This post was last updated on April 28th, 2014
The short answer? YES!
We actually had a different post prepared to share with you today. But then we went to Halong Bay, and everything changed. We were too excited about what we saw to think or talk or write about anything else. We would have felt guilty for keeping the beautiful experience all to ourselves for even a moment longer.
As it would happen, we weren’t planning on going to the iconic destination when we first arrived in Vietnam. After all, we had to buy bicycles. We had to plan our cycling itinerary. We had to catch up on work. We ‘had’ to do so many things, and spending a huge chunk of our budget to see a markedly tourist destination was not really on the list. But as with most things we do, at the last minute we changed our minds, assuming there must be a reason why Halong Bay is dubbed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. We got on twitter for suggestions, skimmed through TripAdvisor, and booked our luxury cruise line the day before its departure. And we can honestly say we are so glad we did.
We could try to explain the beauty of the bay using the typical travel clichés. ‘It took our breath away.’ ‘It was mind blowing.’ Well, it nearly was those things, but we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Halong Bay is a four-hour drive, one-way, from Hanoi. Most tours will include transportation and food on the boat. It is possible to see Halong Bay in one day, but you will spend most of your time in transport—along extremely bumpy roads. If the weather is exceptionally bad, the boats won’t go out. In our opinion it would still be worth experiencing Halong Bay in the rain and mist (the bay is actually known for its ‘foggy’ look), although of course a sunny day is preferable. Halong Bay is touristy, but for good reason. We didn’t feel overwhelmed by fellow tourists at any point, though perhaps because the number of people on our cruise was quite small.
Spend as much as your budget will allow on your Halong Bay cruise. Additionally, we suggest you go for at least two days and one night. We chose Handspan’s Indochina Sails—they deliver on all their promises and then some. Judging from what we saw of the other boats out on the water, not all tours do so, and there are certainly a lot of scams. However, we had to pay for that 7-course lunch and spectacular view from the bedroom—something to definitely consider.
Have you been to Halong Bay? What was your experience like? Do you think the experience is worth it?