Ha Long Bay is pretty much the quintessential representation of the gorgeous landscape Vietnam has to offer. The mammoth limestone karst rocks floating over still green water is not only one of the most visited Vietnamese destinations, but is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kayaking, taking a boat ride or a cruise and watching the mist dance around the limestone karsts is nothing short of magical. The bay has 1969 islands and covers an area of 1553 square kilometres. It is a storehouse of biodiversity and several indigenous flora and fauna. The best way to reach Ha Long Bay is by bus or by car from Hanoi, which is located 170 kilometres away.

THINGS TO DO IN HA LONG BAY

SIGHTSEEING

Halong Bay Cruise: If you truly want to see all the beauty of Halong Bay then you need to take to the water and sign up for a boat cruise. Many of the boats used are built in the traditional style and are known as ‘junk boats’. Depending on the tour operator you can also enjoy a buffet meal as part of the cruise or even stay on the boat overnight for a truly memorable cruising experience.

Go Diving: Diving is one of the top activities in Halong Bay and the islands are the perfect place to enjoy the underwater delights in this part of Vietnam. The waters here offer excellent visibility and you can go diving and swim through scenic underwater caves grottoes. There are a number of diving schools here, or if you prefer you can just take a boat to the islands and swim and snorkel around.

Cat Ba National Park: Cat Ba is a gorgeous national park which boasts 32 different kinds of mammals. Some of these include langurs which are the most endangered primates in the world. You will also find some amazing hiking trails here which include an 18 kilometer climb to the summit of the main peak in the national park.

Cannon Fort: If you want to take in the best of the views in Cat Ba Island then head for Cannon Fort. From the vantage point of the fort you can see rolling hills as well as bobbing fishing boats and karst formations jutting out of the sea. To get to the fort you need to walk up a hill to the main gate and you can check out underground tunnels here as well as a number of attractions such as gun emplacements. The fort is also dotted with life size model soldiers and there are several lookout points.

Ho Chi Minh Monument: Ho Chi Minh is credited as being the founding father of modern Vietnam and no town in this country is complete without a statue of this formidable leader. The monument to Ho Chi Minh in Halong Bay is located on a hillside in Cat Ba Town which is known as Mountain Number 1. As well as seeing the statue, this makes a nice place to come for a walk and check out the vistas over the water.

Dau Go Cave: Hang Dau Go is a natural wonder and one of the most beautiful caves of Halong Bay. It has intricate carvings and an ancient architecture with many stone pillars and stalactites. There is a wide variety of flora and fauna in the cave, especially mosses, ferns and the wood tree. The cave has a historical meaning behind it's name dating back to when Vietnam fought the Mongols.

Sung Sot Cave: The caves and grottoes are among the most coveted Halong Bay attractions. To date 59 caves have been discovered and listed in the official registrar. Located at Bon Hon Island, Sung Sot Cave is quite special because it is one of the largest in Halong.To get there, you’ll need to hike up a steep trail, but it’s definitely worth the effort for the inner views. There are two separate chambers that tower to a height of about 30 meters.

Vung Vieng Fishing Village: Vung Vieng is located in the heart of Bai Tu Long Bay. One of the four remaining floating fishing villages in the region, it is one of the favorites among tourists because it portrays the traditional lives of the local fishermen while offering a peaceful spot for viewing the charming landscape. Pay a visit and you can learn the art of sailing, pearl harvesting and casting fishnets.



