“It’s overrated”, “it’s dirty”, “it’s full of tourists”. You can find a thousand opinions like that online about Halong Bay, but despite all the negative reviews, I took a chance and visited anyway. And do you know what? The experience was magical, so I’d encourage you to take the chance too.

The legend of Halong Bay

Ha Long is formed from around 2,000 islands protruding from the water. There is a legend that tells of its creation. In ancient times, when the Vietnamese had to fight many invaders, the gods sent dragons to help. Those creatures spat out a huge amount of pearls, which turned into rocks on contact with water. In fact, those dragons are still believed to be there today, hidden in caves and crevices.

Experience it from the water

The best way to see Halong Bay, which has been inscribed on the UNESCO list, is to book an organised tour. We choose a two-day, one-night cruise with Le Theatre Cruises. It was an amazing experience.

On day one, we were collected from our hotel in the morning on a bus with six other people. It was a comfortable two and a half hour ride with one stop halfway.

After arriving at the bay, we jumped on a smaller boat that took us to the actual boat where we were staying for our one-night cruise. It was great that we didn’t have to worry about our luggage until we were in our room, especially as we had big suitcases. 

Next on the menu was lunch – an open buffet with traditional Vietnamese food like spring rolls, seafood and fried rice. There were also dishes like pasta and chicken.

Afternoon activities on Halong Bay

During the afternoon, the staff organised a lot of activities like kayaking, visiting caves and swimming. Despite that, we decided to take a rest as it was the only time where we didn’t have to run everywhere to see everything on our trip (check out what we got up to in Hanoi next here).

Sitting on the top of the boat, listening to relaxing music and admiring one of the seven natural wonders of the world was one of the best feelings in my life. We didn’t pass many other boats, so sometimes it felt like it was just us there. The rocks are simply incredible! You have to go and see them. And at the end of a lovely day on the bay, we had a cooking class, dinner and cocktails.

Heading to Hanoi

The next day we had some free time in the morning before being returned to our hotel in Hanoi. I normally don’t book all-inclusive trips, but for Halong Bay, there weren’t many alternatives. Overall, I was pretty happy with the experience though. I literally didn’t have to worry about anything.

The food was great, the transportation was on time, the boat was modern and clean and the staff was super nice. So don’t be put off by some of the things you’ll read and head to Halong Bay to make up your own mind first-hand. For me, the experience was unforgettable.

Where are you most excited to see when you visit Vietnam?

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  1. When we visited Guilin in China and went on a cruise, many people said it reminded them of Halong Bay. So Halong Bay has been on our list to cruise. Your lunch certainly looks tasty! So great that there was so much to do on the cruise. Kayaking might have been a fun way to get a bit closer to the water. Although enjoying the boat when everyone left was also a good choice.

  2. I’m so glad you took a chance despite what others said. It looks like an amazing time – and you had an opportunity to try a lot of different foods. Interesting that tours are the best way to see the area – good to know!

  3. I would love to check out Halong Bay, this has been on my list to do for a very long time. I would love to chill out around here but also do some water activities surrounded by the beautiful surroundings. One day, I will get here.

  4. That cruise looks amazing! Even the food seems pretty lux, which is usually not the case for buffets 🙂 The view is fantastic too, some of the best journeys are when you disregard others’ opinions! Hopefully I get to visit one of these days, and taking a cruise seems like the way to go!

  5. That cruise looks good with big beds and a tub looking out to the waters. I would stay long if I could and couple that with the food. It looks very tasty and well presented. I would not care what people say that its touristy , I would want to experience it for myself too!

  6. Wow such a cute legend about the dragons creating the islands. I hope to meet one some day. So good that UNESCO has added Halong Bay to its prestigious list, it helps preserve the place better. I am in love with the place through your pictures! Already dreaming of sitting on the top of a boat and admiring one of the 7 wonders of the world.

  7. Wow! It’s really nice blog on Halong Bay, I never heard about the story of gods and dragon story which one is really interesting. There are so many negative reviews on Halong Bay but you have described all things very nicely. I am in love with Le Theater cruises, specially that pool on the deck.

  8. I always love to see Instagram photos of Halong Bay as there are so many tiny islands and that too hilly type coming out from ocean. But I never knew that there are around 2,000 islands protruding from the water. Also the legend is very interesting about its creation. I loved that fact that some fictional dragons are still believed to be there today, hidden in caves and crevices. La Theater cruise too looks worth booking here.

  9. Our daughter & boyfriend spent a few nights cruising Halong Bay last season and loved it! We’ve been to Vietnam a few seasons ago, but only as far north as Hoi An. Hope to return one day very soon from BC Canada to see the rest of the country! Great post & photos! Robert 🙂


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