Halong Bay in Vietnam is highly recommended and honestly, DON’T MISS IT if you’re in North Vietnam!! I was actually only on a short holiday to Vietnam due to work commitments therefore time was at a premium, and so I didn’t have time to do a 2-3 day tour of Halong Bay, which are meant to be outstanding. You can stay at Cat Ba or overnight on the boat.
First of all, how do you book it?? I found that tourism is strong in Vietnam, they are good at it and they know what they have to offer you so you WON’T be short of options. If you’re staying in Hanoi the capital city, and you’re a traveller, you will most likely stay in the Old City – where it’s at! Away from the mayhem of busy traffic there are countless agencies to book your tours from. My first tip is – don’t book it from your hostel! Why? You’ll save money. I was staying at http://www.vietnambackpackerhostels.com/ (highly recommended by the way) but I managed to get a cheaper quote from Green Mango Travel (a tour agent across the street). This also fitted well with my tight schedule as I was doing a hike in Sapa as well, straight after Halong Bay (yes, sadly I didn’t have much time to relax in Vietnam but I loved it!).
You will probably arrive by bus and most likely at a port full of boats at a place called Bai Chay. There is not a lot to do there while waiting for your boat (be prepared for a slight wait). There are shops to stock up on the likes of beer and water, and initially I resisted due to the price, thinking they were a rip off. You live and learn as these vendors are cheaper than on board the boat itself. Your meals on board are normally included by the way.
So I already have two money saving tips for you on Halong Bay:
1. DON’T book your tour at the hostel and if you have time shop around.
2. BUY beer and water (and enough to keep you going) before boarding the boat. Preferably buy them in Hanoi before coming on the trip – though the beers need to be cold!
Now once you board the boat, sit back relax and enjoy this amazing inland bay of almost 2,000 ‘islets’ – many with odd shapes, amazing natural beauty, limestone caves and on calm waters. Many activities are also available and if you do a 2-3 day tour you’ll be sure to get all sorts of adventure sports offered to you. I was on a one day tour and just had kayaking. AT night you’ll also meet loads of fellow travellers and party the night away.
Hotels/where to stay: http://www.agoda.co.uk/asia/vietnam/halong.html?type=1&site_id=1410012&url=http://www.agoda.co.uk/asia/vietnam/halong.html&tag=eaa43f02-a0db-4ec4-9905-9d3c756ecf29&gclid=CLuCx7u9urMCFSQ44godMScAKA&cklg=1
A couple of my Videos from Halong Bay (more are on my You Tube Channel) :http://www.youtube.com/jonnyscottblair
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