Special: Ha Long Bay
On a recent trip to Vietnam, I had the chance to visit the spectacular Ha Long Bay. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most fascinating natural wonders in this part of the world. In this special, I’ll get you an idea of how visiting is like!
As you are used to from other posts on traveluxblog, I won’t go into too much detail regarding the history, the geology or the etymlogy of a place as I think you’ll find better and more accurate informaton about all of this on other websites. This post, however, will focus on visiting Ha Long Bay as a tourist. If you are interested in other really special places on this world, check out our specials about Machu Picchu, the Chinese Wall, Cornwall and many more!
Choosing a boat tour to Ha Long Bay
Generally speaking, the only normal way to see Ha Long Bay is a boat tour and while there are some ultra-luxe options, you’ll usually be stuck on one of many junks, which aren’t all that much different.
There’s usually a lower deck with some seating and tables with big windows and an upper deck with a terrace, where you can enjoy a better view.
Basically all options include a lunch with various simple dishes, which I thought were fine, but unremarkable.
If you are coming from Hanoi, you can usually also book a shuttle with the tour and prices for both togehter range from around 20 to 100 US-Dollar, depending on when and where you book.
Getting to the Ha Long Bay
The Ha Long Bay tours usually start around 10, 11 or 12 am, depending on when the tour buses from Hanoi arrive. Once you have boarded, the cruise starts with about a 30 to 45 minute ride to the actual Ha Long Bay. During this ride, you’ll already enjoy a very nice view of the limestone karsts, which the bay is famous for.
Basically all tours go into the core of the bay, which has the highest density of karst formations (more than 700 to be precise). Thus, you’ll see massive rocks in the water left and right.
It’s really fascinating to see as there are not many places in the world, which are even close to being similiar to Ha Long Bay.
On the other hand, you’ll also always see several other junks around you as Ha Long Bay is no quiet tourist attraction by any means. Instead, there are tens of thousands people visiting each day and that’s something that somewhat destroys the atmosphere.
Nevertheless, I thought that driving by the limestone karsts is a really nice experience, especially as there’s so much lush greenery on them.
Doing a tour with a small boat
Basically all tours stop at one point during the cruise, where you deboard and then either take a small kayak yourself or join someone navigating you through a cave in a smaller boat.
I did the latter and enjoyed having time to enjoy the scenery, which is really nice here as you are going “into” one of the karsts through a little cave.
The inside of the karst formation is a really special place as it’s not a cave per se, but more of a open space with daylight.
While the ride is less than 25 minutes, I enjoyed it very much and personally thought that this is one of the highlights when visiting Ha Long Bay.
Visiting one of the caves in Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay consists not only of many limestone karsts, but also several caves, which some are particularly large and famous.
My tour visited the Sung Sot Cave, which is one of the two largest and most famous. It’s a really nice place, but visiting isn’t nice at all as it’s just incredibly crowded.
If you are looking up or at the stalagmites and stalactites, you’ll still enjoy visiting very much.
The walk through the cave takes about 20 minutes and that’s enough to enjoy the scenery without getting crazy with the many people around you.
Something I really liked is the view you have when exiting the cave as you can basically see the whole bay and enjoy the scenery.
Nevertheless, I’ve been to more enjoyable caves, mainly because those were less crowded.
Overall impressions of Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a really interesting place and definitely one of the most special sites in the world. It deserved being a UNESCO World Heritage site and visiting once in a lifetime is definitely something you should to. On the other hand, I thought that the place was way too touristy, which takes a way quite a bit of the atmosphere. While I would recommend visiting, I personally don’t see a need to come back.