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The Au Co Halong Bay

The Au Co Halong Bay, Northern Vietnam

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If you really want to explore the beauty of Halong Bay, with its towering limestone islands, and emerald water, you can’t beat an overnight cruise on board a ‘junk’ boat. Named after the mother goddess of Vietnam, the Au Co is one of the largest ships in Halong Bay, though you won’t be able to tell when you step inside your cabin, which offers privacy, luxury and mesmerising views in equal measure.

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The Au Co Halong Bay
  • rooms

    The Au Co has 32 handsome wood cabins with balconies. Choose from a Deluxe Cabin, Grand Deluxe Cabin and Executive Cabin, or for even more indulgence go for a Long Quan Suite or Au Co Suite. Families wishing to stay together should book a Deluxe or Executive cabin, which feature interconnecting rooms.

    Measuring 20 square metres, the Deluxe and Grand Deluxe cabins have private balconies with tables and chairs, while the Executive Cabin has panoramic windows and a higher vantage point. All have chic interiors of hardwood floors and handcrafted furniture, with pops of colour such as green feature walls, while bathrooms have walk-in showers and bathtubs.

    Long Quan is the most spacious and luxurious suite, located at the stern of the ship and measuring 40 square metres. It features vast floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto a wide balcony, as well as a large wood bathroom with a spotless tub and separate shower. At the bow of the ship, the Au Co suite also boasts a wide balcony with panoramic views of the bay, and is decorated in bright and airy tones and with contemporary artwork.

  • facilities & activities

    This is a cruise with all the trimmings – both onboard and off. For time at sea, there’s a spa with dark wood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can watch the watery world go by while getting your aches massaged away. There’s also the option of having treatments al fresco, or arrange a treatment in your cabin for extra privacy. You can also wallow in the candle-lit, open-air Jacuzzi, sipping a cocktail as the sun sets across the bay. Other facilities include a library with a table and chairs and shelves piled high with hundreds of books and magazines for guests to borrow.

    For something a little more active, start the day with a complimentary Tai Chi lesson on the sundeck, which is lined with loungers and umbrellas, perfect for unwinding in the sunshine. This is also the location free cooking lessons and demonstrations in the afternoons, as well as evening barbeques.

    Activities include an excursion to Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Halong Bay, where you have the option of hopping onto a bike and pedalling past lakes, limestone hills and villages, as well as trekking through lush forests, spotting birds and water buffalo along the way. Kayaks are also freely available, and paddling the one and two-man boats is the best way to explore the numerous caves, lagoons and secret beaches of Halong Bay. There are also plenty of opportunities for swimming, snorkelling and squid fishing.

  • dining

    Meals in the Au Co dining room come with spectacular views as you cruise just yards from the scattered islands of Halong Bay. Watch the show unfold from a table on the balcony or at one inside the covered restaurant, which features polished wooden floors, classic leather irs and vast windows with oatmeal drapes.

    All your food (two lunches, two dinners and two breakfasts) are included in a three-day cruise, as well as a welcome cocktail and regular tea, plus watermelon, carrot, cucumber and passion fruit juices. The Au Co cuisine is based on the Taoist philosophy of balance and harmony, and five-course meals range from Phan Thiet scallops and dragon fruit to chicken roulade. The breakfast and lunch buffets have a good choice of local and international dishes, including fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables grown in Viet Hai village on Cat Ba Island. Children’s menus are available.

    Sip happy hour cocktails and Hanoi beer at the open-air Lan Ha Bar on the terrace deck, which has been designed around Feng Shui. Or take your glass of wine and pull up a chair in front of the screen on the Terrace Bar, which is transformed into an open-air cinema after sunset.

  • family

    Travellers of all ages will love exploring the magic of Halong Bay by boat – and there are plenty of family-friendly activities for you and your brood to enjoy together, from snorkelling and fishing to cycling and kayaking. In the restaurant, children’s menus are available, while both the Deluxe and the Executive cabins have connecting rooms available, ideal for families with children. A babysitting service is also available on request and there are board games and DVDs (including child-friendly options) onboard to while away the evenings.

  • location

    For discovering this majestic seascape, the location doesn’t get much better – you get to see far more on a moving junk thank you would in a static hotel room. A typical three-day cruise will see you visit all three of the main bays of the Gulf of Tonkin, as well as the jungles and waterfalls of Cat Ba Island.

    The cruise departs from Tuan Chau Pier in Halong Bay, which is easily accessible, before wending its way through the water towards Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay, returning to its starting point on the final day. Secluded beaches and villages can be reached by kayak or bamboo boat, and there’s time for passengers to hop off the Au Co and explore by bicycle and on foot.

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