Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Additional Earning Opportunities With Hotel Stays

I'm a little late on the first one, but here are two more ways to earn miles or points with hotel stays:

1) Air Canada Aeroplan bonus miles at any Hyatt hotel worldwide:
  • Between July 1, 2011 and September 30, 2011, every eligible stay at any hotel within the Hyatt group will earn 2,500 Aeroplan miles. A maximum of 25,000 miles can be earned through this promotion (10 stays).
  • As I stated in the previous post, you must specify that you want to earn Aeroplan miles at every check-in, and provide your Aeroplan membership number. If you get Hyatt Gold Passport points posted instead, you must call in to customer service to get the problem fixed. If you are not a member of Aeroplan yet, you can enroll here.
  • You will continue to earn the normal 500 Aeroplan miles per stay.
  • Make sure you register prior to your first stay during the promotion period.
2) American Express Membership Rewards bonus points at three different Starwood Preferred Guest hotel brands:
  • Between August 10, 2011 and November 15, 2011, every eligible stay at Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft, and Element hotels will earn 1,000 bonus MR points when you pay with your American Express card. Eligible American Express cards are those enrolled with the Membership Rewards program (not the hotel or airline co-branded AMEX cards). There does not appear to be a limit to how many bonus MR points you can earn through this promotion.
  • This promotion can be stacked with the Southwest Rapid Rewards bonus points offer in the previous post. And you can earn both bonuses in addition to the normal SPG points you earn on stays.
  • The bonus MR points will be sent via an email certificate 4-6 weeks after this promotion ends. You can redeem the points online through the Membership Rewards website, and points will post to your account within 24 hours.
  • You must register for this promotion prior to your first stay during the promotion period.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Miles-Earning Opportunities With Hotel Stays

Many hotel groups have agreements with a number of different airlines, whereby stays within a particular chain can earn miles instead of their own proprietary points. Typically, you can opt to earn either miles or points, although a few programs such as Hilton HHonors allows the option to earn both on one stay. Throughout the year, hotels will run promotions offering bonus miles with specific airlines. There are two current promotions that may be worth a second look.

1) Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards bonus points at four different Starwood Preferred Guest hotel brands:
  • Between August 1, 2011 and December 15, 2011, every eligible stay at all Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft, and Element hotels and resorts in North America will earn 1,000 bonus RR points. There is no limit to how many points you can earn.
  • Remember that the bonus is given for every stay, meaning whether your stay is 1 night or 10 nights, you will earn the same 1,000 points. Thus, mattress hopping between different hotels in the same area for 1 night each will maximize your earnings.
  • The best part about this offer is that the bonus RR points are in addition to the regular SPG points you earn on stays, which is 2 points per dollar spent, or 3 points per dollar spent if you are a Gold or Platinum Preferred Guest. If you have selected the Airline Direct Deposit earning method (and specified Southwest Airlines) instead of SPG points, you will still receive 600 RR points per eligible stay in addition to the bonus points from this offer.
2) British Airways Executive Club bonus miles at any Hyatt hotel worldwide:
  • Between August 1, 2011 and October 31, 2011, every eligible night at any hotel within the Hyatt group will earn 1,000 bonus Executive Club miles. A maximum of 30,000 miles can be earned with this offer.
  • The bonus is given for every night, so you can stay at a Hyatt Place Hotel, for example, for 5 consecutive nights and you will earn 5,000 Executive Club miles.
  • You must choose to earn miles for your stay and provide your British Airways Executive Club account number at check-in. This is one of the downsides of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. There is no way to register online so that you always earn miles; you must specify this each time you check-in at the hotel. In addition, keep an eye on your Hyatt Gold Passport account after your stay because sometimes they will still post points instead of miles, and you must call in to get it fixed.
  • While not detailed in the terms and conditions, it does appear that you will continue to earn the normal 500 Executive Club miles per stay, in additon to the 1,000 bonus miles per night.
  • Make sure you register prior to your first stay during the promotion period.
Given a choice between the two promotions (and if there are both Hyatt and Starwood properties nearby), I would go with Starwood, simply because SPG points have a much higher value than miles. In addition, British Airways imposes exorbitant fuel surcharges even on their award flights, making them less desirable in this case.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tokyo/Vietnam July 2011 - Orchid Hotel Hue

***This post is part 10 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Choosing a hotel in Hue was actually a very simple affair. Despite the few bogus reviews here and there, TripAdvisor remains the go-to site when choosing an independent hotel in an obscure international locale. The key to picking a good hotel on TripAdvisor is straightforward: scan the top 10-20 hotels in a city (preferably the top 5 if the costs are within your range) and be extremely wary of hotels with under 100 reviews. Of course, that doesn't mean hotels that don't meet the above criteria should be ignored, but those that do are almost always good, if not excellent.

