Area: 1,553 km2
Formed within millions-of-year process, Halong Bay may be the most precious gift of nature that Vietnam possesses so far. With its thousands of limestone mountains rising from green emerald water, Halong Bay’s flawless beauty, doted by its colorful boats has no other way to be described than coming and feeling it yourself.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Halong bay has tropical climate with two distinctive seasons: hot and moist summer with average temperature from 27-29 °C, and dry and cold winter at 16-18 °C, annual temperature fluctuates within 15-25 °C.
From May to early half of October, high temperature and humid atmosphere can be frequently felt. Tropical storms are more likely during this time.
From late October to the next April, clear and cool weather. Best time to visit Halong bay.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Halong bay is 180 km southeast of Hanoi. Travellers can access the world's wonder by tourist bus offered freely with the Halong package tours from Hanoi.
If you are a backpacker and want to travel with locals, go to the bus station and get a ticket for departure. There are 3 most popular bus stations where you can get the ticket to Halong: My Dinh, Gia Lam and Luong Yen bus station. The well-known buses with good quality are Hoang Long, Duc Phuc, Kalong or Kumho Viet Thanh at about 5 USD per ticket per way.
Motorbikes and bicycles are also possible since the route mainly follows the highway, however, pay attention to the dense and somehow chaotic flow of traffic on the road.
SEE & DO
Unlike other attraction places in Vietnam where you can reach by yourself in various way, Halong bay can only be discovered by boat. It is said that there is no other more interesting things than to jump in a traditional junk and roaming around the myriad rocky islands to enjoy the beauty of this gem. With more than 500 sleeping boats and day boats currently from budget to luxurious standard, you can easily choose what to be most suitable to your need.
This maybe the best way to explore the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay. Paddle through islets; visit hidden caves, lagoons, unspoiled beaches and floating fishing villages…where the boats cannot invade. Depending on trip length, visitors have different kayak route and time frame. Thanks to the bay’s thousands of islands the conditions for sea kayaking are ideal – the water is calm, the current is fine and the wind is not too strong.
Besides kayaking which is more suitable for young travelers, those who do not fancy sports yet still love to enjoy the beauty secret of the bay, boat rowing around the floating villages seem to be a good choice. Just jump up on a bamboo boat and release yourselves to the popping world around with hundreds of tiny floating houses and those many limestone islands even looking sparkling in the sunset while listening to the rustling, rhythmic sound of the paddles against the water, you can feel the utmost tranquility of a paradise on earth.
It is a big shortcoming if coming to Halong bay without visiting the any of the most spectacular caves in this area. Therefore, almost every tourist boats take this activity as a highlight of the bay cruise. Thien Cung, Dau Go and Surprising Cave are three most worth-seeing for their width and exceptional beauty.
Swimming: it is not the best activity to do in Halong bay. However, it is for sure one of the most fascinating things to do here during stifling days of summer. Although the water is not so clear around the wharf, wait for the boat to drop anchor in the sleeping area where the water is the most emerald and clean and jump from the top deck of the boat to have the coolness refresh your mind and your body. In case you do not want this high adrenalin act, almost every boat in Halong bay will stop at Titov island or Soi Sim island for their guests to enjoy a mild soak at the nice beach over there. Hiking to the top of these islands is also a good idea to have an impeccable panoramic view of the bay. However, swimming is normally not available during the day trip due to time limitation.
EAT & DRINKS
Fried squid ball: The saleswomen of squid ball in Ha Long said that squid is available in any sea but the most delicious squid must be fresh squid in the sea area of Ha Long. It is hand- pounded until it becomes long and crunchy rolls. Frying squid needs to be very picky, so as to keep the fire not too big and not too small . Patties are delicious from the start to be dropped into the oil pan . Rolls are fried until golden , then taken out and drained the oil . Fried squid becomes most delicious when being dipped in pure fish sauce with pepper.
Sam Quang Yen: Sam is cold blooded sea animal which has hard and glabrous cover and a long thin thorn. From main ingredient sam meat, local people can make a lot of attractive different dishes, such as sam pudding, sam salad, fried sweet and sour sam's legs, grilled sam cartilage, etc., ... Sam meat dishes are luscious, visitors to Quang Ninh should not miss this specialty.
You can savor sam at Quang Yen Town, Quang Ninh or at the restaurants on the road April 25, Bach Dang Ward, Ha Long City, Quang Ninh.
Ngan: Ngan (meaning "boring") can be processed as many dishes: Grilled, steamed, porridge, stir-fried with noodles or vegetables. Generally known as "boring" but not boring at all. Male visitors often love ngan wine. This kind of alcohol has very special taste and smell of the sea.
Sa Sung: A rare species which is only found in Quan Lan Island - Minh Chau (Van Don, Quang Ninh). Fresh sa sung fried with fresh garlic an chilli is a unique dish of coastal people of Ha Long. Roasted dry sa sung is fragrant and succulent. Sa sung dotted with chilli sauce, lettuce, herbs and beer would be great for the day ...
Sa sung is very rare, no wonder why the price is so high, it is nearly 4 million Vietnamdong per kilogram.
Gat Gu cake: “Gat Gu” (Vietnamese: Gật gù) cake is similar with steamed rolled rice pancake. It is made from rice flour. When making this kind of cake, the maker have a secret to make it more delicious by adding cold rice. After being done, when we take this kind of cake, it nods repeatedly.
In Viet Nam, “gat gu” means nodding repeatedly, so that the name of this cake is “gat gu”. Here, there is a custom that when eating Gat Gu cake, each one will nod repeatedly three time before eating t o greet their visitors, and visitor also do it again to show their thanks. “Gat gu” cake is quite special and delicious. If you ate it once time, you would never forget it as well as Quang Ninh.
Halong Bay tours from Hanoi Halong Cruises