Ha Long Bay

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Ha Long Bay  is located in northern Vietnam. It belongs to the list of World Heritage of UNESCO since 1992 , and is a a popular tourist destination in Vietnam.

Administratively, it belongs to the homonymous city of Ha Long, the town of Kam Pha and a part of the Van Dong area. It consists of thousands of limestone cartes and islets in various sizes and shapes. The Ha Long Bay is the center of a larger zone which includes the Bay Bai Long  in the northeast and the islands of Cat Ba (Cat Ba) in the southwest. In this broader area, similar geological, geographical, morphological, climatic, and cultural features appear.

The harbor of Ha Long Bay :  Ha Long has an area of approximately 1,553 km2, and includes 1,960 islets, most of which consist of limestone. The center of the bay has an area of 334 km2, with a high density of 775 islets.  The calcareous formations in the bay are 500 million years old. The evolution of the karstic phenomena lasted 20 million years under the influence of the tropical humid climate.  The geological diversity of the environment in the region has created a significant biodiversity. The La Gulf contains 14 endemic plant species  and 60 endemic species of fauna.

Access : Coordinates: 20.9, 107.2 / connections from the ports of Halong City and Haiphong.from Hanoi :
How to travel to Halong Bay: There is a bus from Hanoi to Halong city, 160 km away, takes roughly three and a half hours and from the bus station to the pier is about 15 minutes. Then you can go to the ferry pier which has the boat to go to Koh Gadbah island. Another choice is driving from Hanoi to Haiphong province. From bus station to the pier, it will take 10 minutes. Then, you can ride boat to Koh Bah which will take two hours.
Mini Bus from Gia Lam (Hanoi) to Bai Chay (Ha Long). Tickets are bought at the ticket counter for 160,000 dong ($7 USD). The journey takes 4 to 5 hour with the bus stopping to pick up passengers along the way. If your bus departs Hanoi later than 10:00am it is unlikely that you will make it to Ha Long in time to catch the last ferry to Cat Ba at 3:00pm. Note: City bus number 34 goes to Gia Lam for 5,000 dong from the following bus stops: Van Mieu, Hai Ba Trung, Nha Hat Lon, Bac Co, Chuong Duong. Be sure to wait for the bus on the side of the road where the traffic is flowing east or north. Otherwise you may end up on a longer than intended journey around the city. Do not attempt to board bus #34 from Dien Bien Phu. The bus will run to the end of the line in the opposite direction before turning around and eventually making it to Gia Lam making what should be a short trip a two hour ordeal.
From My Dinh Bus Station (Hanoi) there are buses travelling to Bai Chay for 100,000 dong. They are faster and more comfortable than the “mini bus” from Gia Lam. City bus 34 goes to My Dinh bus station as well.

From Bai Chay to Ha Long City/Tourist Wharf a motorbike taxi should cost 20,000 dong.
From Bai Chay to Tuan Chau Wharf a motorbike taxi should cost 40,000 dong.
From Ha Long City to Tuan Chau Wharf a motorbike taxi should cost 30,000 dong.
A taxi to any of these locations could be more than double.
From Bai Chay bus station City bus 03 stops near Vuon Dao street where most of the budget hotels are located
By open bus: $15 USD one way, pick up & drop off at Bus Station. However, this is not the ideal way to travel for international tourists.
By Seaplane: Take a seaplane flight from International Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi to Halong Bay for only 45 minutes. Enjoy fabulous aerial views over the countryside and experience the thrill of a water landing at the Tuan Chau Island Marina. The flight can be extended to include an additional 15-minute scenic tour over the bay, which allows you to enjoy a bird’s eye view (150-300m high) of the thousands of limestone karsts jutting up from the jade green waters and see remote fishing villages before landing at Tuan Chau Island Marina. This is the one and only seaplane service in Vietnam. USD$175 one way.
By shuttle bus: Pick up & drop off passengers in the Ha Noi old quarter. 4-6 hours pending on how many stops en route the driver makes to pick up/drop off passengers. Fare is about US$10 each way. Normally, cruise lines like Paradise, Emeraude or Bhaya in Halong Bay include two ways shuttle bus in their package.
By Train: take cargo train from Hanoi to Yen Vien (Gia Lam) and then to Quang Ninh. The train starts at 4.30 am and arrives at 11am. The terminal at Ha Long City is near the Bai Chay bus station and about 5 km away from the harbour. Expect train delays and cancellations without notice. Hard sleeper only, $10 USD one way.(not recommend this transport)
By rent a private car or taxi: take a car from Noibai,or from Hanoi centre to Halong bay. It costs $85 USD per car, per trip or $150 USD for a 2 days, 1 night.
By Private car: Cat Ba Express is recommended. Travelling by private car is considered the best choice due to its flexibility, safety, quality and valuable rates. It also seem be uniquely way to reach Ha Long bay from Noi Bai airport despite the taxi collection as it is indeed unsafe enough because of old age, careless drivers and non-competitive price. Some provider: Avis Vietnam, vietnamairporttransfer.com, Rental Car… You can also book a private car through app like Uber, Grab, fee will be shown on the screen.
Organised tours from Hanoi
There are many package tours to Cat Ba Island from Hanoi, Standards on these vary considerably: while comfortable – or even downright luxurious – boats, excellent food and knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides may be available, most are characterised by long and crowded bus journeys, tourist-oriented rip-off trips on boats so slow you could swim faster (to get you to buy more food and drink on board), hard-sell ‘add-ons’ like brief stops for kayaking, ‘water cave’ visits and other shady practices. So if you must visit Cat Ba, simply avoid the tourist port entirely and cross from Haiphong or another port.