I did some quick research on Hue accommodations, and since there were basically no international chains in town, it was just a simple choice between a few local places. I settled on #3 out of 96 hotels in Hue... Orchid Hotel. It was centrally located but on a quiet street, had great reviews, and was ridiculously cheap (at least compared to Western prices). At $35/night, you can't go wrong with the cost!

Pickup from the airport cost a very reasonable $10. When we arrived, the friendly receptionist took our information and guided us to the dining area in the next room. There, we took a seat and were offered delicious welcome drinks, as well as a fruit plate. She then proceeded to give us some important information regarding the hotel and surrounding area, and provided us with numerous options for day tours of the imperial tombs and the citadel. We decided to go ahead and book a day tour since we really only had one full day in Hue, and it would be a great way to see most of the main sites in one swoop.

Street outside the Orchid Hotel

Before we went up to our room, we were informed that they had upgraded us from the Superior Room to a Family Room for the night. Although for the second night, we would have to move back. That wasn't a problem for us at all. The family room was spacious, and included a king bed as well as a small twin bed. All of these rooms faced the front of the hotel and had their own balcony overlooking the street below. The bathroom was not large, but it was very clean and quite modern. My only gripe about the room was that the air conditioning was not strong. And as we found out the next day, it was even less so in the Superior Room.

Perhaps they thought we were on our gay honeymoon?

View from the 2nd floor balcony

Complimentary breakfast the next morning was surprisingly good. Not as great as the Hanoi Elegance Diamond in terms of selection and service, but for the rate they were charging, the Orchid Hotel was definitely an amazing value. They had a good variety of fresh fruit, pastries, and some hot dishes, as well as cook to order omelettes, pancakes, and of course, pho. My friend tried the pho and was quite satisfied with the taste.

Hue-style pho

Everyone who worked at the hotel was friendly and very helpful when asked. Though there was a definite sense of space between the guests and the staff. Perhaps they were just a bit more shy and respectful of personal space. It was quite different from the Hanoi Elegance, where they went out of their way to ask how things were, or to proactively resolve any issues without even being asked. But then again, the service there was just on another level.

On the second night, we moved to the Superior Room, which was quite a bit smaller. The king bed pretty much took up most of the room, but for one night and two people, it was more than comfortable enough. The view from the window consisted of a concrete wall of the building next door. And as I mentioned earlier, the weak air conditioning was a minor issue. Overall, I would recommend this hotel simply on the value alone. The rooms were simple and clean, and the staff was courteous and pleasant.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tokyo/Vietnam July 2011 - Vietnam Airlines 1543 Economy Class (HAN - HUI)

***This post is part 9 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

We again decided to take a private car from the Hanoi Elegance Diamond Hotel to Noi Bai International Airport to avoid having to deal with the taxis. The cost was only $18 for the roughly 40-minute trip.

Although, I must say, having spent about 4 days in Hanoi, I found the taxi scams to be a lot less serious than some of the horror stories I read online. As long as you know the few legitimate taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Hanoi Tourist Taxi, and only stick with them, you won't have any problems. I found Hanoi Tourist Taxi to be a little pricier than Mai Linh, but both were safe and didn't have tampered-with meters.

Noi Bai International felt a lot less claustrophobic than when I arrived, probably because of the daylight and the larger departure hall. And even though we arrived 2 hours before our flight, the check-in lines were already chaotic. In Asia, local travelers seem to try to transport as many boxes and suitcases as they can, usually going way over the weight limit, and then having to pay extra at the counter. Though funny enough, my friend's suitcase just barely passed the limit (it was actually slightly over, but the agent didn't say anything).

