halong bay

Sustainable Tourism in HaLong Bay aboard the Au Co Luxury Cruise



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Named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994, HaLong Bay is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and a popular tourist destination in Vietnam for domestic and international visitors alike.

For years, waking up in the crystal blue waters of the bay on a junk boat amidst the limestone cliffs was at the top of my bucket list, and, in 2017, I finally made it there. According to statistics from the Halong City People’s Committee, so did about 7 million other tourists... with a majority of them flocking straight to the port to board their cruise in the bay.

As you can imagine, this mass tourism can have detrimental effects on the environment in HaLong Bay, however, I don't think tourists should let this dissuade them from visiting. There are companies who care about preserving the beauty of HaLong Bay, its wildlife, and the local communities who call this place home... companies like Bhaya Cruise Line.

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About Bhaya Cruise Line

In 2007, Bhaya's first ships set sail, and just over ten years later, with four different fleets and several cruise packages to choose from, it is already become the largest cruise operator in HaLong Bay. It is also one of the Bay's most reputable cruise companies.

In 2017, Bhaya launched several sustainable tourism initiatives designed to protect and preserve the environment, and to help local communities.

This summer, I had the pleasure of exploring the beauty that is HaLong Bay a second time aboard Bhaya's Au Co Luxury Cruise. I was very impressed with the ship, the staff, the off the beaten tourist track excursions, the food(!), and with Bhaya's overall dedication to leading the way for sustainable tourism in HaLong Bay.

Want to learn more about the Au Co Luxury Cruise, Bhaya's social and environmental initiatives, or how you can get involved?

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The Cutest Homestay in HaLong Bay - HaLong Ginger Homestay



 
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HaLong Ginger Homestay

If you're planning a trip to northern Vietnam, chances are taking a HaLong Bay Cruise is high on your list. Most people go straight from Hanoi to the bay and almost immediately board their cruise, however, if you have the time, I highly recommend staying at least one night in mainland HaLong beforehand.

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Why stay a night in mainland halong bay?

The journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay can be a bit exhausting. If you're a morning person, maybe you won't sweat the early morning wake up call, but I personally was SO tired once I had finally arrived and it was time for the cruise - (Seriously... barely survived happy hour... mostly due to my extreme exhaustion).

This time around, we opted to head to HaLong Bay a day early. This allowed us to rest up, while also giving us just enough time to explore. We got an early morning bus from Hanoi, and were dropped off right at the door of our adorable homestay in HaLong. Once there, we dropped off our bags, ate some lunch, and went to hike Bai Tho Mountain.

If you're not already convinced to stay a night, check out this incredible view of the bay from Bai Tho Mountain, and then get ready to book your accommodations in HaLong.

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Where to stay

Sold on staying a night in the mainland?

Skip the fancy hotels and resorts, save a few bucks, and book a stay at the HaLong Ginger Homestay instead... a cozy, convenient, affordable, (and totally instagrammable) little homestay...

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other featured accommodations 

How to Get an Epic View of HaLong Bay - Hiking Bai Tho Mountain



 
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The first time I visited HaLong Bay, I, like most travellers, got picked up early in the morning from my Hanoi hotel, and was driven straight to the pier to board my cruise (...with one tourist trap restroom/souvenir/food pit stop along the way).

*Pro tip: don't buy anything but snacks here (and don't even buy those unless you absolutely have to)... Seriously. All of the souvenirs are sold at ridiculously high prices, and most of them can be found in the markets you'll likely visit at some point during your Vietnam travels*

Anyway, this time around, I decided to spend some time in HaLong Bay prior to our cruise, and I'd highly recommend you do the same. Not only was I well rested the day of our cruise, I was also able to explore and enjoy more of the area. The highlight was hiking Bai Tho Mountain and getting the most incredible view of HaLong Bay. Keep reading to find out how you can do the same!

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 Getting to HaLong Bay from Hanoi

Since we were going a day early, our transport to HaLong Bay wasn't included or supported by our cruise company, and when our Airbnb's contact fell through at the last minute, we were stuck trying to arrange transportation to HaLong the night before. I was stressed at first, but after a quick google search came across TravelerTick.com, an extremely easy to navigate site with lots of routes and transportation options.

