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