Security was quick and painless, and soon we were waiting at the gate. Airside shops and restaurants were very sparse, just a couple of stands selling local fast food fare and drinks/snacks. I did notice a Vietnam Airlines business lounge at the end of the hall, but from what I saw looking in, it didn't look particularly fancy or interesting.

Pretty much only VN planes here

Vietnam Airlines 1543
Airbus A321
Hanoi (HAN) - Hue (HUI)
Saturday July 9, 2011
Departure: 1:20 PM (scheduled)
Arrival: 2:30 PM (scheduled)
Duration: 1h 10m (scheduled)
Seat: 30E (Economy)

Departure was soon announced, without any sort of priority boarding for business class as far as I could tell. Everyone just stood up and a massive line quickly formed. The jet bridge ended downstairs, where everyone boarded a standing room only bus for the short ride to our plane. I did notice a separate, more comfy looking bus for the business passengers. I actually love boarding directly on the tarmac so I can get better up-close pictures of the plane.

This Airbus A321 looked quite new, with very little wear and tear on the seats. Load looked to be approximately 90% in Y, with a few empty seats scattered about. The air conditioning was ridiculously strong... the plane literally looked like a fog machine for most of the flight. Leg room was quite comfortable for the short 1h 10m flight to Hue. I wasn't expecting much in terms of domestic Vietnam Airlines service, but pretty much the only thing that was offered on board was a small bottle of water. There were no snacks or any other types of drinks offered, even for sale. Flight attendants were friendly, but not very engaging as there was pretty much only time for them to pass out water bottles and then prepare for landing.

As quickly as we departed HAN, we were soon descending into HUI. Phu Bai International Airport consisted of one runway and one small terminal. I'm not sure how the "international" designation came about since I don't know of any international flights that currently serves the airport. I think there may have been a HUI-REP direct flight at one point in time, but I'm not sure if it's still operating.

A superfluous 2-minute bus ride took us from our plane to the arrivals hall, and soon we were greeted by our driver from the Orchid Hotel in Hue. Overall, this was a good, no-frills flight that got us from point A to point B safely and comfortably. Since VN has a virtual monopoly on this route, there is probably no need for them to enhance their offering any time soon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tokyo/Vietnam July 2011 - Exploring Hanoi

***This post is part 8 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I was pretty exhausted from my travels after arriving at Noi Bai International Airport outside of Hanoi. It was definitely a good thing that I had pre-booked a private car pickup with the hotel. Taxi scams are notorious in Hanoi these past few years (just do a quick Google search), so despite being a couple of dollars more expensive than a taxi, I felt it was well worth the security.

What I wasn't ready for, however, was the white-knuckle, heart-attack inducing driving that every Hanoian seems quite adept at. I was dozing in and out of sleep during the 40 minute ride into town, but in the moments that my eyes were briefly open, I recalled seeing bright headlights coming directly toward us - we were swerving in and out of oncoming traffic to pass the slower cars that seemed to live in the fast lane. Not that there was a fast lane, or even lanes at all. Cars, motorbikes, trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians all shared the open freeway. I'd open my eyes again to catch a glimpse of children and old women with shoulder baskets crossing the freeway in front of our car while we swerved to avoid the potential fatalities. This, apparently, is normal everyday driving in Hanoi.

You learn very quickly how to walk the streets of Hanoi. Rule #1: Cars don't ever stop for red lights, and neither should you. Rule #2: Don't ever focus on trying to avoid bicycles, motorbikes, or cars while crossing the street. Just keep walking at a steady pace and somehow, everything works out. Rule #3: Sidewalks are just extra lanes of the road, expect to be honked by motorbikes driving on the sidewalk, or even cars. Rule #4: Like rule #3, roads are also sidewalks. Expect to see grandmas randomly strolling on the freeway, or people getting haircuts, or stalls selling everything from fruits to baguettes.

Crossing the street in Hanoi

Hanoi is truly a small town at heart, despite the designation of capital of Vietnam. There are very few high rises here, but you get the feeling that the city is quickly outgrowing its skin... roads are consistently congested, the local parks are filled with people from dawn to well past evening, and construction is around every corner. This does make for, however, a very exciting city to explore.

