What do you get when you mix a natural wonder of the world and a booze cruise? My trip to Halong Bay, Vietnam! If you’re looking to make new friends from all over the world while partying on a boat surrounded by gorgeous limestone islands – the Halong Bay Castaway Tour is for you!
Halong Bay is located in northeastern Vietnam and most travelers travel by bus from the city of Hanoi. The easiest way to get there is by booking an organized boat tour, which most likely will include transportation from Hanoi. There are TONS of options ranging from day trips to overnight stays so you really have to do a little research to figure out what kind of trip YOU want.
My number one priority in exploring Halong Bay was to have fun! I was traveling alone and wanted to live it up with young, international travelers so I signed up for the 3-night 2-day Halong Bay Castaways Tour through Hanoi Backpackers Hostel – Downtown. Hands down this is the best option for 18- to 35-year-olds looking for an MTV Spring Break trip. It’s described as both “epic” and one of the “party wonders” of Southeast Asia – yep, it’s all true! BEWARE of online scams like this one. The safest way to ensure you’re on the real Castaways Tour is to do it directly through the hostel, not online.
A bus picked up the gang of about thirty 20-somethings from Hanoi Backpackers Hostel – Downtown and took us on a 3 hour ride where we boarded the Halong Bay Castaway Tour. As soon as the boat started moving the drinking began. We played icebreaker games as if we were back at college orientation all while taking in gorgeous sites of limestone karst cliffs and islands.
Although the Halong Bay Castaway Tour is known for being a booze cruise, it should also be known for it’s action and water sports, including kayaking. There’s no better place to crack open beers than in kayaks, paddling in and out of caves and jumping off the boat into the water. And when the sun went down, the partying really began.
One of my favorite things about the Halong Bay Castaway Tour (satisfying my inner “Survivor”) is you get to spend a day and night on Castaway Island, an actual island in Halong Bay. We explored more of the bay by boat, finally arriving to the island in the afternoon where the trip turned into summer camp. By this point, everyone had become friends and we spent the whole day enjoying all the sports available including rock climbing, tubing, volleyball and kayaking. As an outdoor adrenaline junkie it was awesome getting to experience the bay actively, rather than simply admiring its beauty.
Throughout the day the BBQ was fired up and after drinking (and napping) consistently, night came and the island turned into a frat party. I had a blast teaching people Flip Cup and Beer Pong, playing “Truth or Dare” by the campfire, swimming in the water with glow-in-the-dark plankton and dancing on the tables.
You can probably guess that by now the third day was all about detoxing and relaxing, at least for most of the people in our group. We spent the morning chilling on the island and the afternoon resting on the boats before taking buses back to Hanoi.
I stayed at Hanoi Backpackers Hostel – Downtown before and after the Halong Bay Castaway Tour. This is a party hostel. If you’re looking for a break from partying, stay somewhere else. I met amazing people and it felt like I was reliving my Boston College days. Hanoi Backpackers is also really convenient if you’re planning on taking Castaways – you can book the trip at the front desk and a majority of the castaways stay here. Overall the accommodations at the hostel, on the boat and on the island were decent — up to par for hostel and backpacker standards.
Reminiscing about my Halong Bay Castaway Tour I still smile thinking about the friends I made. Yes the partying was fun, but two-and-a-half years later I still keep in touch with some of my fellow castaways. Before Halong Bay, I spent three weeks backpacking throughout Southeast Asia, but surprising this adventure is where I formed the longest-lasting friendships. It’s hard to think I knew most of these people for only 72 hours, but every time I see one of their Instagram or Facebook posts I feel like I’m catching up with a friend I’ve known for years. One of my favorite things about solo travel – and why I recommend it so much – is making travel friends. Thank you Halong Bay for some of the best!