A hundred miles east of Hanoi is Halong Bay; one of the most iconic collection of limestone karsts spread across the emerald waters in the north seas of Vietnam. Further east of Halong lies an untouched bay, Bai Tu Long which is just as scenic yet quieter and more off the beaten track. Only a small number of tour agencies in Hanoi have a Bai Tu Long and Halong combination tour. Our research lead us to a tour company called, Ethnic Travel (based in Hanoi) where we opted to do a 3 day and 2 night boat cruise (with a one night island stay).
The tour was brilliant, our guide Sunny was funny, knowledgeable and spoke great English. We where picked up in the morning from our hotel in Hanoi, met the other guests and drove to the port where we would board a boat destined for Bai Tu Long Bay.
As evening drew, we reached Cai Rong Island and was taken to a homestay we where would spend our first night.
Next morning after a hearty breakfast, we cycled through the village and the countryside before reaching a local beach for a dip and a couple of games of volleyball.
On the bikes again, we cycled to the pier and sailed back to the original port where we first left on day one. Halong Bay was next and we boarded a much larger boat with sleeping cabins for the overnight stay.
Facilities on board were good and even included air conditioning in the cabins (only operable in the evenings) and clean private bathrooms with hot water. There was an upper deck with sun loungers and seating to take in the views. Kayaks were available to use once the boat was docked.
Halong and Bai Tu Long became one of the best highlights of our Vietnam trip, and we were so glad to have done a tour which combined the two areas. The scenery is jaw dropping and should not be missed. We happily recommend Ethnic Travel (www.ethnictravel.com.vn), prices are negotiable depending on the seasons (we went in low season and paid around $140 (£110) per person for 3D2N trip). Their Hanoi office is located at 35 Hang Giây Street, Old Quarter (click here for map).
- Swimming is not permitted in Halong Bay or else you could face a fine and the captain could loose his license if caught. Rules seem more relaxed in Bai Tu Long, but always check with your tour guide and respect the environment and locals that live and work there.
- Be careful of cheaper and lesser known tour companies, the conditions of the boat and quality of the food may not be great. Read reviews on tripadvisor.com
- There is no wifi onboard and only limited mobile signal, this is a good opportunity to switch off for a couple of days and take in the views.