Sunday, September 6, 2015

2013 Hanoi Trip - Halong Bay Part 1 - Road to Halong Bay

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

Full experience of my visit to Hanoi can be accessed through the list below:

More about Hanoi can be read through the list below:

I have been lazy in writing recently, and the trip to Halong Bay was nearly forgotten. I better starting completing the record of that journey now before such a joy fade into nothingness. This post is long overdue anyway.

One of the highlights of our Hanoi trip was a day trip to Halong Bay, which all Hanoi visitors would put onto their travel plans. After all who would want to miss a trip to one of UNESCO's World Heritage? However I found that there are certain things seldom highlighted about the journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay, so I decided to list down some points I found indispensable.


Facts to note for when going for a Halong Bay day trip:

  1. It takes approximately 4 hours for each journey (despite what Google Map may say), making that a whooping total of 8 hours in a return trip. DO be prepared for a long journey.
  2. There is a stopover along the journey, a little over 2 hours into the journey, lasting about 1/2 hour. The place is usually a shop selling various souvenirs, ranging from the simplest trinkets to marble carvings of Catholic or Buddhist theme. DO take a look even if you are not buying, especially at the intricate marble sculptures.
  3. The stopover for each trip usually coincides approximately with lunch and dinner time. The shop will usually contain a cafe with limited food and drinks to offer, but the price can be high and the taste bland. DO pack your own food and drinks enough for both trips. Having said that, you could still choose to use the shop to restock as they also sell packaged food, which standard taste could not be wrong.
  4. DO stretch your legs and enjoy the place, and note how the rural surroundings look like far from the city.
  5. DO NOT drink too much before embarking as there is nowhere for the bus to stop even if you have an emergency. DO bring some medicine for stomachaches just in case.
  6. The road traveled is not a highway so the bus will be braking and accelerating quite often. DO bring medicine or acupressure bands for motion sickness if you are prone to it.

Our adventure started around 7 a.m. when the minibus came to pick us up. After a tour around the city with passengers embarking from various points, we were on our way to the UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, a journey which took us a whooping 4 hours!

Forlorn lovers


Apart from a punctured tire at the beginning of our journey, easily rectified by a quick visit to the gas station and tire shop, the overall travel was rather uneventful. I was however surprised by the petrol price during our stopover, a number roughly double of Malaysia's.

4 hours was a really long time to spend, but the bus fortunately planned a stop in the middle of the journey. I guess most travel groups had arrangements with the owner of the place as we observed a lot of buses resting there. The place was a nondescript piece of land with a shop, its surrounding a rural landscape with a few buildings jutting up.

The shop however was a treasure trove for shoppers, with various offers on display, ranging from clothes to trinklets, but the most impressive items up for sale would no doubt be the sculptures. Standing around the compound were works of art sculpted in various forms, the whiteness of their bodies almost blinding under the sun. Some were religious in nature, some depicting cupids and angels in various poses, and some could improve feng shui standings by depicting lions and eagles. And to ensure that potential buyers were not discouraged, the shop even advertised that they could ship the product through various means, with the price listed in detail. 

Eagle over the dragon turtle


Angelic parade

Modern sculptor

Shipping services

Common housing


Safe ride

The ride wasn't smooth, but it was more because of the road quality, not the driving skills... It was still a fun ride, especially on the way back...

Golden Lotus

Our ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay getting a wash.


RON 95 - 24,380VND (~RM3.673) per liter
RON 92 - 23,880VND (~RM3.597) per liter
Diesel - 23,310VND (~RM3.512) per liter

These are prices and conversion rate circa November 2013. Talk about high petrol prices...

Sculpture square



The short bathroom break was in itself an experience to be savored but the memory of sailing in Halong Bay, a UNESCO Natural Heritage, was incomparably more beautiful. And this made the long trip to reach it from Hanoi the more palatable.

Environment:         A UNESCO Natural Heritage Site with beautiful karst formation
Suitable for:            Landscape lovers, UNESCO hunters
Visit worthiness:   8/10 (I have to cheat here by marking up the worthiness value, because it is truly beautiful!)
Historical value:        4.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  0.0/5.0
Photographic value: 4.0/5.0
Landmark value:       5.0/5.0
My cheating value:   +1.5

Entrance Fee:                  usually included within the tour
Opening Hours:             anytime
Best Moment to Visit: Anytime, but most probably your time is decided by the tour
Length of Visit:              >8 hours (can last overnight)

Website:                   -

Contact:                    -
E-mail:                      -
Address:                   -

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