I FLY to Hanoi on Singapore Airlines, which is among several carriers that fly direct to the Vietnamese capital.
After an overnight stay, my tour operator Handspan Travel Indochina (www.handspan.com) arranges a mini-bus transfer from the Old Quarter of Hanoi to Halong City.
The journey of 185km or 31/2 hours wends through the Red River Delta of rice fields.
Next, we step onto the Treasure Junk, a luxury 15-cabin vessel owned by Handspan and Bai Tho Junks, a Halong City company.
The two-year-old junk bypasses crowded Halong Bay to moor at quieter Bai Tu Long Bay, where we kayak the first day, before moving to Lan Ha Bay the next day.
The tour price of US$373 (S$467) includes two nights on the Treasure Junk, single supplement, kayaking equipment, an adventure guide, meals on board and Hanoi-Halong transfers. One-night programmes are available as well.
I kayak in the low season - the hot-and-humid months from May to September - when rates are lower.
Cruise manager Scott Vu says Handspan will launch a second vessel, likely at the end of the year. The new itinerary will include a beach barbecue and fishing from a bamboo boat.
Guests can dip into the night sea to enjoy bioluminescence, with bluish-green light emitted by glowing sea organisms. The Halong archipelago is rated one of the best places on earth to "swim in stars".