Is it still possible to really enjoy Halong Bay?

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Often, when I travel to locations in Asia, I feel that I have arrived there too late… The ever-increasing number of tourists is not always well managed, damaging the environment, atmosphere and the beauty of the sites. I think this is the case in Halong Bay. To try and avoid being disappointed (and also because I was pregnant) we decided to tour the bay the luxury way. We really had a good time but I can understand the disappointment some backpackers experience when going to Halong.

First step is choosing your boat and things get complicated right away: use an agency? book direct through a boat company? there are very different prices on offer for the same service adding to the confusion… after a lot of research and hesitation, we went for the Jasmine boat and picked a room with a balcony. This is not a cheap option but we didn’t regret it!

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We chose the “two days, one night” package, which turned out to be a little short and given the distance from Hanoi, I think I would recommend the two night package…. but if you don’t like kayaking, swimming or if you are on a tight schedule, one night will do!

When we went there the weather wasn’t that nice (rained a lot…) but we still did all the activities – the fisherman village tour was interesting, the cave visit was too touristy, taichi on the beach in the morning was enjoyable, the Tip Top hike was exhausting but the view was amazing and there was nobody around early in the morning! The best “activity” though was sitting on the boat deck or on our balcony and enjoying the tranquility of the place: we will always remember soaking in the sun set on the deck with nobody in sight…. escaping the crowds is the main advantage of picking a luxury boat in Halong.

In Halong Bay, the classic route is very busy and the water is not that clean, so we felt that we made a good decision picking the Jasmine cruise – it made the trip relaxing, unique and unforgettable.

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Voyagista’s Tips

  •  2 or 3 days, what’s best? if you go for 2 days you can enjoy the bay but over 3 days you can go to Cat Ba and do some activities like kayaking. In any case DO NOT GO for a day, it’s way to far from Hanoi

  • Here are a few boats we read about during our research: Indochina Junk seems to be an off the beaten path option, Indochina Sails has very pretty boats, and Autocruise is one of the most luxurious choices. To make up your mind, I suggest you check a few agency sites to see the different options and once you have decided which cruise suits you the best pick the cheapest offer from the different providers.

  • Halong bay is 180 km and 3h30 hours drive from Hanoi. You can stop in a tourist shop for a rest on the way. The driving in Vietnam is mad, close your eyes!

What about you? Have you been to Halong Bay? Can you recommend a specific boat?

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