Halong Bay, a 1,500 km² stretch of water in northern Vietnam. It has 120 kilometers of coastline with 1,969 karst islands and has earned it its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A very visited place because magical and unique.
After having ENORMOUSLY sought and doubted on this visit, we finally decided to go! Yes, we had read a lot of blogs before arriving, it was the big “doubt” of the trip as it was a visit we did not want to miss because it is still a beautiful place. Reading before we left, we thought of getting there on our own to go on the island of Cat Ba which is less touristy. Arriving in Hanoi and being confronted with life in Vietnam we quickly changed our minds… We did not want to get in the hassle of taking 3 different buses and a ferry, look for a hotel on the spot etc… So we followed the advice of some bloggers that we know and chose to leave with an agency that takes care of us during the two days.
Which agency to choose to visit Halong Bay?
We can not tell you if the one we chose is the best because we do not know. We chose The Sinh Tourist, a well-established agency in Vietnam. We paid 150€ for two people for the two days. This price includes the trip from hotel to Halong bay, 4 meals, night in air-conditioned room on the boat, activities such as kayaking, visiting Titop Island, cooking class and guide in English. We chose this agency because boat trips are made with relatively few people (we were 15), for the price we did not really compare as it is “THE” thing we wanted to do in Vietnam.
It is 7am the alarm clock sounds, quickly a little shower then we go down to have our breakfast (still in our hotel in Hanoi). We negotiated with our hotel to keep our big bags so we only board each with a small backpack for the two days.
08h30 the minibus arrives, there are about 15 people of all nationalities (Japanese, Mexicans, Americans, and two Vietnamese). The journey will last 4 hours, fortunately the bus is air-conditioned but to make 160 poor km it is long (and yes here they do not know the highways and still less the code of the road). Besides on the way we witnessed 1 accident (not reassuring but it’s a habit here it seems!) And then we got back inside (more fear than evil).
Arriving on the bay, we embark directly on the boat. The staff welcomes us with a welcome drink and we start check-in (there are only twelve rooms and the boat is very nice). We discovered our room which is very nice and especially the view! We were already imagining waking up the next morning with the view from the bed ah ah!
Then we are called to go eat, we share our table with an English couple, an American and a Japanese. They serve us about 8 dishes, some of vegetables, others of rice, shrimp and many others. They are good but no more (much loved but I am demanding (Anaïs)). During the meal we sail and discover the halong bay!
We are surprised in a good sense, indeed many people had warned us of the incredible number of tourists but also of the fact that the bay is enormously polluted… Are we really talking about the same place?
For our part, we did not have many tourists at all (it must be admitted that the month of November is the low season) and in terms of pollution we have seen nothing … If not some small boat Which pollute a bit but nothing annoying.
We took advantage of the bridge to admire the magnificent views. The bay is impressive due to the number of rocks that come out of the water, no matter where you look, you always see them everywhere, it is really an incredible and unique spectacle (arriving we admit that it reminded us of Thailand).
In the afternoon we arrived to Ti Top island, where it is possible to bathe but especially where there is a magnificent viewpoint over the bay. So, we started directly to climb the 420 steps not without evil! In fact, after the Great Wall of China and the number of kilometers we had in our legs it was not too difficult but it was especially the heat that killed us! Sweaty but happy we arrived at the top and there “oh my god” !!! But what a view! There is nothing else to add, look at the pictures ….
We stayed for a while up there taking pictures (and catching our breath !!), then we went down to the beach. It is possible to swim but to be frank the bay is beautiful but the water doesn’t look that great (and even more so after visiting Thailand that same year with its turquoise waters …).
Back on the boat we put on our lifejackets to go kayaking among the islands. We enjoyed it very much, it is relaxing (go to places where there is no one). An hour of kayaking was a great moment and it must be admitted that we only muscle our legs while walking so the arms needed it too!
Back on the boat, we went to shower and then went to admire the sunset over the bridge and take some pictures. Note that the sun sets very early in November (around 17h). Then we had a Vietnamese cooking class.
We learned how to make spring rolls, it was great and also delicious !!
Right after the cooking lesson we were served dinner, which was good and especially well presented (the photos speak for themselves).
After this very tiring day we went to rest!
The next day we wake up at 7am for breakfast. It is plentiful and having it with the views of the rock formations is priceless!
We sail to an island with caves. We will visit three caves (from the smallest to the largest). The last is the most stunning, it’s just huge and presents a show we’ve never seen. On one side the stalactites and on the other the strange shapes in the rock.
After this visit we continued to sail through the bay, then we had our lunch on the boat before heading back to Hanoi.
We loved Halong Bay! As you will have understood by now, it is just beautiful! We were happy because we did not have many tourists and also because we had great weather (the sky was clear so we were able to take nice pictures!). Concerning the agency we chose, we can not say too much, we liked the activities proposed and the fact that the boat is small and therefore on a human scale. On the other hand we were a bit disappointed because in the evening there was no activity.
If we had to do it again we would choose an agency, as the transport in Vietnam can be really slow and complicated.
We now understand why Halong Bay is part of Unesco World Heritage!