Ha Long Bay is around 170km from Hanoi, has been mentioned as the number one destination for tourist when visiting Vietnam.
Ha Long Bay is famous for its natural stony creations, comprises of 1969 small islands of which only 40 islands have people living in there. Those spectacular islands and caves have been formed around 250-280 million years ago. Most of the islands are limestone, some are schist islands. Exploring into the islands one could explore all the beautiful caves that couldn’t be artificially made.
Going to Ha Long Bay one could enjoy the amazing view that Mother Nature has created on earth, inclusive of the islands and isles with various strange shapes that become their names, such as Hon Trong Mai (Male and Female Rooster Isle because it looks like a pair of roosters), Hon Dau Nguoi (Man’s head isle), La Vong isle looking like an old man sitting fishing or Dragon isle, to name just a few. Exploring into the islands one could find numerous stunning caves that makes this place appear to be mysterious, such as Thien Cung (Heavenly Residence), Dau Go (Driftwood), Sung Sot (Awesome), or Tam Cung (three Palaces).
Why Not Go
Actually there is no reason why someone should not go Ha Long Bay. However a city lover may find it as not exciting as a real city. The bars and clubs are similar to those found in Hanoi and Hochiminh City.
Ha Long gives tourists a view of what grandeur that Nature can do. Among the caves Thien Cung is situated in the southwestern of Ha Long Bay looking as splendid as from engraved crystal. Here visitors are awed feeling like standing in front of a lively and splendid stony curtain. Or are stunt by hundreds of giant stalagmites and stalactites at Dau Go cave makes it look like an exotic crystal waterfall. A ride of kayak around the Bay may give you all the awesome view thus it’s a must for those travel to Ha Long Bay.
Beach lover can enjoy themselves in Ha Long Bay as the two biggest islands, Cat Ba and Tuan Chau are famous for their resorts and all the tourist’s facilities. Other smaller islands also have nice beaches. At Tuan Chau island, tourist can enjoy nice Vietnamese food at Food Garden, view the traditional dance and sing, puppy stage… and a whole lot of other activities like bars, clubs, casinos… Don’t miss the chance to go to experience Ha Long Bay yourself and get your friends jealous of it.
Best Time to Visit
Best time to go to Ha Long Bay is all year round except winter as it is quite cold in the winter especially for swimming and the sky is not so clear for a good view of the bay. That means you can go there from April to October. Vietnamese often go there from May to August as this is the hot summer in Northern Vietnam and going to the beach side becomes such a nice experience. However take a look at weather forecast is advisable because if it’s going to rain or worse a storm could spoil your visit there. There’s nothing much to do in such weather except stay indoors to pass the time. Summer time is also the time for storm and typhoon in Northern Vietnam so watch out. Ha Long authorities organize a Ha Long Carnival in June makes June the peak season there.
Where to Stay
Tuan Chau Hotel at Tuan Chau island is recommended for romatic getaway, honeymoon… for its 1st class room and services and its strategic location at the heart of the Natural heritage Ha Long Bay . Tuan Chau Hotel offers modern facilities in villa styled rooms and is reachable at 151 Le Loi street, Tuan Chau island (tel: ) For those who want to book a budget hotel, Atlantic hotel also at Tuan Chau (at No.1, Tuan Chau, Ha Long, tel: +84 33 3842842) would be a nice suggestion as the price starts from USD 24-30. Or try Hoang Lan Hotel with the room rate from USD 8-15 at 17 Vuon Dao street, tel +84 33 3846504.
Accommodation arranged by agencies around Hoan Kiem lake (Sword Lake) in Hanoi would get a better price than you book yourself so it’s also a good idea to try those agencies. It could make life easier for you as agency arranges accommodation as well vehicle to get there.
Where & What to Eat
Seafood is really nice in Ha Long as it is fresh and is cooked in Vietnamese style which is famous for its deliciousness. You’d better look for some restaurants in central Ha Long. If you are in Bai Chay, you should have lunch or dinner in Vuon Dao area. Seafood in Vuon Dao market is nice and what’s nicer is its reasonable price. Or you can try Vietnamese Food Garden in Tuan Chau island which has been built up to international standard.
