Halong Bay is the site of a cluster of some 1400 monolithic limestone islands each topped with thick jungle foliage that stand in epic fashion in the ocean. As you can full well imagine, the area is known to be very big with tourists, and nowadays there are literally hundreds of cruise ships and junk boats – both large and small – on hand to take these tourists around the bay to admire the scenery.
A trip to Hanoi is quite an experience, with its culture, people, and street food, all being important parts of a backpacker’s life. However, most people will also want a side trip or two when they’re here to get out of the madness of the city, and what better place to escape to than the UNESCO listed Halong Bay!
Your experience of Halong Bay depends on the weather and the time of the year you come here. November til February will be very wet, and the rain and drizzle will obscure your views of the Bay, and seeing as the views are probably the main reason you come to this part of Vietnam, then it is certainly wise to plan your trip accordingly.
When it is time to leave Hanoi for that enchanting place known as Halong Bay, the first thing you will need to do is sort out transportation. The most popular way to go from Hanoi to Halong Bay is to book a tour. Tours from operators are cheap and available every day. They will take care of your transportation, cruise, and accommodation. There should also be an English speaking guide that will help explain things along the way.
If you are travelling on your own and want to save money, taking the bus from Hanoi to Halong can be a good thrill. Trains are also an option for the journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay. If you want to go to Halong by motorbike from Hanoi, you can move from Noibai Airport – Bac Ninh – National Highway 18A through Pha Lai – Sao Do – Dong Trieu – Uong Bi – Ha Long with a total length of about 160 km.
Best time to visit Halong Bay
Halong Bay is a part of Gulf of Tonkin which has 4 distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Winter is from November to March next year with the cold weather. Summer is from April to October with the hot weather.
Choosing the best time to travel to Halong Bay is also very important because it will affect your trip. As a whole, Vietnamese often travel to Halong in summer and foreigners often visit there in winter. However, the best time to travel Halong Bay is from August to November because of beautiful sunshine, cool weather and few storms.
You should not visit Halong in June and July. The reason is that this is the peak days -public holiday for locals, the number of tourists is very crowded so the price of services is often higher. In addition, this period has a lot of storms in the Gulf of Tonkin and Halong Bay.
What to bring when traveling Halong Bay
Preparing clothes, sunscreen, medicines, bikinis and sandals are all things that you need to do for your trip. Because of sunny and hot weather, you should bring sunglasses and sunscreen that usually has an SPF of 30 or more to protect your eyes and skin. Swimwear is the most essential item for swimming. So be prepared from home if you do not want to hire swimwear with the high price. Do not forget to bring the camera to capture beautiful photos.
Halong has many hotels in the tourist area. You should go in early or mid-week to avoid high room price because the price will cost an arm and a leg on weekend. You should hire a hotel located in Bai Chay for the convenience of traveling and eating. Elsewhere, staying in hotel or hostel in Hanoi is okay, since there are a lot of tour company with Halong Bay package tour.
Halong Bay has various beautiful islands with the different shapes and sizes such as Dragon island, Trong Mai Island and La Vong Island. Bai Chay Resort is the ideal destination that you should not ignore. With the location of along Halong Bay, it is suitable for tourists to swim and relax. Besides, Co To island retains the wild and peaceful tranquility among the busy life of Halong Bay with beautiful coral reefs. In particular, Tuan Chau is considered as the most beautiful island in Halong Bay, you can join interesting underwater activities there. Sung Sot Cave, Thien Cung Cave, Dau Go Cave are the top attractive caves in Halong Bay.
Halong Bay is truly one of the wonders of Asia. It was not my personal highlight of the region, due to it being too touristy, but it’s all relative. It seems the guys over at Brooklyn Meets Bombay have a similar opinion to me in that regard. I prefer quieter, more inaccessible regions of the world, such as Bukit Lawang or Tana Toraja in Indonesia, and places in Bhutan, which few tourists will ever visit.
However, despite saying this, I would recommend a trip to Halong Bay to everyone – you cannot leave Vietnam without a trip here. It only takes around three hours by car from Hanoi. So when you’re at Halong Bay, the next thing you’ll need to do is book a cruise, and found out what else there is to do in the area. Halong is not just known for its karst scenery, you know!