I have wanted to visit Ha Long Bay for as long as I have known that Ha Long Bay exists (which is probably more than 5 years but less than 10, if you want to be somewhat specific). So when I arrived in Hanoi I was set on making this happen ASAP. With the typhoons still rumbling on I checked the forecast and elected to head straight to the bay the next day as it seemed the most promising on that front.
By this stage in my trip, my time left in Vietnam was limited and I wanted to maximise on the few days I had, so opted to visit the bay in just 1 day, freeing up the rest of my time to head north to Sapa. This meant leaving the hostel around 8am and returning around 9pm, there was a night bus to Sapa at 9:30, so this all worked well for me (like I said, I was really cramming to maximise my time).
The drive from Hanoi to the bay is around 4h which is hindered somewhat by the amount of time spent picking everyone up and then the 30minute rest stop en route. We eventually arrived around 1pm and even the bus ride couldn’t put a damper on the undeniable beauty that is the bay. We tucked into a generous lunch on our ‘junk boat’ and set out for a closer look.
The bay itself is nothing short of stunning and you could probably spend days just cruising around staring at the scenery. We took some kayaks out into some of the smaller caves to explore a little bit closer which was great fun and also disembarked at one of the islands to go inside some of the bigger caves. It was an amazing experience and something I had wanted to do for so long that I had very high expectations, and they were certainly fulfilled.
The journey back did not go quite so smoothly however, as we got stuck in a huge traffic jam and didn’t arrive in Hanoi until almost 10pm…yes you guessed it, I missed my bus to Sapa!! After a wonderful day I was so disappointed that I might miss out on the other Northern Vietnam adventure I was craving. Fortunately for me, I had organised everything through my hostel, Flipside, who were incredible. They got me a beer and set about rearranging my plans, then gave me a free bed for the night and told me to be ready to leave at 6:30am – I was going to make it to Sapa after all!!
It was a long day but definitely a worthwhile one, my advice to others visiting the bay would be to stay one or two nights as the day trip was really brutal, that said, if you’re short of time you don’t want to miss it!