Deceptively calm picture of Hoan Kiem Lake

The Old Quarter is the touristy part of town, and contains many of the famous sites. Hoan Kiem Lake serves as a meeting place of sorts for Hanoians young and old. Women doing their daily group exercises, teenage lovers cuddling by the water, and tourists snapping photos all converge in this designated center of town. Shops and restaurants surround the lake and spread outwards in a maze of streets and alleyways. Right across from the lake is the famous Thang Long water puppet theater. The show is a bit manic, but entertaining and quite humorous nonetheless.

A hotel I would probably avoid in the Old Quarter

Water puppetry

There are plenty of museums and temples to see in Hanoi, the most famous of which is probably the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Not quite sure what it is with communism and their uncontrollable urge to embalm leaders and put them on display... but it sure makes for an eerie and uncomfortable tourist attraction. Most of the time spent at the mausoleum consists of waiting in a fast-moving line. Soon, you enter the building and up some stairs, all the while being carefully monitored by uniformed guardsmen telling you to stop talking or giving you the evil eye. Once inside the dimly-lit hall displaying Ho Chi Minh's body, you move quickly in line (with guards physically pushing you forward if you are too slow) around the perimeter of the room, staring at the center glass enclosure housing the body. And in less than 2 minutes the tour is over. To be honest, the whole thing had a strange amusement park feel to it... almost like the haunted house ride at Disneyland. Except, of course, the main attraction being a dead body. Very, very weird, but definitely worth a visit. Of course, no pictures are allowed inside, and to be sure of that, you leave your camera in a security office prior to entering (I was sure I would never see my camera again - luckily I was wrong).

One-pillar pagoda

Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Vietnam

The most well-known war museum among Western tourists is probably the Hao Lo Prison, aka the Hanoi Hilton. The key to visiting any historical museum in Vietnam, especially those relating to recent wars, is to expect propaganda. If you can look past the blatant misinformation and balance that with some of the universal truths about war in general, it becomes a lot easier to digest what you are seeing. Not far from the prison is the Temple of Literature, which turned out to be slightly different than what I had imagined. Anticipating a quiet and peaceful walk through old architecture and beautiful trees, we instead came upon hoards of teenagers all rushing in to buy incense so they could pray inside the temple for (what else?) good grades. It was actually quite a funny sight to see, as my friend and I both agreed their time would probably be better spent at home studying instead.

The Hanoi Hilton

John McCain's flight suit

Temple of Literature

Teenagers praying for a miracle

Hanoi is definitely a city in transition, bound to experience some growing pains in the next decade or two. But it will be exciting to come back in a few years time to see all the changes that have taken place.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

83,871 AAdvantage Miles for $2.97?

In probably one of the funniest threads I've ever read on Flyertalk, member mc4bbs posted about an (obvious) error on the AAdvantage eShopping portal. Initially, he described a $59.99 MOTOROKR bluetooth headphone that apparently gave you 83,871 bonus AAdvantage miles for your purchase through the Verizon website. Soon, Flyertalk members were discovering cheaper and cheaper Verizon products for sale also offering the same 83,871 miles. A Touchstone inductive charger popped up for $4.96, then a $2.97 cell phone car mount, and finally, perhaps the most impressive/ridiculous of all, a pink glitter cell phone screen cover for $2.97.

Well, as expected, the thread exploded. Within hours, it had tens of thousands of views and hundreds of posts, some of which literally made me laugh out loud at work. Someone labeled this debacle "Glitter-gate", and soon threats of mass protests and class-action lawsuits ensued from angry members who predicted AA and/or Verizon would withhold their bonus miles. Fortunately, AA pulled all the products offering the enormous bonuses off their eShopping website last night, and the thread has finally quieted down (slightly).

My take on all of this madness? AA/Verizon will never ever hand out the 83,871 bonus miles for any of the purchases made. There is just no way they will be willing to bleed literally millions of dollars worth of miles for a simple typo. At the very best, they will probably issue full refunds for the purchases as a gesture of goodwill. Bonus miles for using the AAdvantage eShopping portal typically don't post until weeks after the transaction, so nobody knows what is going to happen at this point in time.

