So I have been dreaming about heading to Halong Bay since I moved to Asia 16 years ago. For one reason or another, it never happened; however, here I am, sitting down, giving you the rundown on one of my bucket list destinations. Is it worth it? Is the hype as good as expected? Was I disappointed? Is Halong Bay as beautiful as I had envisioned in my head? Well, I am about to answer all your questions.
Pronounced Ha long in Vietnamese or Halong in English, meaning “descending dragon” as the myth goes, when Vietnam was first formed, the Vietnamese people had to fight invaders from the North again. So mother dragon and her children were sent by the gods from heaven to help fight off the unwanted visitors. She did a great job and won the war against the intruders. Hence the name!
Why is Halong Bay so unique?
Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site for a good reason. The limestone mountains and emerald water were formed thousands of years ago, surrounded by rainforests, and it is one of the most peaceful places on earth. The magical videos I have seen in the past are precisely as they are in real life. No extra filters are needed on this beauty; it is one of those moments in your life when time truly stands still.
When is the best time to visit Halong bay?
Halong Bay is best visited from October to December, and it is peak season because the weather is cooler and the chance of rain is minimal, but the crowds are plentiful. June to September is the low season, but it is also the wet season, and there are many typhoons in this region.
Why visit Halong Bay?
Halong Bay’s tropical climate allows the rainforest to thrive, and the area is full of lushes greenery, which includes mangroves and plants. The ocean here enables a plethora of marine life to enjoy hidden coves and coral that are magical any time of the year.
Amongst the 2000 islands here, you can find all types of wildlife, whether it is bats in the caves while you canoe or birds flying by while you sit back and drink your morning coffee. In fact, It has been reported that approximately 107 varieties of marine life are found here, along with another 37 types of varying birds.
What to know before you go
Halong bay is approximately 170 km east of Hanoi (or just under 3 hours). You can definitely head there for a weekend with a one-night, two-day cruise. It can get busy in the high season, with many cruise ships offering the same type of deals.
Most countries will need a visa to enter Vietnam, so it might be worth checking weeks before your arrival date; you can click here to check. Some countries can get a tourist visa on arrival but again, check with a reputable company or your embassy before you go.
The official currency used in Vietnam is Vietnam Dong (VND); although a credit card is accepted on board, you may need to use cash if you buy anything outside the cruise.
Pack light, as you will find everything you need on the cruise; easy-to-wear clothes are a must because the weather can get hot on the top deck or in the main dining hall when the air conditioning is not on. Ensure you pack some nice dinner clothes, comfortable shoes, swimmers and light, breezy clothes to wear if you plan on Kayaking or canoeing.
What does your cruise include?
Peony cruises included lunch on the first day, dinner that night, breakfast and lunch the following day. All alcoholic beverages are extra (with a bar fridge for convenience in your room). Many other locals offer a variety of snacks and drinks (including beer) on board their little boats, and although the staff on board get annoyed, you can purchase them alongside the cruise at a discounted price.
Your accommodation varies, just like in a hotel, and a few toiletries are in your shower. There is also a bathtub which the most fantastic view; however, privacy can be an issue with many boats floating past. You also have coffee and tea-making facilities and free wifi around the junk.
A canoe trip through the caves is also included and is one of the highlights of my trip. However, it seemed that only females were rowing the boat during our excursion, so I am not sure if this is a standard procedure or just a coincidence on the day.
Free use of the tandem and single kayaks are also on offer and are highly recommended; the serenity of the morning paddle is an experience you will not want to miss. The sounds of the rainforest and the stillness of the water is a memory that will be etched in my mind forever. Click here to see for yourself.
Would I recommend Peony cruises?
I can not compare it with any other cruises, but if I had to recommend a cruise, Peony cruises would definitely get a tick from me. From the affordability to the hospitality of the staff, everything was great. All the food was Buffett style, so you could pick what you wanted, the drinks were okay, and the staff were a bit slow with some of the orders, but you are on a cruise; who is in a rush anyway?
Two-day, one-night cruise.
The two-day, one-night cruise package includes everything I have included in this blog post, as stated below.
- English-speaking guide
- All entrance fees
- A bamboo boat trip and Kayaking
- Demonstration on how to make spring rolls
- Drinking water in the cabin (2 bottles)
- Meals as indicated
- Hotel pick-up and drop off
Click here for more details.
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