Halong Bay is a must-see for everyone who explores the northern part of Vietnam. It consist of more than 3000 islands that occupy about 1500 square meters. These islands look very beautiful and unusual: there is a legend that a dragon made this landscape while descending from a mountain, making holes in the earth with his tail. The holes filled with water over time. This bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The bay is about 170 km away from Hanoi, and usually tourists come to Halong from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. There seem to be several thousands of tourist offices in Hanoi where you can buy a tour to Halong Bay. We don’t like tours and usually try to avoid them during our travels: it is much more comfortable to decide by yourself where you want to live, where you want to go or if you want to stay longer at some place. But after internet research we decided to make an exception and buy a tour to Halong Bay: it is difficult to find a decent boat in Halong itself and it might even be more expensive than buying a tour in Hanoi. Besides, Natasha’s mother came to visit us in Vietnam, and we didn’t want to make her trip unpleasant by searching uncommon ways of exploring Halong Bay.
Some tourist offices are not very honest: they sell a tour on a nice boat, and in reality you get on a pretty old one. There are also some other scams, so you’d better make some research before going to a tourist office. Also every good tourist firm has numerous copycats — for example, you can see dozens of offices named Sinh Cafe, Sinh Tour or Sinh Tourist Cafe. They are clones of a more popular firm Sinh Tourist that was founded in 1993 (we bought our tour there).
There are several kinds of tours: one-day (that includes a 4-hour ride to Halong Bay, exploring the bay on a boat and a ride back to Hanoi on the same evening), a tour with one night on a boat, and a tour with two nights — on a boat or on one of the biggest islands of the bay, Cat Ba.
We chose a tour with two nights on a boat, and we got a nice guide and a good boat — but we weren’t so lucky with the weather. We came on a beautiful sunny day and got to see a part of Halong Bay, but the next day the bay was closed for all tourist boats because of a strong wind. We didn’t really see any storm at the sea, but the local authorities are overcautious sometimes: a few years ago a tourist boat sank here, and since then they pay much more attention to the safety. Every day 3 to 4 thousands of tourists visit the bay.
But apart from the tourists scams and bad weather, Halong Bay is an amazing place. When you get there, you understand why so many people want to go to the bay.
The landscape is unbelievable: green islands stretching into the infinity. The view is really breathtaking from a height. We came to a small island where we could take a look at the Halong Bay from the top of a hill.
The view from the beach is also great.
There are a lot of boats in the bay, but it didn’t really bother us at all.
There are several caves in the bay that you can visit. It can get crowded in there, but our guide tried to get there as soon as possible to avoid the tourist rush-hour.
At the sunset Halong Bay is especially beautiful.
It’s a pity that we got to spend only one day at Halong Bay — but maybe we’ll come there again some day. You should definitely visit this place if you’re ever in Vietnam.