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Essential Tips for Travel in Halong Bay

Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, arguably the most beautiful and certainly the most photographed. It is regularly used in promoting Vietnam in the tourist industry, an industry that has expanded as more and more tourists decide to book a Vietnam tour package. They often use a Hanoi travel agent because of the city’s importance as both the capital but also because it is clearly the most interesting city in Vietnam. Hanoi tours are often the starting point of a Vietnam holiday because so many overseas tourists arrive in Vietnam at the city’s international airport.

Tourists can get a cheap Vietnam visa on arrival before heading for the City. For many, the next part of the holiday is to head east to Halong Bay. It is unthinkable that anyone would exclude the Bay from their Vietnam holiday plans. Certainly, a well-established Hanoi travel agent is certain to talk to clients about Halong Bay and the great experience that awaits them in the Bay of Tonkin on Vietnam’s North East Coast.

There is no other attraction in Vietnam that attracts the numbers of tourists as Halong Bay. The rock is limestone which is extremely soft. As a result, erosion has shaped this Bay in a unique way. There are coves and caves with legend saying that it was the home of a family of dragons who protected the land from invasion. Halong means ‘’descending dragon.’’ The blue of the sea contrasts beautifully to the green of the forest that covers hundreds of the islands in Halong Bay. This colour is above the waves; there are other colours below them in the marine life and coral reefs.

It is hard to imagine it has ever been the scene of conflict but both the Chinese and the Americans have fought the locals at different times in its history; the Americans mined parts of the Bay and the120-kilometre coastline during the Vietnam War. The only fight these days is against erosion which began some 20 billion years ago. It has created some spectacular rock formations that continue to change over time.

You need to decide when to visit of course. Winters are dry and often hazy. Such conditions make for photographs that can be quite eerie. In contrast, the summer climate is hot which makes it the best season for swimming to cool down, and for water sports in general. The climate all year round means that Halong Bay should always be included in every Vietnam holiday.

Many tourists like the idea of a traditional junk for cruising, fitted out in modern standards to ensure comfort while there are also steamers that were common in the colonial era. You are welcome to research and the Internet has a huge amount of information for you to learn more about Halong Bay. When you then contact a Hanoi travel agent with detailed knowledge of Halong Bay and the main highlights, you can agree an itinerary to get the maximum out of a trip. Cruising amidst these limestone outcrops is a delight in itself. The detail beyond that is the important thing.

halong cruise tour

There are several islands that offer sandy beaches and the chance to explore caves or hike in forested slopes to a summit from which there are often panoramic views, all 360 degrees in many cases. Boats can anchor off such islands while if you enjoy kayaking, or want to try because the waters are calm, to help you enjoy the area even more, that should be an option that an experienced Vietnam tour operator can arrange for you. There are some fabulous rock and cave formations in Halong Bay. Often there is natural light and sun getting into such caves so photographs are often no problem. Hang Sung Sot is a good example of a cave formation worth some of your time.

On board your junk or steamer, you are likely to be offered a range of activities. You will get your meals provided for you. Just sit back an enjoy the views with a cold drink before dinner. Some cruises actually offer cookery lessons as well and with such lovely cuisine in Vietnam, why would you not want to be able to cook Vietnamese food for friends and family once you are back home?

Cat Ba Island is the largest and best known of the Islands in Halong Bay and is likely to be included in most Halong Bay itineraries. It is an inhabited island with accommodation and a decent tourist infrastructure. Hiking and trekking in the forests is great fun with the golden headed langur one of the highlights. Apart from kayaking, you may want to go snorkelling or scuba diving to see marine life as well. The local market is a real experience where you can enjoy watching local activity. A festival early in April celebrates Ho Chi Minh’s visit while a few weeks later, Halong Festival is a splash of colour and fun.

Another of the highlights of Halong Bay are the many fishing villages dotted around the 120 kms coastline. Local fishermen and their families live in houses on stilts and work each day to make a livelihood. Their daily catch is available for the freshest of seafood dishes; shrimps, monkfish, oysters and lobsters are all transformed into lovely dishes.  Squid sausages are a local speciality, served with salad and fish sauce. The local rice wine has also made a name for itself though you should be careful how much of it you drink.

No one who visits Vietnam for a holiday should miss out on seeing Halong Bay. Even if you only have a few days in the North, you should ensure that two of your days are in Halong Bay. You can expect all the help you need from a Vietnam travel agent both in terms of your questions being answered and all the necessary detail being put into a Vietnam holiday itinerary and help to obtain a cheap Vietnam visa.

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