Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2012 was listed as a new World Wonder. The bay is made up of thousands of huge limestone boulders that jut out of the waters creating unusual and striking scenery that is unlike any other.
The best way to view Halong Bay is by cruise boat, where you can sail through the islands and immerse yourself in the atmospheric beauty of the region. Here’s our nurse Tara describing her experience:
I flew into Hanoi – a huge, busy and bustling city in the north of the country. Hanoi is located around 4 hours drive from Halong Bay and is a good base to use to plan trips to the bay and the north of the country. From Hanoi, you can easily book a one or two night cruise; I opted for an overnight cruise which cost me around $60 USD. Tours will pick you up from your hotel and drive you 180km to Halong Port, where you will be shown to your boat. Beware that tours vary greatly so it is a good idea to research tour companies thoroughly before booking.
Our tour bus was jam packed and was far from luxurious, with people squeezed into every seat. At the measly height of 5ft2, I was perfectly comfortable but I felt sorry for the tall people sitting with their knees tucked tight against their chests. Our guide, ‘Peter’, introduced himself and it was clear that he was going to provide the comedy for the trip. His dry and nonsensical Vietnamese approach to humour was second to none. After enquiring as to whether any of our group were vegetarian, and one girl raised her hand, he said “But you eat pork and chicken, yes?” They don’t seem to understand the concept of vegetarianism in Vietnam, so it was hard to work out whether he was joking or not! Either way, it made me giggle.
Once we arrived at the port, we were taken to our boat. The boat had room to sleep 20 people with a sun deck and plenty of chill out space, as well as an on-board bar. We enjoyed lunch while introducing ourselves to our new shipmates. After lunch, we were shown to our cabins; solo travellers like myself paired up with roommates. The cabins were quaint and a bit of a tight squeeze (I was sharing with 2 guys), but our cabin had a balcony where you could sit with a beer and gaze out onto the bay. After lunch I nabbed a sunbed on the deck and we sailed out around the many islets, the boat finally stopping near Cat Ba island.
(Source: Common Wikimedia)
The tour included cycling on Cat Ba island to the Hospital Cave – a cave where soldiers were treated in secret during the war. The scenery was so stunning that I utilised my time and took advantage of the many photo opportunities. That evening, we all gathered for a buffet dinner of fried meats, fish, plenty of vegetables, rice and Vietnamese rice rolls. After dinner the drinks started flowing and, after a few beers, the karaoke took a good bashing, much to the amusement of our hosts.
The next morning started with Peter shouting “GET UP!” via our in-cabin tannoy. It was definitely the strangest and funniest wake up call I’ve ever had and was met with more than a few bemused smiles! That morning we kayaked around the bay for an hour. It was a fun way to explore the bay from another perspective, it’s just a shame we didn’t have a little longer to do so. But alas the drive back to Hanoi was long and we had to return to the shore to catch our connection by early afternoon.
Overall it was a fantastic short excursion, the scenery was simply breath-taking and I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting Vietnam.
Visitors to the north of Vietnam should ensure that their Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio vaccinations are up to date. If visiting Vietnam for long stays, courses of Hepatitis B, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis may also be recommended.
There is a low/no risk of malaria in Hanoi and Halong Bay, so no malaria tablets are required for these areas as opposed to other part of Vietnam where malaria is present. It is vital to use plenty of DEET-based mosquito repellent all day and all night wherever you are in Vietnam, as outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases, such as Dengue Fever, are common.
Ensure you book an appointment with us (ideally at least 6 weeks before your trip) so our qualified nurses can take a look at your itinerary and work out your personal requirements. Book now!