Your meals also could be served on board if you book the travel agencies. It is nice experience to have lunch while floating on waves surrounded by most beautiful sea sight of the world.
– It is unforgettable experience to travel around Halong by Xích Lô (Cyclo: a kind of bicycle with three wheels driven by a rider) or a horse-driven vehicle in the evening and enjoy the sea atmosphere and the unique leisurely feelings that it brings.
– Go to Bãi Cháy bridge at dawn, take elevator up (ticket price is about US 50 cents) you will sightseeing the sea sunset just found in your dreams.
– There are some bars in Halong, most crowded in the evening, however they are quite similar with those in Hanoi or Hochiminh City.
My to do List
– Most people going to Ha Long aim to take a tour around the bay by kayak or by a more comfortable way via a modern cruise. A long tour would go through many islands and caves, though one can not visit all the islands and caves in one day, even one month as there are many of them. A short tour just dock in some notable locations only (Thien Cung cave, Sung Sot Grotto, Dau Go Grotto, Bai Tho mountain). You should go in the morning as it’s quite sunny in the afternoon. It would be tiresome if you book long tour carry along your children. It’s better to take a short tour then.
– Take Xe Om (motorbike taxi) or taxi to Tuan Chau island in Ha Long City for a nice beach where you can swim. There are some whale shows, crocodile shows, puppy water stage in the morning and evening. Tuan Chau island is built to be an international entertainment area so it’s worth to go. Here visitors can be comfortable playing on the Tra Co beach full of beautiful white sand 4km long. All kinds of beach and water games such as volleyball, football, surfing, cano pulled games, high speed water glissade motor will give you a comfort, interesting and full of impression holiday.
– Enjoy fresh seafood cooked in Vietnamese way at a reasonable price. It’s a good opportunity to experience Vietnamese cuisine that has been famous for its healthy yet delicious dishes. Recommended tastes are oyster salad, steamed coconut prawn, fish of all kinds, snail, steamed sentinel-crab, cuttle-fish…
– Swim and relax at Bai Chay beach along the Ha Long Shore or go to Cat Ba island
– Climb Bai Tho mountain (Poem mountain) to get an overview of Ha Long City.
– Royal Park in Ha Long City is also suggested if you bring along your children. They will like it.
– If you have time and like trekking, you can visit Cat Ba National Park
– Sunbathe and wade at many smaller island beaches like Ao Tien, Hang Luon, Titop, Co To and many others.
Stay Away From
– Remember to bargain everywhere. Ask for price before eating or buying anything to avoid paying high price later.
– Buying a ticket to take a boat or kayak tour around Ha Long Bay is somewhat messy. There are many people offer you ticket thus tend to make it messier and rising conflict. Visitors had better contact your hotel to get a ticket to save you from trouble. A tour of 6 hours would cost you somewhere VND 140,000/person. Or you can buy ticket to a modern cruise which is a nicer way to go around.
– Eating at big restaurants along Ha Long street is quite costly. Better try other still nice but not so costly restaurants in Bai Chay or Vuon Dao area.
– Ladies please put your high –heels at home
– When exploring the cave try to follow the path indicated by arrows inside in order to not get lost.
– Night market in Halong is somewhat similar to night markets in Hanoi or Hochiminh City. Thus it’s not so recommended.
There are several ways you can go to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi. It take about 3.5 hours traveling by car or longer if traveling by train :
– Halong Express Train: One-way ticket price USD5/ person. Trains depart daily at 7:00 am from Hanoi (station in Gia Lam) and from Ha Long at 12:00 am. Return trip departs at 1:00 pm on the same day.
– Tourism coach: contact travel agencies which are could be found easily in old streets of Hanoi (Hang Buom, Ma May, Ta Hien Streets and those streets around Hoan Kiem Lake). Return ticket price is about USD15 – 20/person.
– Bus: depart from My Dinh Bus Station (West part of Hanoi). However, bus station is quite crowded and would not be suggested for foreigners who plan to travel without local guide. Ticket price is very cheap, around USD3-4/one-way.
– Rent a car or motorcycle and drive yourself. Rental fee and fuel charges would be at your expenses. This one is also not suggested to foreigners without a local guide.