The Hidden Halong Bay
Halong Bay holidays are becoming extremely popular and not without due cause. Exploring the Hidden Halong Bay may not be the easiest thing to do, but it is so worth the effort. The Bay is a 600 square mile UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gulf of Tonkin 100 miles from the Capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. It has almost 2,000 small limestone islands called karsts that shoot out of the water and tower above the hundreds of cruise boats that sail here. Most of the organised tours follow a well beaten path. Most cruises in Halong Bay take in the same attractions and follow a similar route. If you try though, you can get away from the masses and do your own thing, finding something of the hidden Halong Bay as you go.
1. Charter your own private junk
Probably the best way of really discovering what the area has to offer is to charter your own Halong Bay cruise boat. Obviously more expensive than joining a standard cruise boat, it can still be reasonably priced and the rewards can be very high indeed. Once hired you can request that the captain deviates from the normal route, and weather permitting he will oblige. One such company, Halong Bay Junk Boat, has one and two cabin options, on delightful old style sailing junks.
2. Enjoy dinner in a cave
At least one of the Halong Bay cruise companies, Indochina Junk offers a spectacular three day cruise on their old junk style cruise boat that includes a special candlelit dinner INSIDE one of the marvellous caves in the bay. This is an opportunity not to be missed whilst enjoying your Halong Bay holiday. The cave is both mysterious and fascinating, eating dinner inside is extremely special; ideal for a romantic meal or to celebrate a special event.
3. Dau Be Island
A rarely visited island, Dau Be is small at almost 23,000 square metres, but has some remarkable features. It is only half a kilometre from Hang Trai Island and just 28 km from the tourist wharf at Bai Chay. The highest point of this karst is 139 metres as it rises imperiously out of the dark blue waters of Halong Bay. It is mainly known though, for the Ba Ham Lake. This is a lake system that has three round lakes linked by a narrow meandering tunnel. The stalactites in the tunnel are impressive and many coloured. This is definitely worth including on your Halong Bay holiday. It is incredibly tranquil to row through this tunnel visiting each of the lakes. The island has abundant plant life such as orchids, banyan trees, Benjamin Figs and Cyads, whilst it also hosts the yellow-haired monkey. Sea life is also here in abundance. Dau Be is certainly one of the secrets of the hidden Halong bay.
4. Bai Tu Long
As mentioned earlier the vast majority of the Cruise boats in Halong Bay follow a similar route. This enables them to take their charges to all the attractions and has the added bonus of mooring in the same bay as night falls; safety in numbers. If you try though you can find boats that will chart a different course and you’ll get the solace that you desire. One such route takes you Bai Tu Long Bay and total tranquility and solitude. This bay lies to the East of the main part of the area. Treasure Junk is a traditional wooden junk style sailing boat with strong ethical and ecological values, that does exactly this.
5. Whisper Nature Bungalows
Hidden away on the Eastern side of Cat Ba Island is a small nature-based resort called Whisper Nature. Merely getting here becomes part of the adventure. You can either cycle or hire a motorbike and ride to Viet Hai where the bungalows are situated. It’s a simple place in an idyllic location. This is an ideal location from which to try and spot the elusive and endangered Cat Ba Langur.
So enjoy your holiday in Halong Bay whatever you decide on. If you are happy to just go with the flow, then fine. However if you really want to see something of the hidden Halong Bay, these tips will help you achieve that.