Ha Long Bay, Hanoi
If would be silly if you went to Hanoi without even taking a trip out to Ha Long Bay. It is like eating spaghetti without cheese. A must thing to do when you are in Hanoi!!! Check my Ha Long page for more information.
Halong Bay is a fabulous area of sheer cliffs plunging to deep blue water. For scenery and photo opportunities, this was the highlight of my trip to Vietnam.
Our 3-day trip started in Hanoi. We took a bus to the city of Halong, stopping at a village for a restroom/souvenir break. Not really interested in souvenirs, my friend and I wandered into the village and through the town's market. Upon arriving at Halong, we boarded our interesting wooden boat with orange sails. After a quick ride, we stopped at the slightly disappointing Hong Dau Go caves. We had a great multi-course lunch on the boat, included in the price. The next several hours were spent on the boat just gawking at the amazing islands. Eventually we stopped in a secluded cove for swimming in the nice warm water for about an hour. Just as it got dark, we arrived at Cat Ba Island, on the back side from Cat Ba town. We had dinner on the boat, had some drinks, then swam after dark in the water as warm as a bath. We slept on the deck of the boat under the stars.
The next morning, we got up with the sun and had an American-style breakfast. We went to Cat Ba town, checked into our hotel, the Sun Flower One, then got on a bus for Cat Ba National Park. At the park, we began a 9km trek through beautiful jungles and rugged terrain. With the intense heat and humidity, this became a taxing nine hour journey (including stops). During the hike, our guide pointed out several animals and a crater from the Vietnam War. We stopped for lunch in a small farming village called Viet Hai. At about six in the evening, we boarded a boat at Lan Ha Bay that took us back to Cat Ba Town.
That evening we had another nice dinner in the hotel, then I wandered around the town to a bia hoi for a few drinks and to watch the people go by. I finally relented to a young man who wanted to take me for a ride in his mid-sized row boat. He gave me a wonderful hour-long tour of the harbor for about US$2.
The next morning we boarded the boat and went back through Halong Bay to Halong city for our bus ride back to Hanoi.
One night and two day trip to Halong Bay. It is a long minibus trip to the islands and a nice cruise, during which we stopped at an island and went down into a cave. The cruise went to Cat Ba Island where the tour group stayed the night and the next day we cruised back to the mainland. The views were incredible and the tour was a great value. Included basic meals, nice hotel with shared room, and transport from Hanoi in March 2004 for $15. The views of the limestone islands were fantastic!!! The cruise ships were unique and comfortable.
Ha Long Bay is a must visit if you are visiting Hanoi Vietnam. It is about 165 Km north of Hanoi and three hours drive. When we were there it was misty for two days. It wasn’t the best for taking photos but without doubt it was still a breathtaking experience.
Ha Long Bay is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage for its outstanding geological value which is mainly made up of limestone.
Today Ha Long Bay support fishing villages that the fisherman’s in search of many species of fish and many varieties of mollusk. They are four community fishing villages with a population of 16,000. They live in a community floating houses, with some of the catches they will try to sell it to the oncoming tourist Junk Boat.
Ha Long Bay consists of large and small monolithic islands made up of limestone. The smaller islands have sandy beaches where you can go for a swim. Most of the islands have thick jungle vegetation which supports animals such as monkeys, antelopes and lizards (iguanas). You will also find several caves, we visited Sung Sot cave.
When you visiting Vietnam you will hear many legends and Ha Long Bay did not escape of a legend story. The local believed that god sent dragons to help of defending the land from the Chinese invaders. The dragons began spitting out jewels and jades to the sky and when it dropped it turned into islands and the island link together form a great wall against the Chinese invaders.
Halong bay is really a very beautiful place in Hanoi, listed as one of the world heritage by UNESCO . it should be a must do in Hanoi.
The best time to visit is March/April weather is cool and dry. year end Nov/Dec will be a bit cold and foggy. The best is to go for overnight cruise so you enjoy the starry night view, also sunrise cruise.
I went there twice, once day trip in April. and another overnight cruise in late Nov. I went with two different travel agent and the experience varied a lot. The first one I joined a tour booked by hotel. We thought that should be more reliable, it ended to be hotel just act as agent to a very small under the staircase travel company who pool all passengers from various hotels in old quarter. The van was old and dirty, our guide was a newbie very soft spoken, give very limited information on the tourist spots. The boat also very small and they cut short some itinenary. it is not a pleasant trip.
This of course is probably one of the main reasons that a lot of people come to Vietnam for. Unfortunately, although being a Unesco World Heritage protected site, this doesn't prevent the pollution caused by plastic bags and all sorts of stuff thrown overboard from the tourist boats indiscriminately. On the up side though it really is beautiful and even peaceful when you're out on the water. There is no real period for good weather though, it can be misty as I had it, rainy as friends did but no one seems to know the best time for some sushine. But, no worries, whatever the weather it is enchanting.
Dau Go (Wooden Stakes) cave is, in my opinion, not worth the climb up. Its dull and unappealing. You're only able to see the cave from the entrance, unlike Thien Cung where you get to walk around and admire its beauty. The cave is not well lit and there are bats flying around.
Be very careful when choosing tour operators for Halong Bay.
I read many horror stories about actual boats that differ from photos, the number of passengers that exceeds the maximum size and itineraries that differ from those given.
Unfortunately, I fell into the same trap despite asking all the right questions about the tour and itinerary (see my tip under 'warnings').