From Haiphong
Cat Bi International Airport in Haiphong is roughly 2.5 hours away from Ha Long city by road. The metered taxi fare is approximately 850,000 VND but you should be able to negotiate a taxi for under 800,000 VND as there are likely to be more than one taxi operator competing for your business.

If you ask around HaiPhong how to take a bus to Ha Long you will most likely receive two answers: Lac Long and Ben Binh. Lac Long is cheaper and a local bus station  Ben Binh is the next to the ferry and are only tourist buses. They are down the road from each other. If at Ben Binh, simply follow the curve closest to the ferry docks. Lac Long is a 5 minute walk away on the right hand (west side) of the street.

A local bus from HaiPhong to Ha Long at Lac Long bus station is about 70,000 VND per person. This bus will drop you off 2km away from the tourist area. Moto operators will be waiting there and will try to be very aggressive for they are connected with certain hotels. Walking to the tourist area is a matter of following the main road perpendicular to the highway. A moto should cost 15,000 VND per person from the bus stop to the tourist hotel strip, though they will try to charge you 5 to 10 USD.

A tourist bus from HaiPhong to Ha Long at the Ben Binh station next to the ferry to Cat Ba also exists. They try to start at 300,000 VND per person. They should settle for 220,000 VND. From Hai Phong city, you can come to Cat Ba island by hydrofoil. It departures at 09:00 AM, 10:00AM, 13:00 , 15:00, 16:00. The duration of hidrofoil is about 45 minutes from Hai Phong to Cat Ba island.

Highlights :

  • Islands : Ban Sen, a thickly forested, almost uninhabited island reachable by ferries to Quan Lan from Cai Rong.
    Cat Ba, the home of the endangered Cat Ba langur, a national park, numerous caves and the most popular destination in Ha Long Bay for tourists. It can either accessed by local bus and ferry from Hanoi’s Luong Yen bus station (recommended), by tourist boat from Halong City (a five hour ‘hard sell’ ordeal; this is what the hordes of Hanoi package tourists do), or by local bus or ferry from Haiphong (less scenic).
  • Quan Lan, a historically significant outlying island with the beginnings of some tourism infrastructure and some beautiful beaches. Reachable by ferry from Cai Rong or also (reportedly) from Halong City.
  • Van Don, a large island that is well inhabited, little visited by tourists and connected by road to the mainland near Cua Ong.
  • Dau Be Island: Visited by commercial cruises to Cat Ba. This is a very popular swimming and diving spot because of its rich coral and deep grottoes with three inland lakes. The grottoes and caves can only be visited by rowing boat at low tide, when access is possible.
  • Dau Go Island: Visited by commercial cruises to Cat Ba. A large and heavily damaged cave plastered with multicoloured lights and concrete.
  • Bo Hon Island: Visited by commercial cruises to Cat Ba. The Virgin Cave (Hang Trinh Nu) is one of the most famous caves in Halong Bay. It is probably best known for its shrine. Accordinng to a legend a beautiful woman committed suicide in the cave, unable to return home after being forced to marry an old Mandarin. Here her body tuned into stone. Another similar legend says this girl escaped from a Mandarin that forced her to marry him because her father could not pay a debt. When fishermen found her body, they buried her here and built a small shrine inside the grotto. Hung Sung Sot Cave is also on this island and has a steep path lined with shady trees. There are two chambers in the cave with a square-shaped outer chamber and a ceiling about 30 metres high. The inner chamber formations look like sentries conversing with one another and another formation, resembling a general surveying his troops, lies in the middle of the chamber. The moving light reflected from the water outside seems to bring these formations to life. Pelican Cave (Hang Bo Nau) is also popular, and many love to take photos of this cave and its spectacular stalactites hanging from the ceiling

Activities : Overnight cruises :  It is said that the perfect way to discover and enjoy this world natural wonder is to jump onto a boat cruising to the far-most corners where there are hidden lagoons, unexploited beaches and exotic grottoes that can be found nowhere else in the world. / Halong Bay Casino (Royal International Casino) located by the main road to Bai Chay,

Go next : Bai Tu Long Bay / Haiphong / Hanoi / Mong Cai / Dongxing / China – Guangxi province.

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