Halong Bay in Vietnam: all the information to visit it


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How to visit Halong Bay in Vietnam

Halong Bay is considered one of the 7 natural wonders of the world became Unesco heritage in 1994, in hindsight I would say! It is a place that will surprise you.

Whether you see it with the classic mist and mist, or whether you see it with the sun, it is a unique place that deserves to be seen once in a lifetime; that's why I jumped through hoops to see it.



Halong Bay history and legend

This wonder of nature hides a popular legend trying to explain how the bay was formed. Contrasted to popular legend there is the scientific explanation which claims that Halong Bay, consisting of about 2000 islands, was formed thanks to orogenesis processes. It is about limestone islands where there are several karst caves with stalactites and stalagmites, caves that until a few decades ago were even inhabited.

Sailing near the floating village in Bai to Long Bay

The popular legend is certainly more "colorful" than the cold scientific version. It is said that the Vietnamese were once fighting against the Chinese invaders. The Gods sent a family of dragons to his aid who began spitting gems and jewels. They turned into islets which then joined together to form a barrier against Chinese invaders. The bay therefore takes the name of Halong as it is the "Descending Dragon Bay".

The main bay is that of Halong, where according to legend the mother descended. The children "went down" in what is now called Bai To Long, a less visited and less touristy portion of Halong Bay. Inside the post you will find the information to visit this piece of the bay.



Bai To Long: the least touristy Halong Bay

One of the problems of Halong Bay is of course tourism. Such a beautiful area can only be visited a lot. It is normal and unfortunately this comes with its positive sides and its negative sides.

It is up to us to understand how to find an alternative solution that allows us to enjoy a tourist place as if it were not. In Halong Bay, incredibly it can be done.

Halong Bay is called the whole area where cruises are made and where there are various limestone formations. In reality it is the central portion of the agglomeration of islands and the majority of cruises proceed precisely in this stretch.

The outlying areas are Lan Ha Bay (south) and Bai To Long Bay (north).

My prerogative was to experience Halong Bay in a manner less touristy. I did not want to find myself surrounded by boats, between various noises and landscapes to photograph ruined by the shape of the boats. The bay of Bai To Long is the perfect solution, I spent 3 days in total tranquility meeting only a couple of other boats, mostly very small boats.

The reason is that few cruise ship companies have the ability to navigate within Bai To Long Bay. As you can see from the map: Bai To long to the north, Ha Long to the center and Lan Ha to the south.

What is the best time to visit the Bay?

The best months to visit Halong Bay are March April e from the end of September until December. These are the most stable months where there is a good relationship between temperatures and sunny weather.



The months from May to August they are very at risk as typhoons happen to form in the Gulf of Tonkin, so cruises and any other activities in the bay are postponed if not canceled.

I can tell you this from experience because it was a typhoon that made me change itinerary of my trip to Vietnam. A typhoon passed just in the days I had booked the cruise which was obviously canceled. To be able to visit Halong Bay I anticipated a couple of stops so that the typhoon proceeded to the mainland and the cruises could start. A choice that had no less economic weight but I am happy to have made it. I couldn't have gone home without seeing Halong Bay.

Do it yourself or Halong Bay cruises?

I am almost always for DIY. I like to build the experience by avoiding tourist routes (as much as possible). For Halong Bay however, there are not many alternatives, or rather they exist but they are to be put in place only if you have been in Vietnam for a really long time.

I have read of some people who went directly to Halong Harbor and contracted with "local captains" to charter private boats for a day. It can be done, it is certainly an interesting experience but it involves the risk of not being able to find the boat or waiting too long, etc. etc.

In this case, to visit Halong Bay, I believe take part in an organized cruise is the best choice.


View of Halong Bay from the boat

And among the cruises to choose from you can look for the less touristy one such as the one I will mention in the next paragraphs. Choosing the correct Bay is already a starting point for a less touristy experience, Bai To Long Bay in this case was perfect.


Caution: I'm not saying a Bai To Long Bay cruise isn't touristy, it's still an organized cruise, I'm just saying it's a way to make it a little less touristy.

What cruise and how many days to choose

When trying to find out about Halong Bay cruises, you will enter the black hole of the various agencies and I assure you that getting out of it will be complicated. Online there are so many companies and so many choices of the various Junk that the headache comes and it is really difficult to be able to make correct assessments.

At first it seems that one cruise is worth the other, but then they all seem different. A chaos. Without considering the appearance: how many days?

And if you didn't book the cruise online, well, it would be enough to wander the streets of Hanoi or ask directly to your hotel to find dozens and dozens of offers on cruises.

It never comes out. It is the most total casino.

