Ha Long Bay
The natural beauty and aesthetic importance of Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and natural wonder, is a true jewel in the crown of Vietnam’s beauty. Boasting a spectacular seascape filled with thousands of towering limestone islands, karst grottoes, and quaint junk boats cruising the sparkling emerald waters, visiting this area truly is like stepping into a fairy tale, the stuff of legends.
Legend tells of foreign invaders attacking Vietnam in its early stages as a new country. The Jade Emperor sent a family of dragons to help the Vietnamese defend their country; as the dragons descended from the sky, the dragons spit out jewels and jade into the water, which transformed into thousands of islands and islets, creating a strong wall that could not be breached. After the battle finished, the dragon family decided to stay on Earth and live out their days. The place that the Mother Dragon descended is known as Ha Long Bay – the bay of the descending dragon.
Time to visit
Although Ha Long Bay is a magical year-round destination, book your overnight cruise in the late spring and early summer months between March and May, or during the autumn from September to November for optimum weather results. After the cold and foggy winter, the months of March, April, and May begin to showcase sunny days without the storms and heat of June-August. Between September and November, Halong remains warm by day and comfortable at night, allowing travellers to participate in all activities both on and off boat to take in the full beauty of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Most visitors to Ha Long Bay come for the overnight cruises through the dreamy landscape. Standard overnight cruises usually cost between USD130-150 per person, with all excursions and meals included, while luxury cruises usually cost around USD250 per person. A 2-night luxury cruise is usually priced between USD300-700 depending on type of cabin. For those looking to visit Halong Bay and not cruise, popular hotels like Novotel and Wyndham exist at around USD100 per night.
Food & drink
When cruising in Ha Long, all meals are included in the rate paid, usually consisting of succulent seafood and artfully decorate and arranged dishes. Luxury cruises offer 3 and 5-course meals while classic-styled boats serve buffets and bbqs. Mainstays of Vietnamese cuisine like pho, bun cha, nem, bun ca, fried rice and fried noodles can be found in all local restaurants, priced between USD1-4 per dish.
Wi-Fi is available in most cafes, hotels, and overnight ships although sometimes the service can be spotty when sailing through the limestone islands. SIM Cards can be bought from main brands such as Viettel, Mobifone, and Vinaphone from USD2-3 and internet data for USD1-25 at nearly every shop on the street. In case of emergency, dial 113 for the police, 114 for fire, 115 for ambulance and first-aid.
Due to the newly completed highway, cars can reach Halong from Hanoi in just 2.5 hours. Local buses make the journey at USD4-6 one-way, while private cars cost around 100-USD roundtrip. There is also an option to travel by seaplane, cutting the trip down to 45 minutes, for USD175.
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