Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Vietnam’s crown jewels. Many people recommended it saying it was a beautiful place to visit and it was one of the must see’s on my trip to Vietnam. Halong Bay stands for “descending dragon”, as legend has it a family of dragons spit out jades and jewels which turned into islands and Halong Bay is where the mother dragon descended. The bay is comprised of thousands of limestone karsts and cover an area of about 1500 squared kilometres. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation. It was recognised as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world in 2012.
There are various ways to travel to Halong bay. Most tourists travel from Hanoi, which is what I did. There are trains, buses and tour operators all readily available from Hanoi. Another option would be to hire your own bike and drive there.
Choosing your tour
Due to time and ease I chose to book a tour from Hanoi to Halong Bay. There are tens or even hundreds of tour operators providing tours of Halong Bay, so naturally there is a wide range in the quality of them. A few tips on choosing your tour:
- Decide where you want to be picked up from. Do you want your tour to start from Hanoi or will you go to Halong Bay yourself and start the tour there. I started from Hanoi but starting from Halong will mean you get out into the bay quicker.
- Decide on a budget and how many nights you would like to spend in the bay. Initially I was going to do a day trip of the bay, however after doing research and speaking to other backpackers it was clear I would be missing out on a brilliant experience of spending a night under the stars! I opted for a 1 night tour which was brilliant as I got to do everything I wanted, however if you have time spending two nights on the bay would be even better!
- Decide on the type of tour you want. Do you want a part boat or a more relaxed boat? Check out the activities that the tour provides too as they vary greatly. Mine were a visit to Sung Sot (Suprise Cave), kayaking in a secluded area of the bay and a trip to a nearby beach island where you can climb 400 steps to get a breathtaking panoramic view.
- Do your research as some tours are not great quality! Check them out on trusted sites.
Have a good trip!