Attention, update 2019: since I wrote the article other companies and other tours have sprung up in Bai To Long Bay, I have selected them for you and there FIND HERE . Much better than having to go "random". At that link you will find all the tours of the bay that I recommend. Otherwise, if you just want to take a tour of Halong Bay, there FIND HERE .

What company did I choose?

How did I get out of it? Simple, I got stakes what were:

  • Something not very touristic
  • A company that could reuse some of the money to redevelop or preserve the bay.
  • Choose a cruise of 3 days and 2 nights, no more and no less

Thanks to these stakes that I imposed on myself, I was able to skim the various companies and just focus on Indochina Junk as one of the few who had permission to visit the Bai To Long Bay.

There are different types of boats, in my case I used the Dragon Legend, the largest and most touristic, so much so that they call it Luxury.

Initially I had also evaluated the smaller boats, like the Pearl Junk, which are a little more intimate.

Both solutions are fine, in this case the difference is not the type of boat but the area of 鈥嬧媡he bay in which you sail. An area devoid of other boats, so fantastic.

How many days in Halong Bay?

Of course, 3 days and 2 nights are more expensive than 2 days and 1 night, and so far there is no doubt. But what if I told you that actually those 2 days and 1 night are just under 24 actual hours navigation, perhaps things would change.

There are also day trips in the bay but I think they make no sense at all.

For offers of 2 days and 1 night, or 3 days and 2 nights, they pick you up early in the morning directly in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and with a Luxury Van they take you to board from Halong where you board the ship at about 12.

  • Those who choose the 2G / 1N option will return to Halong pier the next day disembarking at 12, in practice the hours in the bay are about 12 effective.
  • If instead you choose the 3G / 2N option, the second day of navigation will be completely inside the bay and you can do activities such as kayaking, visiting the caves, a barbecue on the beach (fake but still beautiful) and finally visit the floating village .

I miss to explain the last "stake": the ethical-sustainable discourse.

The cruise company I have chosen carries out awareness raising projects and sustainable projects in the protected area of 鈥嬧婤ai To Long Bay, a bay to be preserved and protected. With the collaboration of the local communities of the floating village, he tries to keep this area of 鈥嬧媡he world clean, which for now has little to do with sustainable speeches.

The recovery of plastic

Sailing in the bay on the boats of the villagers you can see the basket and the net on board. When there is floating waste, it is collected and placed in the bin. Little by little we try to keep this unique natural environment intact.

How much does a Halong Bay cruise cost?

As well as the options, too prices are extremely variable based on company, route, type of ship, days of navigation. The bay cruise could range from cheap to very expensive, from 60 euros to 300 and up.

It depends what do you want and what kind of experience you want to do.

From my point of view, if I go to a place once in my life, I try not to choose the cheapest way because it may not meet my expectations and give me a wrong perception of the place I am in.

As for the Halong Bay, I did just this reasoning:

  • Bai to Long Bay chosen (more exclusive and less touristy)
  • Chosen a luxury boat
  • Opted for 3 nights and 2 days

The all-inclusive package I chose costs $ 340 per person which includes:

  • 5 meals between lunches and dinners of 5 courses each (if not more)
  • 2 nights with breakfast

On balance it is still an expensive experience, but it is a unique experience. However, there are even cheaper solutions, on different and maybe smaller boats.

How to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi or Hoi An?

If you choose an organized cruise, your problem of "how to get to Halong Bay" will not exist because they will come and pick you up directly in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

In case, however, you will want to reach Halong Bay from a different place from Hanoi, maybe even from the south of Vietnam, I recommend you fly to Haiphong (Cat Bi airport) which is about 1 hour and a half drive from the pier where the ferries leave.

I discovered this solution out of necessity, precisely because seeing the cards on the table changed due to the typhoon, I had to organize myself to be able to reach Halong from another place and not from Hanoi. From Haiphong you can then request a private car (book in advance) which will take you to Halong Pier.

Halong Bay: negative and positive aspects

So let's get to what may be the conclusions of this post: I recommend you to go to Halong Bay? You don't even have to ask, Yes of course!

Halong Bay in the evening

It is a unique place despite having become extremely touristy. It is up to you to find the right solution to be able to enjoy this wonder without feeling the weight of tourism. My advice is to follow my choice and to choose Bai To Long Bay, alternatively you could opt for Lan Ha Bay, which is also less populated.

Surely, even while visiting the floating village, you feel and are treated just like tourists. You follow the boat's schedule and it doesn't even miss half an hour. Even the barbecue on the beach is clearly artifact and may not like it. Personally I liked it but I think it can be considered out of place. On the other hand, the kayak trip among the silence of the islets is splendid.

In conclusion: the positive aspects are many many more than the negative aspects that are essentially contained in being a tourist experience.

Have a good cruise in Halong Bay!

 


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