I went to Thien Cung and Dau Go caves, Van Gia floating village and stopped at Catba Island for pick up and drop off (instead of Sung Sot cave, Titov beach, Luon cave and Bai Tu Long Bay as stated in the itinerary). I was totally disappointed.
Well, the silver lining is, I met many wonderful people during the tour which made the experience bearable after all.
Ha Long Bay is a one day trip that is well worth the effort.
Ha Long Bay is aprox 1 hours coach ride outside Hanoi, You get driven down there, (via of course the usual souvenir factory/outlet), transfered to a boat and taken out on the harbour for a very enjoyable cruise. Lunch is generally provided which is fabulous (or was for me), you get to visit a floating shop, and also taken to the Song Sut Caves. These are an experiance in themselves and well worth a visit.
Ha Long Bays is a UNESCO heritage listed site, and a very beautiful area to visit.
There are many different tours to this area, some one day, some include overnight stays, you just need to pick one that suits you.
Definatly worth a visit
Halong Bay, another "must-see" activity for tourists, is a good 2 hours journey from the town. Plenty of travel agents around the Old Quarters offering day or overnight trips to Halong Bay. My initial plan was to take an overnight package to Halong Bay but after having bouts of diarrhea due to an overdosed of street food, we took up a day trip instead. Just needed the experience to see the much talked junkboats tour in Halong Bay.
Halong Bay is worth visiting as a day's trip but really, much to my disappointment, it is not what I have expected. Very touristy and not much to do besides kayaking and caves visits. I rather go to Nha Trang (middle part of Vietnam) for water activities anytime. However, the scenery looked like a chinese water painting depicting; very similar to the sceneries in Gui Lin, China.
A visit to Hoa Lu is a worthy day trip out from Hanoi. Considered to be the Halong Bay in land, this has some stunning scenery.
Start with a walk up to Bich Dong temple before setting off on your sampan tour of the waterways. A relaxing day away from the traffic of Hanoi.
The journey to Hoa Lu is entertaining itself - see how many different 'cargos' you can spot on the mopeds and bicycles.
Visited Hanoi for 8 days. Took a 3D2N side trip to Halong Bay. The tour group was a decent size of 14. We booked this trip from our hotel, Hanoi Lotus. Stayed on the junk for the first night & another night in a hotel on Cat Ba Island. Our trip included visiting 2 caves for the first day, a morning kayaking session the next day, followed by a BBQ lunch (more abt that later), then a short afternoon hiking session on Cat Ba Island before checking in to a hotel. The next day, we boarded the junk again & cruised back to the harbour where we boarded a mini-bus back to Hanoi.
Very nice scenery there, although after a while, the scenery did seem a bit boring as it was just never-ending huge pieces of limestone karsts. I think the best part about the entire trip was that it was slow-paced & relaxing. Time really seemed to pass by very slowly. The food on board the junk was, in our opinion, very delicious & fresh. There's a BBQ lunch on the 2nd day afternoon. The boat crew actually drove the boat right next to an empty beach, dropped anchor & CARRIED everything (tables, chairs, huge outdoor umbrellas, porcelain cutlery & food) down the boat & set everything up nicely on the beach. Talk about service! The food was actually "pre-BBQed" though, which was actually very tasty & spared the agony of cooking our own food on this very hot beach at 12pm!
However, we did enjoy ourselves there. Our tour guide was very helpful & friendly. He was an Accounting student in a local university & was there earning some extra cash for his studies. I managed to take some really nice pictures too. Spending the night on the junk was also very comfortable. The water was really very calm & we had no trouble sleeping at all.
Do note that there are usually 2 types of rooms on board the junk, air-conditioned & non air-con ones. Of course, you will have to pay extra for it too!
The limestone formations in Halong are both bizarre and awesome
.Over thousands of years the base of many of the formation have corroded to a point where many seem to be balancing on thin air. The shapes and the positioning of these formations often resemble people, animals etc., hence, most are given a name by the locals.
Some of the more famous are: Hang Dau Go ( Wooden Stakes cave), Hang Bo Nau (Pelican cave), Hang Trinh Nu (the Virgin), Hang Sung Sot (Cave of Awe), Dong Hang Hanh, Dao Tuan Chau (Sentinel Chau Island), Qua Chuong (the bell), Con Voi (the elephant) etc..
Ha Long literally means descending dragon(s) and according to local myth, the story goes as follows:
Long ago when their forefathers were fighting foreign invaders from the north, the gods from heaven sent a family of dragons to help defend their land. This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long bay and began spitting out jewels and jade. Upon hitting the sea, these jewels turned into the various islands and islets dotting the seascape and formed a formidable fortress against the invaders.
The locals were able to keep their land safe and formed what is now the country of Vietnam. The Dragon family fell so much in love with this area for its calm water and for the reverence of the people of Vietnam that they decided to remain on earth.
Mother dragon lies on what is now Ha Long and where her children lie is Bai Tu Long. The dragon tails formed the area of Bach Long Vi known for the miles of white sandy beaches of Tra Co peninsula.
The view is breath taking. Nice weather and the accomodation on board the chinese junk boat is pretty good. You can also kayak though it can be very cold with the chilly winds.
My tour package includes a trekking of Amazing cave. You should visit it as it has a very nice limestone interior. Our guide brought us up all the way to the mountain top to view the sunset.