Ha Long Bay, in every photo I’ve ever seen looks like one the most magical places on earth. [see below] Besides that, it’s mentioned in all kinds of top 100 things to do on earth lists, so it of course had to make my top 10 list of things I wanted to see in SE Asia. I was so excited to see this mist-covered stone rocks rising up out of jade/blue-colored water; this, however, is not what I found waiting for me at Halong Bay. In fact, let me tell you what I thought about Halong Bay…
… It would not come anywhere close to my top 10 for SE Asia nor would it really make it on a must-see list for Vietnam.
Here’s what we did: we booked the one-day cruise and didn’t use the highest or lowest priced cruise. Perhaps you needed to stay the night to make this more magical?
We set out early in the morning and caught the bus to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi. On our cruise boat we had a very large meal and we splurged on some beers because we were so excited to toast to the mysteriously striking Ha Long Bay. (This was only a portion of the meal – my vegetarian options came out after their food.)
This was a first view of Ha Long Bay.
People enjoying their meals on the boat.
While the landscape these photos is in no way hideous, it certainly doesn’t look like the hundreds of photos that I’ve seen all over the internet.
Where is the jade-colored water? It looked like dirty lake water to us.
We went to the “floating village”, which was simply a handful of boats that had people fishing from them and sleeping in hammocks on them. We paid a couple of dollars to row around a small section near the floating village with a few fast friends we made on the tour.
This was one of the prettiest sections of the bay, but the magic is lessened when you’re one of about 10 boats squeezing through this area to take some photos. We actually bumped into other boats several times trying to get through this area.
This was a bit giggle-inducing! haha
Like I said, it isn’t that this isn’t a beautiful site, it just DOES NOT look like the other photos I’ve seen of Ha Long Bay. It was so disappointing because of those photos of mysterious stones rising out of beautiful blue/green water and below the rising mists.
Our boat-rower was absolutely adorable. She took the cameras out of all of our hands and posed us all together at least 5 different times and used all 5 of our cameras! She laughed with us as we tried our hand at rowing her cute little turquoise boat.
This man and the boats behind him make up a large portion of the “floating village.”
My favorite part of the Ha Long Bay Tour was walking through Dau Go Cave. This cave is MASSIVE and they have all the different formations lit up by neon lights.
This window on the top of the cave allowed these heavenly-looking rays to beam in.
This is the view from the exit of the cave. It looked out over the water, the dozens of cruise boats hauling tourists in and out of the area and the town on the horizon.
I think if I had gone to Ha Long Bay with no expectations it would have awed me more than it did. Instead, I was underwhelmed and disappointed. So, here I am, giving my honest, unedited opinion: if there’s something else you’re torn between (Sapa, Dalat or even a day in the museums) I would chose all three of those things over this day trip. Sorry, Ha Long Bay lovers.
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