I'm embarrassed to say that greed got the better of me and I jump into the fray by purchasing 2 car mounts and 2 chargers. So for $16 plus tax and shipping, I suppose I'm buying insurance in case something miraculous does come of all this. In the meantime, there are probably a few thousand people out there waiting with bated breath :)

I'll end this with probably my favorite post in the massive thread (excuse the salty language):
"Everyone seems to think this Verizon 83K fiasco is a mistake. Perhaps it was by design. Consider this:

The last few years the credit card companies have been FF whores by offering 50K miles, 75K miles, and even 100K miles JUST for signing up for their credit cards, knowing full well, that many will cancel their cards after a year. So, who are we to question why Verizon wants to offer 83K miles for buying some of their trinkets? If Verizon wants to be a mileage Whore just like the big banks, then why not take AAdvantage of the skanky ho? Buy the items with a good conscience, and enjoy the miles."

- Git-er-dun
(EDIT: And it looks like they will not be honoring the bonus. Many people have already received an email apologizing for the mistake and offering a no-strings-attached 2,500 miles bonus for the trouble, and an additional 2,500 miles if you make another purchase on the eShopping website within 30 days. They are also issuing full refunds for the items purchased even if you accept the 2,500 miles offer.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10,000 Membership Rewards Points For Each Additional User

American Express Membership Rewards seems to be on a points free-for-all lately. This Flyertalk thread details information on promotion code 5721, which offers 10,000 MR points for each additional user added to your existing Premier Rewards Gold personal and business cards, or the Platinum card. For the Gold card, you can add up to 5 additional users for free, and any additional users beyond that for $35 per card. Platinum cardholders can add up to 3 additional users for $175 total.

I tried calling the Membership Rewards line at 1-800-AXP-EARN this morning, and was shot down a total of 4 times before I was finally successful. Each of the first 4 customer service representatives I spoke to denied me on the basis that I wasn't targeted for the offer. On the 5th try, I spoke to a gentleman who asked me to confirm the promotion code 5721, which I did. He then transferred me over to the Customer Service Department, which handled the adding of the additional users.

At first, the lady I was transferred to asked for the Social Security number for each user, but I told her I didn't have them with me at the moment, and she said that was fine and proceeded to take down the names and date of births of each person. After about 5 minutes, she said they were approved and I would receive the cards within 5-7 days. I asked her to confirm that the promotion code was actually applied to my account, but she said she wasn't able to do that. I will probably wait a few days for the madness to end before calling MR back to confirm (seems like AMEX is getting flooded with calls regarding this promotion).

YMMV highly on this one, but never hurts to try! Just do so quickly before it gets shut down like the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points bump on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card!

(EDIT: It looks like this promotion was originally targeted for American Express Platinum members in Argentina only. However, based on anecdotal evidence, it sounds like AMEX might be honoring the offer code for everyone through today 8/10/2011 only. If you get shot down by a CSR, don't bother arguing, just hang up politely and call back again until you get someone who is willing to help you apply the code.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Six Different A380 Configurations

There was a very cool article today in the online LA Times travel section comparing the 6 different configurations of A380s currently in operation. The 6 carriers - Singapore, Emirates, Qantas, Air France, Lufthansa, and Korean - have varied the density on their super-jumbos greatly, ranging from a very comfortable 407 on Korean Air to a tight 538 on Air France. I must say, the first class cabins on all 6 of them are looking mighty fine ;)

I still haven't had the opportunity to fly in an A380 yet, though I've seen them plenty of times at airports all around the world. Hopefully in 2012 (or even earlier), I'll be able to try out one of these whalejets... perhaps another trip to Seoul is in the cards?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tokyo/Vietnam July 2011 - Halong Bay Paradise Cruises

***This post is part 7 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Doing research on which overnight cruise to book in Halong Bay was probably the most frustrating aspect of the entire Vietnam itinerary. Whether it was by design or not, it seemed like there were a million different websites all hawking the same cruise lines, and they were all offering varying prices. It's very difficult to make out the official websites since many of them don't actually have official websites, instead opting to depend on local travel agencies to do the selling. And many travel agencies set up websites that appear to be official - except they are not. Confusing to say the least.

