Halong Bay, Vietnam – your ultimate destination for spectacular limestone islands landscape.
Ever since Halong Bay Vietnam is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site first time in 1994, second time in 2000 (correct us if we are wrong), its popularity soars by leaps and bounce, attracting travellers from all over the world to have a glance of this beautiful natural wonder.
A little bit about Halong Bay….
Halong Bay is located in Quang Ninh Province, northeast of Vietnam, about 170 km from Ha Noi, the capital city of Vietnam. It covers over 1600 islands and islets, formed from different environmental factors including dissolution of soluble rocks, erosion of seawater, climate impact, etc.. In short, a long progress that need more than millions years to result in Ha Long Bay current mature topography.
It is bordered by Vietnam coastline to the North and West; Cat Ba island to the South; Ngoc Hung and Van Canh islands to the East. Cut down the thousand words of facts and keeps thing short, we highlight something you may concern: Halong Bay is really beautiful, and it takes about 4 hours to reach Halong Bay from Hanoi City. For more information about Halong Bay, you may visit UNESCO Website HERE. The bay is not inscribed for no reason.
Many say that Halong Bay is now over-commercialized….
Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, amount of tourists who visit Halong Bay is increasing year by year, taking tourism in Vietnam to a more prosper level. That said, the numbers of vessels, boats and cruises on the bay goes up proportionally to cater the demand. From an untouched nature to mass tourism, some unwanted consequences start flowing in – rubbish, polluted seawater, dirty beach and so forth, despite protected by strict laws.
So is Halong Bay Still Worth Visited? ….
We asked ourselves quite a few times before deciding to book a tour to Halong Bay, as it was not cheap for a 2D1N stay on Halong Bay Cruise (easily over 200USD per person from a reliable company). Mixed reviews from websites, where some said view in Halong Bay is really stunning and must-visit, while some say Halong Bay nowadays is no longer a scenic attraction as there’s too many cruises on the bay. Imagine hundreds of vessels are in the same compound with you, it feels like the amount of cruises outnumbered the limestones karst towers in front of you.
We doubt so until we found Bai Tu Long Bay….
We almost wanted to stay only in Hanoi for our 3D2N trip to Vietnam, as we were afraid that we would be disappointed with Halong Bay, and wasted almost RM1K (due to bad ringgit exchange rate in 2015 Q4) per pax for a night there. Thanks to suggestion from Hanoi Morgans Hotel, we managed to board on Huong Hai Sealife Cruise, a 5-start premium Ha Long Cruise which sails along Bai Tu Long Bay. Sailing along Bai Tu Long Bay made our visit to Ha Long really worthwhile, as Bai Tu Long Bay is quite a distance from the area concentrated with tourists. Less people, more tranquility.
Bai Tu Long Bay VS. Ha Long Bay…
Bai Tu Long Bay is part of the Halong UNESCO World Heritage Site, neighbouring to Ha Long Bay at Northeast side and partially lying within Ha Long. To the West, it bordered by Cam Pha mainland and to the East, bounded with Co To. Bai Tu Long also consists of hundreds of limestone towers, pillars, small islands, beaches, and cave. It has equally spectacular seascape, but less travelled, less intense with tourists.
Bai Tu Long Bay is still considered as off-the-beaten-track route compared to Halong Bay, as not many cruises are sailing in this route currently. Some other Halong Bay companies who have this route includes Indochina Junk, Treasure Junk, We actually expect to see countless cruises to overnight with during our trip there, but surprisingly, there was only two cruises nearby that night. Very calm, quiet, helmed by twinkles of stars above us.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Bai Tu Long Bay…
As mentioned, Bai Tu Long Bay gets its advantages for it is less touristy. Perfect for travellers who want a more laid-back holidays, not surrounded by too many cruises. Activities like kayaking, swimming, cave visiting, fishing village, pearl farm, squid fishing are available too. Just, there will be no Kissing rocks, Wooden Stakes Cave or Monkey Islet, more interesting shapes of karst islets in sight compared to Halong Bay.
Both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay have breathtaking view, just a piece of advice if you are visiting Ha Long…
There are many tours, agencies, ticket reseller to Halong Bay. Do some research, and pick wisely. Some reviews mentioned that they experienced bad services, rats running across cabins, insufficient water supply, etc.. Suggest to pay more to board on reliable cruises for better food, safety, services, cabins, activities. Afterall, you’ll probably visit Halong Bay once in a lifetime. Speaking about expensive? It is, for us. But the 2D1N experience in Bai Tu Long Bay, is priceless.