Halong Bay

There are some moments travelling that will stay with you forever. A group of us were on the bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay, it takes around 4 hours and most of the group were asleep, I don’t often sleep when travelling, I never want to miss a moment or photo opportunity. I vividly remember “Flashback” by Calvin Harris started playing on my Ipod, the bus took a left-hander on a coastal road, and there it is, the magnificent Halong Bay, and the hundreds of islands scattered off-shore. I’ve been looking up alternative words for breathtaking to describe this feeling. So far I have remarkable, awe-inspiring and astounding, and none of them do it justice!

Ha Long, meaning “Dragon Descending”, is made up of nearly 2000 islands, and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Limestone rock formations are by no means rare in South East Asia, but its the sheer angle of the cliff sides and the eerily still water that make it so unique. Most visitors explore the Bay on old Vietnamese wooden junk boats, and I predict you could head out every day for a month finding different corners of the Bay and never get bored. The local legend behind the formation of the islands tell of a celestial dragon sent from the Jade Emperor to stop invasion, spitting out pearls that formed island chains in the path of fleets sent by the enemy. I like to believe it’s a true story.


Our boat trip was from Bai Chai, we headed out for a full day around Halong Bay. It has a feel of tranquillity which I can’t explain, and the descending mist made it feel like you were in a movie like Jurassic Park. One of my personal highlights, and my top recommendation is making sure you include kayaking on your trip, ours didn’t initially include this but after pushing the tour guide, I got this included at no extra cost to the group. Mainly as this was how it has always been stated on my Bucket List, ‘Kayak at Halong Bay’. It was brilliant. You can take the kayaks through small arched caves into completely enclosed coves, it was amazing, like something from ‘The Beach’. You start from one of the floating homes, which also double as bars or very small supermarkets, some of the residents live here their entire lives, fishing for food and taking the occasional trip back to the mainland for supplies. Just a word of warning – be very careful when you cross the boat lanes from one island to another, the captains are not too considerate to kayakers, in fact I’m pretty sure one of them turned towards us on purpose, nearly a very premature end to our day out!

Getting There

There are many organised tours from Hanoi, ranging in prices and length and its easy to find tour operators through your hostel or hotel. I’d suggest shopping around and making sure you know what’s included or excluded, and as suggested above make sure you have some time for kayaking around the Bay. The bus ride from Hanoi takes approximately 4 hours, our boat was docked at Bai Chai Harbour, there’s plenty of accommodation and even a casino (where you’ll need your passport for entry). I’ve heard bad things about Cat Ba Island especially for those showing up looking for a booking, backpackers are overwhelmed by hawkers looking to make some quick cash, so pre-booking is advised. In terms of cost you should be able to get a 3 day / 2 night cruise, with good accommodation and food (not luxury), including transfers from Hanoi for around 150 USD, making sure you book through your hotel/hostel or a reputable company in Hanoi.

Scottie Suggests

Hopping aboard a two or three day boat and staying overnight, ensuring you get an incredible view for sunrise, sunset and the starry moonlit sky. Have you been or are you planning to go to Halong Bay? If so I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

Staying longer in Vietnam? Take a look at my friend Traveling Mitch’s guide to spending 3 weeks in Vietnam.


Written by | Scottie T

Founder & Editor of Intrepid Escape, a huge lover of adventure, adrenaline, sport & fitness. After travelling to over 20 countries in the last year, Scott started to document his travels before fulfilling an important lifelong goal by starting Intrepid Escape. His dream is to be a backpacking poker-playing, videographer, photographer, presenter & writer!

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  1. One Modern Couple

    October 11, 2014 at 4:44 am

    Sounds like you had an amazing adventure. We head to vietnam in january.
    Now we will have to kayak in HALONG BAY,
    Thanks for the post!
    your friends,
    Carolann and Macrae

    • Scott Tisson

      October 13, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      Excellent! Yes you have to add it to the list 😀 thanks for the comment

  2. abi

    October 12, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Did the kayaking in Ha Long Bay too and gotta say, my mouth is open i awe on all the photos and videos we took….!!
    Great post Scott!

    • Scott Tisson

      October 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks Abi, I’m glad you enjoyed it too, I wanna go back and do it again!! 🙂

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