I am a nature lover, so one of the top destinations for me was the Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site of 2000 isles appearing in the King Kong movie and captured on the VND 200,000 banknote.
The bay is located in the north-east Vietnam, around 3 hours far from Hanoi. The best way to get there is to pay for a trip in one of the agencies or in your hotel in Hanoi. They have several packages, I paid 60 for one day including lunch, kayaking and cave entrance and had it arranged by my hotel. You will be picked up in the morning and taken by bus to the destination, where a boat will be awaiting for your group. The same bus will take you back in the evening and you will arrive back home at around 7pm.
So there are 3 major activities that you do during such a trip. You start by going through the beautiful bay on a boat. The beauty of the rock masses emerging from water like powerful giants is breathtaking. You can enjoy the amazing views for about an hour until you arrive to one island on which the biggest cave in the bay, Thien Cung Cave, is located. It is worth to see, for me personally mostly because of the story of its discovery. It is also full of stalagmites and stalactites and other beautiful sceneries of springs, etc. However, the number of the visitors and the presentation of the cave are somewhat disturbing. Colorful lightings and content of the guide's commentation (pointing out the similarity of the shapes of the cave to e.g. animals or lovers) made the tour more interesting for kids than grownups. The next stop was a little port in the middle of the bay where we could have taken a short tour by a bamboo boat with a steerer, or borrow a kayak. This was the best experience out of the whole trip since you appear at the place just with a few other people and you get closer to the water and land. You can hear the animals chirping and screaming and smell the humid greeneries around, while the rest of the world gets quiet. It is the most relaxing setting on the earth. After a bit more floating between the islands you are taken to the bus and driven to the hotel.
What I would have done differently:
- I would have stayed for two days. I would love to see a bit more and wake up next to the view of Ha Long Bay.
- There are 8,000 tourists on average coming every day. If you have a choice, go there rather on a weekday.
What to wear:
I was there at the end of July, so it was very very hot in Vietnam overall. Here, it is also more humid and the hottest environment is the cave.
- Wear something light.
- You can wear any shoes, there isn't much walking and neither you will get wet, so no need for functional shoes.
See the pics and videos below: