6 interesting facts you may not know about Ha Long Bay

September 14, 2016 | 02:42 pm GMT+7

Astonishingly surreal and infinitely enthralling, Ha Long Bay is one of the brightest spots on Vietnam's tourism map. 

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Visitors traveling to this fairyland sensibly opt for a well-organized tour from Hanoi, which already includes entrance fees, transfer services, living space, fine dining options, sightseeing tours to the most picturesque islets and grottos, and recreational activities. It is believed that no destination in Vietnam can offer such a comprehensive experience in a limited time frame like Ha Long Bay.

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Ha Long Bay from above. Photo by Do Giang

Be that as it may, Ha Long Bay itself and its Mother – Ha Long City, Quang Ninh Province – boasts interesting facts and hidden gems, more than just an extravagant cruise tour, other-worldly scenery, and engaging water-based activities. Let’s explore!

Kong: Skull Island gives Ha Long Bay a global stage

Mid-March 2016 witnessed Hollywood film makers finding fresh sets for their movies. Thanks to their grandeur and breathtaking nature, Ha Long Bay and Trang An (Ninh Binh) were used to shoot fantastical scenes on a fictitious island in the movie, “Kong: Skull Island”. In late-July this year, the movie’s first teaser with gorgeous scenes of the amazing Ha Long Bay and the magnificent Trang An was released. Keep calm and wait for the movie or pack your backpack right now to travel to Ha Long Bay and let your eyes drown in the towering limestone cliffs, stunning islands and white sandy beaches.

A heaven of new ultra-modern entertainment venues

Ha Long Bay asides, Ha Long City is on its own an ideal destination, where travel gradually becomes addictive. In recent years, the city has attracted large-scale investment for amusement parks: Sun World Ha Long Park and White Rabbit Park are the most notable ones to name. Both of these parks opened in 2016, offering more exciting experiences for a Ha Long Bay visit. Sun World Ha Long Park broke the Guinness World Record for the largest reversible aerial tramway, the Ha Long Queen Cable Car, as well as the world's highest wheel, the Ha Long Sun Wheel. For an even higher experience, Hai Au seaplanes provide a panoramic view of the magnificent bay. Besides, extreme sports and other forms of leisure services can be experienced at White Rabbit Park – the first adventure park in Ha Long.

Seafood paradise

The majority of tourists nowadays follow the well beaten paths organized by travel agents: travel to Ha Long Bay, enjoy an overnight cruise for two or three days, and return. A tour is absolutely the right thing to do when visiting this gem, however, do yourself a favor and spend a couple of more days to enjoy its modern entertainment venues, visit attractions away from the bay, and the best part - feast on the world's best seafood. Although cruises do offer gourmet seafood, a few days off the boat will enhance your culinary experiences, regarding both quantity and quality. Ha Long Bay’s true delicacies like Vietnamese calamari, horseshoe crab, mantis shrimp noodle, ‘sa sung’ and ‘ruoc lo’ may be not found on any cruises.

October to April: the best time to visit Ha Long Bay?

Many travel websites state that October to April is the best time to visit Ha Long Bay. Is this true? The answer is yes and no. Ha Long Bay endures two distinct seasons: the hot summers (May to September) and the cold winter (October to April). Due to the high frequency of heavy rains and storms in summer leading to cruise cancellations, many agents advise you to visit Ha Long Bay during winter. Global warming and unpredictable weather developments make any advice more of a guess. For example, August and September are normally known as summer months with high temperatures, but this year it's pretty cool and pleasant, making it the ideal time for a cruise and to avoid the cold chill in the air from October to April. Hence, the best answer to the question: “When is the best time to visit Ha Long Bay?” is any time of year, just check the weather forecast before booking.

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Sunset over Ha Long Bay. Photo by Do Giang

Ha Long wooden boats will soon disappear

Enjoying a royal experience on a wooden cruise ship will soon become just a memory due to a new policy issued by authorities in Quang Ninh Province. Wooden vessels are highly flammable, so they are gradually being replaced by iron or steel boats. This is one of several serious measures Quang Ninh is taking to ensure the safety of tourists. The royal extravagance and cozy ambience that wooden cruises offer travelers will be simply a piece of nostalgia in the next 15 years. What are you waiting for?

Cheap price – Luxury experience?

It is a total lie. Ha Long Bay budget cruises can set your back USD80 – 125, but the most luxury vessels can cost up to USD400. Any travel agents or companies that offer much lower rates than these numbers cannot be trusted. You may be stuck in a crowded minivan with 20 other passengers, embark on an old and dangerous cruise or a fishing boat with awful food and nothing to do. So, please bear in mind that you get what your pay for: you want cheap, expect the worst; you want luxury, you have to pay for it. There is no such thing as a luxury experience on a budget.

Useful information

Getting there:

Ha Long Bay is about 180km from Hanoi and a standard car ride takes 3.5 hours, via National Highway No 18. Buses run hourly from My Dinh bus station and ticket fare is around $3-5 depending on the type of vehicles.

Many international cruises also make stop in Ha Long Bay as part of their program and often dock in Cai Lan international seaport. From there it’s 20 minutes to the pier which houses all the boats and cruises.

Visa and entry:

Ha Long Bay does not require a separate visa from the one you already have for visiting Vietnam.

Cruise trips and tours:

There are over 50 cruise brands ranging from 3-5 stars and cruise trips often run for overnight stay or 2-night trip. Prices range from $75-$1,000/person for a 2 day 1 night trip. Many cruises also include transfer from Hanoi as part of the package while the others charge extra for the shuttle bus service. Among the most recommended ones are Glory Cruise (3 star, $120-$150/person), Indochina Sails ($140-$180/person), Paradise Luxury Cruise (5 star, $160-$230/person).

Related news:

Ha Long Bay: "Kong: Skull Island", stunning views on location

The delicacies of Ha Long Bay's homeland

 
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