Ha Long Bay is one of the most popular areas in the whole of Vietnam. Accessible only by boat you’ll be immersed in beautiful, and unique, scenery that spans as far as you can see. Ha Long Bay consists of thousands of limestone pillars that tower above sea level. These pillars were formed millions of years ago but today they help create a beautiful setting like no other. It’s no surprise tourists flock to the area, it’s a must for any Vietnam trip.
Ha Long Bay is located 4 hours by road from the capital Hanoi, some old websites will advise that there is a train link but this was decommissioned some time ago. With limited options by far the best way to see Ha Long Bay is via an organised trip from the capital Hanoi. Don’t be put off by organised trips in Vietnam, they are not as expensive as you may think and are extremely well organised and kept on time.
Going on a Junk Boat Cruise is the most popular way to explore Ha Long Bay. These can be booked as part of the organised trip for either one, two or three nights. If you book when you get to Hanoi you’ll probably find it cheaper than if you were to do so beforehand online. Many hotels have cheap rates but if you prefer to book online, like we did, Booking.com was the best value we could find. Most of the cruise boats are almost identical, as are the daily itineraries so make your booking based on good reviews and you will be fine.
With Ha Long Bay being 4 hours away a single night would not be worth while so we opted for the two nights, one on a Junk boat and one in a beach bungalow. We can highly recommend mixing it up and staying one night on the island (Cat Ba Island), it completely exceeded our expectations and was like a secluded paradise.
The rooms on the boats are basic but functional, they were big enough for a king size bed, separate shower room and a small wardrobe. Depending on your boat, there can be limited hot water and the walls are very thin. But a quick look out the window to remember where you’ll quickly forget the minor gripes. The bungalow was a real surprise, we are very glad that we didn’t opt for two nights on the boat. Suspended over the sea we could lie in bed listening to the waves lap the rocks below us and watch the sunset from our terrace. The rooms were much more spacious and the whole beachfront was only shared with about 20 other people.
The food is all provided on the organised trip and it’s a selection of Vietnamese dishes, with both meat, fish and vegetarian options. You are not going to be able to have burgers and chips so please ensure you are comfortable with the food provided when you book your trip. We really enjoyed the foods and as we do not eat fish they made us extra meat dishes at each meal time. The drinks on board are fairly expensive, you’ll pay around £10 for a bottle of wine and around £1 for a can of Coke. You’re only allowed to bring water on board so if you want to drink, bear the extra costs in mind.