Visiting this famous, island-spotted bay is a necessity if you visit northern Vietnam. The spectacular caves and stunning coves are on many travellers bucket list. The bay is best viewed aboard an overnight cruise, and we found one night/two days to be sufficient to take in all Ha Long Bay has to offer. Our Fantasea Tour guides were very knowledgable and got us to all of the places and activities we wanted to do, for the reasonable price of $95 US. However you experience it, make sure to take it all in as it’s one of the most famous bays in the world!
How to Get There
We had done some research on how to get to Ha Long Bay, but found that it was a fairly large hassle to find affordable travel from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. We didn’t have the time to spend a day trying to get between the two cities (and we’d heard some brutal stories of buses randomly stopping along the way or connecting buses just not showing up) so we did what most people did and booked a tour through our hotel which included a mini bus to and from Ha Long Bay. The trip took 4.5 hours, though that included a random long stop at a weird flee market, where they presumably hoped we would buy something. On the way back the trip only took 3.5 hours.
Where to Stay
On your cruise ship of course! Our double room on Fantasea Cruise was very basic, as our tour was on the cheaper end of the spectrum of available cruises. The room pretty much only consisted of a bed and an ensuite bathroom, not much room to stand anywhere. It also had functioning AirCon which was a bonus. That’s all you need when you’re spending the rest of your time taking in your beautiful surroundings!
The rest of the ship was a little worn down but consisted of everything we needed. The roof top of the ship was very accessible and allowed for awesome views of the bay. The main dining room was comfortable and had a bar where your could buy fairly expensive drinks (beers for $1.50 US). The food was surprisingly good; we were expecting much less but we were satisfied after every meal. We even made our own spring rolls for lunch the last day.
What to Do
- Surprise Cave (Sung Sot Cave) – Surprise Cave was our first destination, and it definitely lived up to it’s name. We expected a large cave, but couldn’t help but be delightfully surprised at how massive it really was! There are three main “rooms” each larger than the last. The erosion patterns on the rock were really impressive. The cave is very touristy, and lit up by colourful lights, but that didn’t take away from the magnificence of the cave.
- Kayaking – Kayaking is the best way to get up close and personal with the cliff like islands in the bay. We were also able to kayak through a natural tunnel into a cove unaccessible to cruise ships. This is where we saw our first wild monkeys! There were at least 30 of them climbing and jumping around the cliffs, it was a very cool sight.
- Squid Fishing – At night we tried our hand at squid fishing. Though we were completely unsuccessful, we had a lot of fun pretending, and we caught a few crabs!
- Ti Top Mountain – A 400 step climb up this mountain provided spectacular views of the surrounding bay. Once we got all the pictures we needed we headed back down to cool off with a nice swim.