Halong Bay, 2-day tour: the good and the bad things

Visit Halong Bay: my experience in two day cruise

After two weeks in Vietnam the time had finally come for a 2-day tour of Halong Bay. Halong Bay was recently declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, so it’s one of those “must see” if you come to Vietnam. Halong Bay impresses as much by the great variety in shape and size of the islands as by the large number of them.

It starts to amaze you right before you leave, from the beach of Halong City. Looking at the horizon, it’s impossible to see an empty space without islands. It’s a horizon of mountains above the sea. When you get to the harbor, everything becomes a bit chaotic. Crowds of tourists line up to get on one of the many boats and chaos is quite widespread. Even so, everyone manages to set sail.

Once on the boat, when you go in between all the islands, you enjoy the landscape and the tranquility again. Sailing into Halong Bay is almost like being in an Avatar movie. But in the water with Vietnamese boats instead of flying ships.

Halong Bay - Boats
Halong Bay – Boats

The legend of Halong Bay

Legend has it that many years ago the Vietnamese fought the Chinese who wanted to invade Vietnam by sea. To help the Vietnamese defend their land and protect their shores, the Jade Emperor sent some heavenly dragons.

The jewels and jade that the dragons spat out became the islands in the bay. These created a great wall that would sink Chinese ships and ensure the victory of Vietnam.

What to know before taking a boat tour of Halong Bay?

In Hanoi you will find hundreds of agencies that do routes in Halong Bay. They are usually cheaper than taking the route from Halong city, as there is much more offer.

A 2-night tour is advisable. Although if you are on a tight schedule, a one-night tour is also sufficient. The route can vary depending on the days you want to stay and the company you choose to travel with. However, the route is often quite similar.

Be careful; we have seen people who have been promised a lot of things by the agencies, have paid more for it and then have done the same as the rest. In our case, we spent the first day on the boat going around the bay. We had many stops and lost time. We visited a cave and slept in an area surrounded by islands, where the waters are calmer.

Vietnam - Halong Bay - Traditional Boat
Vietnam – Halong Bay – Traditional Boat

Visiting Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay

The second day we went to Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay. You’ll get to stay there for a day almost every time you take a tour of more than one day. There’s not much to do at Cat Ba. During the day you can go to the viewpoint and then to the beach to watch the sunset. To end the day, you can go out for a drink at night with the tourists you meet on the tour.

On the way back, we took a kayak trip. It was good to burn some of the rice we had been given during those two days on the boat. By the time we realized it, two days had passed. Our tour around Halong Bay had come to an end. We returned to the coast and said goodbye to one of the wonders of the world. One down, six to go.

Vietnam - Cat Ba Viewpoint
Vietnam – Cat Ba Viewpoint

What’s good about Halong Bay:

  • You’ll see some dreamy scenery.
  • The prices of the crossings are usually relatively cheap.
  • You’ll enjoy the peace and quiet during the day and, if you want, partying at night on most boats.

Downsides to Halong Bay.

  • It’s easy for agencies to try to rip you off and promise you more activities than you end up with.
  • It is a place with too much tourism, so try to go in low season to avoid crowds.
  • The water is getting dirtier every year, and it’s a shame to see rivers of shit in this wonderful landscape.

Next Destination: From Halong Bay to Hanoi

Our next destination was the capital of Vietnam: Hanoi. Famous for its history and culture, Hanoi is also home to the mausoleum where the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh rests.

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If you plan to travel to Vietnam, you may also be interested in our Vietnam Travel Tips list or the post about the Coast of Vietnam, the most beautiful beaches.

Vietnam - Sunrise Halong Bay
Vietnam – Sunrise Halong Bay

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