Ha Long Bay, a place of peacefulness and beauty, is a mesmerizing and mystical place to visit.
Waking up to the picturesque rock formations was a sight to behold and no matter in which direction you looked, the view was breathtaking.
For three days and two nights, the Au Co Cruise opened my eyes to the unbelievable UNESCO World Heritage Listed site that is Ha Long Bay.
The Au Co Cruise is a division of the Bhaya Cruise Group which boasts the biggest fleet of cruisers on the bay with a convoy of 19 ships.
After a four hour bus ride from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, we arrived at the gangway for Bhaya Cruises where we boarded our Au Co Cruise.
Out of all the ships on the bay, the Au Co is the only continuous two night cruise and as such can go much deeper into the mystical Ha Long Bay
A traditional Vietnamese welcoming consisting of drums and flag waving greeted us at the bridge to the boat, and fresh juice awaited us on board.
We enjoyed a very intricate five course meal for lunch, themed to cover all elements; water, wood, fire, earth and metal, and we soon realised what makes the Au Co ship a cut above the rest.
By early afternoon, the ship had reached one of the outer parts of the bay, almost untouched by any other cruise.
From here, our group kayaked under a cave straight to a private beach, where we enjoyed kicking around a soccer ball, cooling off in the crystal waters and enjoyed the beautiful, storybook surroundings before us.
After kayaking back to the cruise ship, we took part in a Vietnamese cooking demonstration, led by the head chef of the ship, where the Vietnamese spring rolls were a true standout.
Once again, the dinner was themed to reflect the five elements, after which guests headed to the rooftop bar to enjoy a drink, relish in the surroundings and try their hand at squid fishing.
It was then time to catch up on some sleep, which was easy in the comfort of the top of the line rooms that the Au Co provides.
Our final day started by waking up to light shining through my exclusive private balcony, the warmth drawing me to the panoramic view it delivered.
A great buffet breakfast, combining Vietnamese and Western styles was provided and trying a Vietnamese coffee was a must, yet unique experience.
The activity was a visit to the Vung Vieng floating village, which we were leisurely guided through to the village by locals in their bamboo boats.
For lunch we enjoyed another take on the five elements, during which the cruise made its way to the secluded Cat Ba Island, where we visited the Au Co Organic Farm and met some of the happy locals who lived in the village, a fun, five kilometer bike ride from the port.
Coming back to the boat made everyone hot and sweaty and a swim in the Viet Hai Lagoon was a welcome experience, with the brave among us opting to dive off the boat into the calm waters below.
We boarded the ship once again to enjoy the last dinner on the cruise which was a traditional BBQ feast on the sun deck of the cruise, and after watching the sunset and lights beaming off the neighbouring ships one last time, our group departed to their rooms for a good final night’s rest on board the Au Co Cruise.