SHOPPING:

  • Vincom Plaza Halong City: If you seek for a fancy place to shop, Vincom shopping mall in Halong is among the ideal shopping places in Halong Bay. Vincom shopping mall in Halong offers tourists various international brands selling all kinds of items such as clothing, shoes, accessories and small souvenirs from Halong. Located near famous hotels in Halong, tourists can reach Vincom shopping mall in Halong to get basic necessities or food and beverages conveniently. These recommended shopping places in Halong Bay are mainly located near the city center. Therefore, it should be easy for tourists to reach the markets and shopping malls in Halong by either taxi or motorbike. Hope you can find the best souvenirs at these Halong Bay’s shopping centers to bring home.
  • Bai Chay Commercial Center: Located in Vuon Dao street - Bai Chay area, Bai Chay shopping center is a large scale shopping mall in Halong. This is a modern commercial area with quite a variety of goods from ordinary to luxurious items. Nowadays, the government has opened a new street called Anh Dao Street, so the market was retreated and built bigger, becoming a big shopping mall in Halong that attracts thousands of tourists and locals every day. Tourists can bargain at these typical shopping malls in Halong to get favorite goods at the best price.
  • Ha Long Market: Halong Market sits in the very centre of Halong City, conveniently close by to a new port that is being built at the time of writing. It’s a colorful and vibrant place, as markets tend to be, full of stalls run by people trying to make their daily hustle. Expect to see fresh fish and meat as well as fabrics, fruits and flowers. Halong Market is a great place to walk around and to try and get some good bargains.
  • Ha Long Night Market: Located on Bai Chay beach is Ha Long night market, an attractive market in Halong Bay, recommended for every tourist visiting Halong. Halong Bay night market is quite full of goods from ordinary to high-class stuffs, which are ranged at hundreds of stalls to pick up. Most of the items are handicrafts, bags and souvenirs from Halong. Some famous souvenirs from Halong that you can get at the night market are clamshell key chains, shirts with Halong prints and magnets. One special thing about the night market in Halong Bay is that it’s a paradise for seafood lovers. Coming here, tourists can dig into a variety of fresh seafood and specialties from Halong such as squids, crabs and lobsters.
  • Halong Floating Market: This market could be found nearby wharf, cruise ships, and in makeshift areas in which sellers lash their boats together. The waterborne convenience stores here carry most traditional fare, and fresh seafood. The most noticeable goods sold here is fruits. This floating market sells most fruits available in Halong city. The market will surprise most visitors for its interesting form. While it might cost more to purchase traditional stuff from this type of shop, the unique experience is usually worth the additional cost for every tourist.

CUISINE:

Hanoi city is known for not only its beautiful ancient landscapes, but its unique and rich cuisine as well, which attracts many travelers to enjoy.

Cha Muc (Grilled Chopped Squid): Cha Muc is famously from the province of Quang Ninh and considered one of the top regional specialties of Vietnam. It’s a squid cakes and the highest quality cakes are made with squid from Halong Bay in particular. Cha Muc is prepared by grinding up squid meat by hand after which it’s fried at a medium heat until they turn a beautiful golden brown.

Sam (Horseshoe crab): Sam, otherwise known as Horseshoe Crab, live primarily in shallow ocean water which means that Halong Bay is the perfect habitat for them. This means that there is an abundance of Sam in Halong Bay! It can be prepared into many different dishes using crab as the primary source of meat. Crab salad, sweet and sour, sautéed crab with lemongrass and pepper, steamed crab, fried crab with glass noodles and the list could go on! These are all dishes for which Sam is used.

Drunken Prawn and Lobster: Fresh prawns and lobster are two of the greatest joys of Halong Bay. Straight from the sea and onto your plate, you won’t taste better anywhere! There are many ways to prepare both prawn and lobster but steaming with lemongrass, beer or vodka are probably the most popular in Halong Bay. This cooking method helps to cook the food quickly but also gets rid of the fishy smell allowing you to enjoy the natural taste better.

Oyster: Oysters are famous world-over for being a luxurious treat; Halong Bay is a wonderful place to enjoy them fresh. Fresh oysters are caught daily, washed and grilled over charcoal and then seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon or grilled onions. Sometimes they’re served raw with a slice of lemon, delicious! .

Ngan (Austriella Corrugata): In Vietnamese, “Ngan” actually means tasteless, but in reality these hard shell clams are very delicious. If you travel to Halong Bay and like seafood you simply must try Ngan. It’s a versatile dish that can be prepared grilled, steamed or added to a stir-fry.

