Halong Bay, an UNESCO world heritage site, has long catered to tourists visiting the northern coast of Vietnam. Impressing everyone with its jagged limestone cliffs and intricate topography.
Touring the Bay
Halong Bay is located 3 hours from Hanoi, which makes a day trip difficult. Staying at least 1 night will allow you to see the bay and not leave feeling rushed. Expect a tour to include all meals, accommodation and admission fees for your activities. It is usually a full day. Instead of sun bathing on the top deck watching the beautiful limestone drift by, you will be kayaking, climbing through caves and visiting villages.
Questions to ask the tour agent prior to booking
- How many people will be on the boat?
- Do they allow day trip guests on the boat?
- Is there air conditioning? (Sometimes it is only turned on at night)
- Name of the company who runs the boat? I would suggest doing your own research online.
- Activity specifics – when, where, how?
At first glance you will look over a sea of endless limestone cliffs and the maze they create. Boats fill the bay as you float along with hundreds of other tourists in search of inspiration and beauty.
Look a bit closer and you will see families fishing, cooking and making a living amidst the cliffs. Ladies row their boats full of water and food as they reach out to the visiting tourists to purchase an item off their boat. The city thrives off of the tourism and are always finding new ways to engage their visitors.
Reviews come back mixed from this great wonder. Some will leave it in awe and loving this vast park, while others will return with memories of the run-down boats, haggled workers and smelling the dirty water. As with any travel your expectations and attitude will play a big role in your experience.
Don’t miss the sun setting over the limestone. The days are packed with energy and movement, but the nights on the bay are peaceful.
Tips for Visiting
- Bring extra water with you, most of the boats charge 4x what you can get it for on land
- Don’t skimp too much on the price. There will be a lot of tour agencies trying to sell you the different boats, some may seem really cheap, $30 for a 2 day trip. You will get what you pay for.
Halong Bay is a beautiful place, torn between preservation and the economics of tourism. Even with the controversy, I would recommend visiting, although sooner than later.
Do you seek out natural wonders in your travels? How do you feel about balancing preservation with tourism?