Halong Bay has been on my list ever since I became a traveler. However, I was really hesitant to go there especially after knowing that Halong Bay is on the top list of the New Seven Wonders of the World poll. I was thinking that I may not be able to afford it.
I was staying in a hostel in the Old Quarters of Hanoi which is I think a good place for backpackers like me. There are a lot of tour agencies, cheap food stalls and cheap hostels in every corner. I decided to walk around to check the prices of Halong Bay tour. My budget was everything below $50. I think more than that is too much even if it’s said to be a grand beauty that no one should miss.
The prices of one travel agency to another were ridiculously different. Almost all of them were offering the same thing: free pickup from your hostel and back, full board meals, tour of the islands inclusive of the entrance tickets etc. The duration of stay is up to you, the cheapest of course was an overnight on the boat. It sounded exciting for me because the tour was like a mini-cruise and I’ve never been to a cruise in my whole life.
The cheapest overnight tour (sleep on boat) that I found was $35 with Sinh Café. I actually saw one shop offering $100 for the same kind of package, the only difference was that the boat was new and more beautiful (according to them). I really didn’t have any interest to pay $70 just because the boat was new. So I booked my tour with Sinh Café. By the way, as I’ve mentioned in my previous article (Welcome to Vietnam), the tour did not include any drinks aside from the welcome drinks. You may buy this in any cheap convenient stores in Hanoi or in Halong (before you board the boat).
Some facts about Halong Bay from Wikipedia
“Ha Long Bay (literally: Descending Dragon bay; Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long) is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Quảng Ninh province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Ha Long City, Cam Pha Town and part of Van Don District. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. These larger zones share similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate and cultural characters. Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km², including 1,960 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km² with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karsts in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The diversity of the environment, climate, geology, geography, and geomorphology in the area has created biodiversity, including tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.”
The boat was fairly nice, I actually considered it as a luxury already for a backpacker like me. The food was good but not great and I felt that the serving was not enough for us. However, we noticed that there were always a lot of leftovers on the table of the Chinese tourists so maybe the serving was just ok for most people. Maybe it only felt not enough because I was sharing the table with four other backpackers and all of us have a humongous appetite.
As we were sailing on the bay, I felt really thankful that I made the choice to go there. It was probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. The experience is surreal and I love being close to nature. The limestone karsts were amazing. It truly is a wonder to behold.
Here are some more pictures of Halong Bay.