamese Coffee.  They are delightfully tasty! When it was time to board, everyone on my flight walked down a flight of stairs to a bus. Thank goodness for the bus because it started to lightly rain, but that wasn’t going to dampen my highly anticipated flight experience!

DEPARTURE FOR HALONG BAY, VIETNAM

The pilots briefed all passengers on proper safety regulations and ensured we were ready for takeoff. The motor moved from a quiet hum to a revved up engine. With a quickness, we were off into the skies. The scenic flight from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay is about 45 minutes with a 15-minute scenic tour of the bay, much quicker than any other way to travel!

seaplane review Halong hai Au aviation

THE FLIGHT

The first 20 minutes of the flight, because it was a hazy day, we went through a sea of white clouds. The pilot assured us that the weather would break for good views as we neared Ha Long Bay. My eyes lit up with the first glimpse of the green-blue waters I’d been waiting to see. I took stock of the lush greenery that delicately complimented the tranquil jade waters.  Each islet felt strategically placed so that every view at any moment was perfect.

seaplane review Halong hai Au aviationThe fog finally dissipated and all that lied ahead were endless island views, the snapshots that postcards are made of. For a moment, before even pulling out my camera like the rest of the passengers, I appreciated the beauty in the surrounding nature. Even as a worldly, seasoned traveler, I’d never seen anything like these Ha Long Bay views before.

The views captivated everyone on the plane for the duration of the scenic tour. Those of us on board took hundreds of photos and captured many minutes of video as a reminder of the allure that motivated us to book this experience in the first place. Ha Long Bay is but a dream.

As luck would have it, due to an abundance of air traffic, we would be held captive in a holding pattern. With no complaints, we all enjoyed each other’s company and basked in the thrill of our travels, and for me, the fun I would have in Ha Long Bay for the next two days.

THE LANDING

After our scenic tour and once we can see the land, we faced our most anticipated moment, our grand entrance into Ha Long Bay – our splash landing! From cargo ships to floating villages and fisherman, the details of what lied beneath us became more recognizable as our plane descended and the waters became more radiant in color.

We hovered inches above the water as we continued to descend. The anticipation of touching the water, along with our excitement, continued to build. The landing was so soft and smooth that I almost didn’t realize we had hit the water. The plane glided through the bay for a handful of minutes as we slowed our momentum and taxied to our gate. When I think of being “on the water”, I think of being in a boat, not a plane. It was a funny concept for me to get my head around.

ARRIVAL AT TUAN CHAU MARINA, HALONG

The plane taxied for five minutes to what looked like a boat ramp, which we drove up to our gate at Tuan Chau Marina. Upon arrival, our two pilots thanked us for flying with the both of them and hoped we had thoroughly enjoyed our flight. The gentleman who met me upon deplaning offered to help me grab a taxi to my accommodation in Ha Long Bay.

RETURN FLIGHT TO HANOI CITY

My two days in Ha Long Bay flew by quickly, and it was time to head back to Hanoi. The minute I stepped foot in the Hai Au offices at the marina, the staff greeted me, asked about my stay in the bay and offered me a seat. The gentleman checking me in traded me a cold bottle of water for my passport. Within minutes, I had checked in and ready to board my return flight.

seaplane review Halong hai Au aviationI was very much interested in our takeoff, this time from the water versus the airport runway. The plane glided into the bay and propelled us to the spot at which we would take off through the water and up into the air. It felt like you are on a high-speed boat until we reached the speed to take flight into the skies.

What a truly wonderful travel experience this was. I can’t say enough great things about my round-trip sightseeing flight. Given a chance to go to Ha Long Bay again, I wouldn’t change a thing and would most certainly travel with Hai Au Aviation

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WEATHER

Hanoi
light rain
26 ° C
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26 °
88%
3.6kmh
75%
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