When it comes to HaLong Bay, it’s really not about if you go, but how you go. This stunning bay filled with approximately 1,600 jutting limestone mountains is a UNESCO World Heritage and one of the top tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. Any guidebook and any travel blog will recommend experiencing this incredible piece of nature when traveling through Vietnam.
But why? What makes HaLong Bay unique, special, unforgettable and all those other words travelers use when describing this place?
As with any booming tourist attraction, there are many options and opinions on how to experience HaLong Bay. From a day trip to an overnight on one of the islands to party cruises to luxury liners, there are seemingly endless options at all price points. I did A LOT of research when choosing how we were going to experience HaLong Bay, and eventually chose the company Paradise Cruises. We splurged a bit, but we wanted a reputable & safe company that would be a comfortable experience. We stay in tons of budget hotels and eat cheap street food all throughout Southeast Asia, but we wanted to see how the other half travel, so we ended up on a 3 day, 2 night Paradise Luxury Cruise of HaLong Bay, Vietnam. This blog will be light on the details of the ship & company, so if you wanting to know more about who we cruised with and how we liked it, with lots of photos, read this longer post!
We had heard from a few people that just one night aboard the boat was not enough time to truly experience HaLong Bay, and I could definitely agree with that statement. I was so glad we did the 2 nights! We not only had hours and hours of cruising time through the bay and between the beautiful peaks, but also 3 cave tours, a kayak excursion, a boat trip through a floating village, a sandy beach swim break, an oyster & pearl farm tour, and a mountain hike with panoramic views. But even with all those elements, the trip didn’t feel too rushed or too packed.
My favorite part of the trip were sunsets. We were able to sit on the lounge deck, as the weather got cooler and the sky turned golden colors and just watch the magnificence of these mountains glow in the fading sun. I’ve been blessed to see so many amazing parts of this world, from the beaches of Bali that I call home to the Great Wall of China to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to the canals of Amsterdam, and lions on safari in South Africa. But HaLong Bay was something special that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I was transfixed by perspective. I could see the peaks nearby and closeup, but when I looked past them, I saw others smaller and faded, but just as real. It seemed infinite.
Why is HaLong Bay a must-see? Because it’s something you cannot experience anywhere else. Because no matter where you come from or what language you speak, it’s beautiful. We met travelers from New Zealand, England, Malaysia, Israel and Australia while traveling through HaLong Bay. Even with radical differences between us, we were able to share this experience together. HaLong Bay is so large and so vast, yet it somehow brings perspective. Maybe the mountains in my own life aren’t as big as I thought they were. If the world is truly this infinite, am I making an issue of something larger than it should be? All these thoughts went through my mind as we sailed. And I can honestly say that there aren’t too many tourist attractions that cause me to ponder philosophy of life. But there’s just something special about HaLong Bay.
I don’t believe that HaLong Bay can truly be captured in a still photograph, which is why I put together this video to help immerse you in the unparalleled beauty of this place. Take 5 minutes, put on your headphones, and gaze at the wonder of our world.