Results 11-19of 19 Reviews
hanoi, Hawaii, Vietnam
April 4, 2009
Vancouver, British Columbia
December 25, 2005
I booked a day trip out of Hanoi to visit Halong Bay. Similar trips were advertised at every travel agent and most guesthouses in the old district. My trip lasted about 12 hours, including the 3-hour minibus trip to the bay and back. It included lunch on the boat, and for only $20, was quite reasonable. I saw other trips for 1 to 3 days for $30 to $170, depending on activities and accommodation.
I was there during the cool season in late December, so I missed out on snorkeling/swimming and sunbathing that I bet would have added a lot to the experience. In fact, it started to get quite cold and windy on the boat by mid-afternoon. I was very glad I had brought a winter coat. We had a sunny day for our trip, but our guide warned us that the weather on the bay was changeable and often cloudy and raining.
Even so, Halong Bay had some of the most stunning scenery I saw in Vietnam. It easily earns its UNESCO World Heritage status. With nearly 2,000 islands, the bay had amazing panoramic views. Although, if you have already spent time visiting the limestone karsts on Thailand's west coast or in Guilin, China, you might feel a sense of deja vu, as the landscapes are strikingly similar.
Our tour took us on a 4-hour boat cruise around the bay, with a 1- to 2-hour stop at two popular caves located on one of the islands. Although I found the views gorgeous, all the islands quickly started to look alike to me. I think a 2- or 3-day stay on the boat would become a bit tedious, unless maybe you were planning on getting some quiet R&R with a good book.
The caves we visited (Dau Go) were very impressive and seemed to go on forever. They were quite accessible, with wide level walkways that take you on a predefined route through each of the caves. Along the way, our guide pointed out several formations that resembled various animals and objects. Both caves are extremely well lit with dozens of strategically placed multicolored florescent lights. This combined with the ticket takers, refreshment stands, predefined paths, and (most disconcertingly) the trash cans shaped like penguins, gave the entire place a sort of Disneyland feel I thought sort of detracted from the experience. I still enjoyed seeing the caves immensely but wouldn't recommend them to someone looking for a spelunking adventure. Climbing the steps to the cave was probably the most strenuous part of the trip.
From journal Hanoi and Halong Bay
October 27, 2004
Booking an overnight trip to Ha Long Bay was easy enough. Most mini-hotels or local travel agents offer trips ranging from one to three days to the bay. Our overnight trip only cost US$18. It is possible to get better tours at slightly higher prices. My friend recommends Handspan Tours at http://www.handspan.com.
When we went on the trip, we realised how they kept the prices so low....by having lots of people on the trip. The many travel agencies work together, and it was confusing on the first morning when we were pushed from group to group. We finally departed in a suspensionless bus with probably 40 other participants. There must have been at least 12 such buses leaving at the same time.
We reached the jetty in about two hours and had a quick lunch at a restaurant there. Just note that the tea served is for drinking. We were at the same table as some people from Hong Kong who used the tea to wash their cups and had to pay for extra tea to drink.
Eventually, after much confusion about our guide, who kept changing – one moment was a long-haired girl, next was a man with a cap—we were on our boats. We all sat out on- deck to admire the thousands of limestone mountains that emerged as we cruised down the misty bay. We also visited several caves and saw beautiful limestone structures, somewhat gaudily lit up. It was beautiful and somewhat surreal.
The wind grew stronger in the evening and began to be too cold to sit out. We didn't reach our destination, Cat Ba Island, until 8pm, where we checked into Sunflower Hotel.
We didn’t feel very sunny staying here - the door didn’t lock, there were no windows, hot water, or heater, and only one small blanket. After a simple dinner of rice and many vegetables, we sadly retired to the cold bed.
The next day, everyone looked murderous as we ate the simple banana-and-baguette breakfast. Lunch in the boat was pleasant and definitely better-tasting than dinner. We reached land in the afternoon and took a bumpy ride back to Hanoi.
The scenery is beautiful, and Ha Long Bay is not a place to be missed. The moral of the story here is to go in summer and pay a bit more if you need comfort. I also hear that kayaking in the bay during summer is very pleasant.
From journal Hanoi Highlights
London, United Kingdom
July 16, 2004
Right! Eighth Wonder of the World, here I come! To get the best deals for a package travel to Ha Long Bay & Cat Ba Island, we had to exercise patience obtaining quotes from the many Sinh Cafes in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Sinh Cafes are essentially one-stop shop of travel agents and cafes. Sinh Cafés on Hang Bac have heaps of choices, ranging from US$13 for a one-night stay to US$26 for 2 nights (including dinners and breakfasts). You can choose to stay on the cruise boat on the bay, or a hotel on Cat Ba Island. As we have a tendency towards seasickness, staying in a hotel on Cat Ba Island was the better choice. We went through 6 Sinh Cafes before making a decision, comparing prices and itineraries. Patience is definitely called for. We opted for a package deal of US$26pp covering 2 nights accommodation, 3 meals a day, entry fees to sights, cruise of Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island National Park, Monkey island/kayaking. Thought this was a pretty good deal... until we found out differently towards the end of the trip!!! Thought we did good research, didn't we?!?!
From journal Ha Long Bay & Cat Ba Island
July 1, 2003
From journal Friendly VietNam
January 18, 2003
Halong Bay is best on a sunny, clear day, as the day we went it was overcast and spoiled it a little. I wouldn't recommend it unless the day was really lovely.
It is actually quite similar to the islands in southern Thailand, such as Phi Phi, which I think are a fair bit nicer.
Overall, it was a nice place to visit, but if you have seen the islands in Thailand I wouldn't bother.
From journal Hanoi - One of the most beautiful cities in the Wo
New York City, New York
November 28, 2001
The main attraction is the bay itself, scattered with thousands of rocky formations and uninhabited islands, many of which have beautiful caves you can explore. I took a day-long boat trip which included a fantastic lunch of fresh fish and seafood, and a really sweet driver (captain?) and the cook and guide, LeAnh. You can find these kinds of boat trips right at the ferry dock, which is pretty hard to miss!
I stayed at the 3-star Halong Bay Hotel which was clean and well-located, just a few minutes' walk from the water.
From journal The Highlights of Vietnam from North to South
Seneca, South Carolina
November 19, 2000
From journal The Bay of the Flying Dragon
New York, New York
July 4, 2000
From journal Vietnam