A Weekend In: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

After spending a few days in Hanoi, it was time to experience one of the biggest reasons people visit Vietnam: Ha Long Bay. As the most stunning parts of the bay are miles off shore, the only way to truly experience Ha Long Bay is on a boat, with day, single-night and multi-night cruises offered. Most cruises are part of packages which include pick-up from and drop-off at your hotel in Hanoi, as well as transfer for the 3 1/2 hour ride from Hanoi to the port in Ha Long City.

The boats come in all sizes and levels of quality. I chose the one-night Cristina Diamond cruise upon their 4-star ship, due to the combination of price and quality. I was picked up at 8am one day, and returned to my hotel around 5:30pm the next. Here you can see the boat, as well as my cabin, which had a comfortable queen sized bed, private bathroom, and small private balcony.

In Vietnamese, Ha Long means “descending dragon”, and as the Vietnamese talk about the bay, it would be translated as “where the dragon descends into the sea.” Per Wikipedia on the etymology:

According to local legend, when Vietnam had just started to develop into a country, they had to fight against invaders. To assist the Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders. Numerous rock mountains abruptly appeared on the sea, ahead of invaders’ ships; the forward ships struck the rocks and each other. After winning the battle, the dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the Earth, and then decided to live in this bay.

Behold the glory and splendor of Ha Long Bay and its thousands of limestone islands. And as amazing as these pictures are, they really don’t even begin to do justice to the beauty of this area:

And who wouldn’t want to wake up to a view like this?

As you can see, this place is truly amazing. No trip to Vietnam is complete without a trip to Ha Long Bay, and the best way to see it is by spending a night on a boat. Your options will be plentiful, and it will be an experience that you will never forget!

Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel

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    • They vary greatly. A one-day cruise (where you’re on the boat for about 4-5 hours) can go for as low as $40-$50. The one-night cruise I did on the 4-star boat was $189 (which included a $30 single supplement since I was a solo traveler). The 5-star ones can go up to $275 or more per person, but some of them are extremely luxurious and also come with gourmet restaurant quality food. The prices also include all meals and all drinks except alcohol.

  1. I went to vietnam this year in march and also spent a night on a boat in halong bay it was part of a tour as we started in Hanoi and ended in saigon, and I must say halong bay was the highlight it was the most amazing place I highly recommend it just stunning.

  2. Hi Michael. This looks very fascinating. I’m amazed by the general belief about the origin of Ha Long- ”descending dragon.” My hubby and I have been cruising for years, we’re “young cruisers” and every cruise we go on we always get the same comments “you’re the youngest couple I’ve seen onboard!’ I… Anyway, after reading this article, Ha Long Bay already seems to guarantee us an amazing experience sailing in a boat, not to mention the Vietnamese culture that I can’t wait experiencing. Honestly, I look forward to book this cruise. But, Michael, I would really appreciate if you shed some light on how much the various packages would cost us. Thanks.
    Best Regards,
    Julia Miller.

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