On my last trip to Vietnam I signed up for a 2 day/1 night junk tour of Halong Bay.
Halong Bay is probably Vietnam’s most famous natural attraction due to its outstanding beauty and status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Its popularity and relative proximity to Hanoi (three and a half hours drive away) means that it is heaving with tourists. Every travel agent in Hanoi offers packages which vary considerably in price depending on the standard of the vessel and the quality of accommodation and food on board. Being a thrifty traveller I opted for a reasonably priced package on a junk which was hopefully sea-worthy (they have been known to sink!).
Halong Bay is massive with an area of about 1500 sq. km. and thousands of spectacularly shaped limestone karst hills jutting abruptly out of the sea. Despite the size of the bay all the tourist boats seem to visit the same destinations and anchor near each other.
Sometimes the competition for a parking space can get intense!
A typical tour would visit some caves, an island with a beach, fish farms, floating fishing communities and allow tourists the chance to do kayaking and swimming.
They say it is so beautiful it’s impossible to take a bad photograph – but I managed it, every time.
I was impressed with the enterprise and energy of the vending ladies who rowed their floating convenience stores long distances from junk to junk selling items like beer, wine, water and snacks.
Yes, Halong Bay is a bit touristy but definitely a must-see for anyone visiting the northern end of Vietnam.