Sá Sùng (Sipunculus Nudus): Sa Sung is probably the most unusual food in this list. It’s a type of sea worm found in abundance around Quan Lan Island. The worm lives in the sea, just under the top layer of sand, and only lives in clean water. Sa Sung can be hard to find which means it is an expensive seafood that was reserved for the highest echelons of Vietnamese society in the past.

NIGHTLIFE:

  • Halong Bay Night market and Street Food: The night market in Halong Bay & food street of Halong is located on Ben Doan street, Hong Gai ward. Covering an area of total of 11,000 m2 with approximately 87 booths, this night market includes 60 outdoor stalls operating from 16:30 to 24:00 and 27 covered stalls that sell from 5:00 to 24:00. With various choices of food in booths, tourists are not limited to enjoy specialties of Halong, Quang Ninh province. In addition to the advantage of the scenery, Halong tourism is concentrating on developing and introducing its unique specialties through building a large scale of night food streets. This is one of the unique tourism highlights of Halong nightlife that attracts tourists. Actually, this new night food street is designed to get over the inadequacies of the old food street at Gieng Don Street, including environmental problems, hygiene problem, parking place, food safety, and security.
  • Ha Long View Club: For anyone who loves to experience entertaining excitement of Halong Bay nightlife, Ha Long View Club is a great choice. The services here are prepared to entertain the customers to the fullest. Featuring with loud music from the professional sound system, this bar also has good light system giving it more impressions. Besides, there are beautiful dancers who excitedly keep dancing as long as the music is on. In regard to Halong nightlife, tt is really a lively place for tourists to deep themselves in.
  • Flightless Bird Café: One of the most popular Halong nightlife destinations among travelers is Flightless Bird Café. Here, you could enjoy the most cooling feel of Halong nightlife. Choose a comfortable seat on the balcony on the second floor and you will be difficult for you to take your eyes off beautiful harbor view of Halong City. If you could want to get some information about Halong Bay, and exchange books, this is a good choice.

TRANSPORTATION:

  • Shuttle Bus/ Private car: There are many kinds of transportation from Hanoi to Halong but shuttle bus/car is the most popular option. You can choose to hire a private car transfer or use shuttle bus service which is normally included in Halong Bay tour package. This type of transfer is available for departing from Hanoi center (or Hanoi Old Quarter area) only. The shuttle bus can be understood as “tourist bus”, leaving Hanoi around 07:00 – 08:00 am and return at 5:00 – 5:30 pm every day. If you are staying at a hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter, the shuttle bus will come to your hotel to pick you up. Otherwise, you have to take a taxi to the meeting point (normally is in front of Opera House).
  • Taxi: First up, the taxi! Traveling around Halong Bay by taxi is an excellent option. There are plenty of taxis around ready to take you to the pier, the airport or pretty much wherever you would like to go. Since the taxi drivers are usually locals, they might even be able to give you some travel tips!
  • Car/Motorbike Rental: Getting around in a taxi is great but it doesn’t offer as much flexibility as private transportation. There are various rental places around town, but the safest and best way to rent a bike or car is always at the hotel you’re staying at. When you’re not renting from where you’re staying, always carefully inspect the vehicle before driving off. We recommend that you take photos of scratches and other damage you might spot on a rental vehicle. This to make sure a rental place won’t blame you for damages already incurred. In the event that you’re pulled over by the police, don’t ever give them your passport or driver's license and pretend that you can’t speak any English.
  • Helicopter and Seaplane: If you dont mind the cost, this is the fastest and best way to transfer between Hanoi and Halong bay.
    The helicopter is available and supplied by Vietnam Northern Service Flight Company. This service is only available for charter and is at a higher budget range. They have MIA-17 (24 seat) and MIA -8 (12 seat), produced by Russia.
    The seaplane takes off from Noi Bai international airport and lands off at Tuan Chau Marina with only 45 minutes. You also have 15 minutes for sightseeing over Halong bay. Hai Au Aviation is the unique seaplane service in Vietnam until now.