Ha Long Bay Location
One of the wonderful places to visit in Vietnam is Ha Long Bay. Vietnamese write the words separate, like Ha Noi, Sai Gon and Viet Nam. It doesn’t matter how you write it, everyone knows what you mean if you write and say it as one word instead of two. Ha Long Bay is located around 170 km east of Hanoi at the Gulf of Tonkin. The journey by bus from Hanoi takes you around 2,5 hrs.
There are several options to get to Ha Long Bay. When you stay in Hanoi’s Old Quarter then you can’t miss all the adverts and offers from agencies and hotels. A one day tour for $25, You can get 2 days / 1 night for $55 and 3 days / 2 nights for $85. when you walk around and search you will be able to find prices a few dollars more or less than the ones given here.
Impressive listings and size
With a coastline of around 120 km and a bay of over 1500 km2, Ha Long Bay is of immense size and already therefore impressive. Ha Long Bay is listed on the UNESCO world heritage list from 1994 and it got updated/upgraded in 2000 because of enormous geological and geomorphological value. Ha Long Bay is also part of the new natural seven wonders of the world since 2012. More about it here http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/672
Ha Long Bay consist of around 2000 islands and islets made of limestone. Most are uninhabited. The history of the bay and the islets goes back to 500 million years. As you can imagine, a lot of flora and fauna can be found in this area. Animals live on some of the islands and there are around 200 species of fish in the waters. Many of the islands got a name which is associated with the shape of the island. The biggest island is Cat Ba. Hotels and shops can be found there and it has a wonderful hiking route.
When you take a one day boat tour, you will be brought to the harbor. You get yourself on the boat and move to the islands. All boats are going to the same spot. A huge cave called Thien Cung grotto or Thien Cung Cave. In the whole of Ha Long Bay islands, more caves can be found, but this one is by far the most visited. The cave has everything that supposed to be in a cave, but the lights, purple, yellow, green, etc, can be way too unreal and disturbing. This particular cave unfortunately looks spoiled by the thousands of visitors a day.
Don’t underestimate the impact of tourism and the numbers visiting Ha Long Bay. If you are planning to visit Vietnam or in particular Ha Long Bay, it’s recommendable not to go there during Vietnamese public holidays like Independence Day, Reunification Day and more of those holidays. Even avoid weekends if you can. It will absolutely improve your experience and impression of Ha Long Bay. Boats in the harbor are bumping each other for space to get in or out of a parking spot. No kidding. Then they all get in fast pace to the cave and bump each other at parking spots there again.
In the cave you walk one given direction with hundreds or more other tourists, domestic, Chinese and others. One big line of people. Then you get back onto the boat and all boats take the same route to an islet which is printed on one of the Vietnamese bank notes and another famous islet. Myself, I had to jump halfway from one boat to another. Probably because the boat they put me on was for a more than one day tour. You can question what you do on that boat in the first place then. The boats look nice, old, characteristic. If there are safety standards and how they get checked can be questioned too, as you can see on this video of huge fire on one of the many boats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRqGGBBmVHY
At Ha Long itself you can see more of the influence of tourism. Artificial beaches are created, housing projects and even amusement parks with roller coasters. The prices are sky rocketing. Hotels get more expensive and it’s overcrowded. I know that many people love Ha Long Bay. I’ve been there in 2001 and in 2017 and my personal preference goes to the quieter and cheaper time of 2001, but it all depends on what you expect and what you like.
My video compilation can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYxvFGGOmPc&feature=youtu.be
All in all Ha Long Bay is still much worth a visit!!