Halong Bay, Vietnam

Believe it or not, I once spent the night on a wooden pirate junk in Halong Bay, one of Vietnam’s (and the world’s) World Heritage Sites and, more importantly, one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places in the world.

Halong Bay is a bumpy three and a half hour drive from Hanoi, the main city in the north of Vietnam. All cruises around the bay are organized by tour companies, but beware! We heard rumours of up to 600 boats  (or people, you know how rumours fly) following the same route through a highly-trafficked part of the bay. This would make the experience distinctly less magical. We were lucky enough to spend 24 hours on the Red Dragon Junk, part of the Indochina Junk Company who have special permission (for only three boats) to navigate a different route through the bay, and work hard to make their route, and their presence in this natural wonder, as eco-friendly as possible.

Our days on the Red Dragon were soaked in magic. From the moment we set sail on our all-wooden junk modeled on a Vietnamese pirate ship from the 17th century, we knew we were in for something special. As soon as we’d settled into our extremely comfortable cabin, with views over the bay on both sides, we were treated to a sumptuous seafood feast, and the food didn’t stop coming for the next 24 hours. Course after course of shrimp, fish, scallops and squid, all beautifully prepared and presented. There was some time to relax after our lunch feast, on one of the three sun decks, gazing out over the extraordinary limestone karsts that rise up out of the aquamarine water like prehistoric monuments. There are 1969 of these karts in Halong Bay itself, 3000 in the greater area, and more than 89% of them are made from limestone. They range in height from 50m to 200m, but they are all – every one of them – completely awe-inspiring.

The afternoon hours were spent exploring a cave on one of the islands, in a beautifully lit cavern of stalactites and stalagmites, and then kayaking around the karsts themselves as the sun set. What an extraordinary hour: to get up close to these wonders of nature and drift among them as the sun begins to set… It’s one of those unforgettable memories.

In fact, all of Halong Bay feels like an unforgettable memory. We visited a floating village, found out about the Indochina Junk’s environmental campaign, “For a Green Halong Bay’ and ate a whole lot more of that deliciously fresh seafood. But mainly we just marveled, nonstop and with no dilution, at the extraordinary beauty we found ourselves in.

Watch our Best Moment of the Day from Halong Bay here (but be warned – you’ll want to leave immediately).

Photo: Just the Planet

Our Readers Comments

  1. Great option to see the landscapes in Halong Bay, the trip is so amazing and interesting. Seafood is really fresh and delicious, tourist guide is friendly and kind. However, the most impression for me is Thien Cung cave. The name of the cave translates as “Cave of the Heavenly Palace”, and it is one of more popular caves that are included as part of visitors’ tour at Halong Bay. Walking inside the deep and spacious cave, one will immediately notice the many multi-colored lights that are installed here, which not only serve to provide some lighting inside the dark cave, but also to enhance the beauty of the cave, especially its multiple rock formations. At one place, light comes from the roof top which looks very stunning. Water droplets still fall from the roof. After kayaking, our guide for the day came up to the caves with us and took group photos inside the cave for us. It is so wonderful for my vacation as well as other members’ one. I wish we have more time to discover this interesting bay

    • Hi Jill,

      Yes there is something very special about Halong Bay. It should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit 🙂

      Sounds like you had an incredible holiday and got to see and experience so many beautiful places.

    • Yep. I booked Halong Full Day Trip. We visited the Thien Cung Cave. It’s most beautiful place of my trip

    • halong always the preferred choice of many visitors to return to Vietnam

  2. We had heard about Ha Long Bay Day Tours from friends of ours and decided to also try it for ourselves. We booked the boat for a night and it was a really fun experience. The boat is in great condition and the food on the boat was also very good. All around you, you will see beautiful scenery which makes this whole trip really relaxing. Our tour guide was one of the friendliest people we have ever met and we would love to stay in touch with him and do this again if we are ever in Hanoi

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