I'm very wary of randomly selecting an online travel agency to book tours or hotels, since going directly to the source usually results in a much better deal and not to mention a more secure reservation. Third party bookings have a higher likelihood of having mistakes, mischarges, and other problems down the road. However, with Halong Bay, I ended up taking a leap of faith and booking with the Cruises Halong Bay travel agency based out of Hanoi. The main reason for this was both the hotel and what looked to be the "official" website of Paradise Cruises were quoting prices higher than Cruises Halong Bay. Also, I emailed a number of different online agencies, and the lady from Cruises Halong Bay, Ms. Nga, seemed to be the most helpful and responsive.

I chose Paradise Cruises based on the numerous positive online reviews. There are now many luxury cruise lines sailing Halong Bay, including Violet Cruises, Bhaya Cruises, Indochina Sails, etc. Paradise Cruises was not the most expensive, but it was definitely one of the newest and best options available. They are currently sailing with 3 large junks, with the oldest being built in 2008. A 4th ship is nearly complete and we were able to see them putting the final touches on it at the dock. They also offer a number of smaller ships for charters and private bookings. One of the benefits of Paradise Cruises was that they seemed to offer more inclusive activities that others charged extra for, such as kayaking.

Both Cruises Halong Bay and Paradise Cruises turned out to be extremely legit and well-run, and we got exactly what we booked for a very good price. Pickup directly from our hotel was at 8:00 AM for the 3 1/2 hour drive to Halong Bay. The driver was noticeably more careful than most taxi drivers in the city, probably due to the fact that there used to be a number of fatal accidents involving tourists on the route to Halong Bay.

Once there, we began to see the benefits of booking with Paradise Cruises. Unlike other companies, they have their own private dock and arrival area for check-in. I've heard many horror stories of the chaos at the main Halong Bay docks where most ships are stationed. A welcome drink and plenty of seating in an air conditioned waiting hall was very welcome, and they even had a couple of computers for internet use. You could also order food and drinks there.

After waiting about 40 minutes or so, all the guests were directed to the three ships ready for sail. I had made sure to tell Cruises Halong Bay to book us on Paradise Luxury III, the newest ship, and we were glad to see our request was fulfilled. There were other large tour groups that were directed to the other ships - thankfully. Once on the boat, we were free to explore our new surroundings until lunch time, when we all gathered in the dining room. It was then that we noticed our ship was actually only about 1/2 to 2/3 full. The low density made the cruise feel a lot more private and enjoyable.


I must say the rooms were spectacular for a cruise ship this size. Two extremely comfortable beds and a full in-suite bathroom with shower greeted us upon entering. And I was pleasantly surprised at how strong the shower head pressure was and the fact that there was always warm water. The air conditioning in the room was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity outside. The rooms on the 1st floor don't have private balconies, but luckily we decided to splurge for the second floor instead. The private balcony isn't really needed, but having the area to yourself and just staring out at the thousands of limestone islets was one of the most unforgettable parts of this trip.

Private balcony

The food was delicious, with the lunch being a large buffet that was more than enough for everyone there. Dinner was a set menu that was decent, but not spectacular. All alcoholic beverages on board cost extra, but as we found out later, there was really no accurate accounting of how much we drank. Breakfast the next morning was also a buffet, with an omelet station and all the fruits, cereals, and hot selections you could eat.

Halong Bay itself was absolutely stunning. I had heard some disappointing stories prior to going, including the increasing crowds and pollution that is plaguing this UNESCO World Heritage Site, so I set my expectations accordingly. However, once I got there, I was very surprised at how few ships there seemed to be sailing the bay. In fact, it was 2 of the most peaceful days I had in Vietnam. The scenary is jaw-dropping at times, and the stop at Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave) and the kayaking trip into Luon Grotto were things I will never forget. It was noticeable that the water is fairly murky, and in all likelihood pollution from the cruise ships and tourist activity has a lot to do with it. While we are all guilty of contributing to the problem, I really do hope the government takes the steps necessary to curb any further degradation of water quality and enforce stricter environmental controls. Although understandably, it's hard to do so in a developing country when there is so much money to be made from tourism.

Sung Sot Cave

Kayaking in Luon Grotto

After 2 days and 1 night of absolute peace and tranquility, we were all a little sad to leave. I would say Halong Bay is not only still worth seeing, it's a destination that must be experienced by anyone visiting Northern Vietnam. And I would highly recommend Paradise Cruises as your means of doing so.