This is another of Vietnam’s most celebrated natural wonders, and its beauty has inspired many a painter, movie director and advertising executive. Here you have an unmistakeably East Asian water scene, with limestone karsts facing the jade green of the forest across the bay – a spectacular scene which almost couldn’t exist anywhere else.
Halong Bay lies just over 100 miles to the east of Hanoi, opening up into the Gulf of Tonkin. Visitors usually arrive by bus from Hanoi – a journey of around five hours, leaving from Hanoi’s Gia Lam terminus and arriving at Bai Chay in Halong.
Once you have settled into your accommodation (you don’t need to be too picky about location – there are several ports within Halong City and around the bay, too), you can venture out to try a local delicacy known as Ngan – a type of clam dish which is only served in this part of northern Vietnam. The large clams are usually served with wine and are best enjoyed overlooking the bay as the sun begins to set.
The main attraction of the bay are its island cruises, of which there are plenty to choose from. Despite the abundance of different types of water transport – from junks to speedboats – it is better to book your trip in advance due to the sheer popularity of the rides. As high season approaches, after March, you may even find it impossible to find a ticket at the time you want to travel. A typical cruise itinerary may involve stopping at islands and caves for some swimming, diving and exploring isolated beaches. Overnight cruises may also involve beach parties or cocktails on deck.
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