A limousine bus from Hanoi to HaLong bay cost us $19 per person and we were picked up and dropped off at the door of our accommodations (something other bus and shuttle services claimed they weren't able to do).

With only 5 other people on board, we had loads of room and an extremely comfortable ride. 

Visit their website for more information about transportation routes and prices.


Hiking Bai Tho Mountain

After checking in to our homestay, we put on some sneakers and headed to hike Bai Tho Mountain. I'd seen loads of pictures of this spot when planning my Vietnam trip and absolutely had to check it out for myself.

To get there head to Hàng Nồi road. Walk down the street (almost to the end) until you see the "Good Store."

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This is where it gets interesting...

To get to the mountain trail you have to go through someone's house. The entry way is just to the left of the Good Store.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the woman sitting outside (presumably the owner of the house) who knew exactly what we were there for. She showed us through the house... past a bird cage... a chicken coop... a bunch of dogs... and to a very much locked gate... (surrounded by barbed wire... with a large hole... that we then climbed through to begin our ascent up the mountain trail).

Side note: this trail is technically closed for tourists, and since it's located in her backyard, she is capitalizing on the opportunity - (can't say I blame her). The "Admission cost" is 50,000 VND per person (roughly $2), but its well worth it for the view you get at the top.

The hike will take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on how quickly you go (and how many photos you stop to take along the way).

To be honest, I hadn't anticipated it being quite so strenuous and hadn't packed any water. All I had were a bag of dried mangoes (that I gave to a German girl who had stopped along the way with low blood sugar).

*Pro tip - DON'T BE LIKE US. Bring snacks and water!*

When you get to the top there are quite a few good spots for photos. Snap away (and recharge with your snacks and water).

Though the sunset views are surely incredible,  I would recommend going earlier in the day, as making your way down might be a bit tricky after dusk!

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Where TO STAY IN HALONG BAY

If you're looking for a cozy place to stay in HaLong Bay, I'd highly recommend the HaLong Ginger Homestay. With several options ranging from a queen sized en suite and dorms to adorable garden cottages, there's something for everyone. You can even book the whole house if you're travelling with a large group! 

During our stay, they were renovating the space beyond the two triangle cottages for their cooking school. Though the property is already beautiful, it will look even better once this construction is finished!

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 To book your stay contact homestayginger@gmail.com or view their options on AirBnb.

Sign up for airbnb and get $40 in travel credit!

 
 

 Looking for more Vietnam tips?

A Night in HaLong Bay with Glory Legend Cruise

Waking up on a junk boat amidst the limestone cliffs of Ha Long Bay has been at the top of my bucket list since, well... since the first time I saw a photo of the limestone cliffs of Ha Long Bay. When planning my trip to Vietnam, experiencing this was my number one priority.

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My search for the perfect junk boat led me to Glory Legend Cruise Line. Though it was a bit more expensive than other boat companies, I decided that, when it came to crossing off this item on the bucket list, I was willing to splurge on quality. There are lots of budget backpacker, party boat cruises as well, but that wasn't really the vibe I was after for this leg of my Southeast Asia trip.

An acquaintance from Seoul (aka a social media friend who I'd actually never met before), was travelling through Vietnam around the same time as me, and, since she also planned to do Ha Long Bay, we decided to book the same cruise. We met up at the dock on the day of our departure, and immediately hit it off - (She offered me snacks and I knew I'd found a forever friend).

Turns out, the cruise company had TWO boats departing that afternoon... and we, of course, as luck would have it, were not on the same one. This is how I ended up riding solo on a junk boat in Ha Long Bay. Aside from the workers on the boat and a couple of honeymooners, I was the youngest person on the boat by at least 30 years. Other than that, my boat was mainly full of Austrian retirees. As unfortunate as this situation may sound, believe it or not, riding solo actually worked in both of our favor... turns out, the Austrians know how to party.

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Want to find out more about my journey through HaLong Bay with Glory Legend Cruise? 

Already sold??

To book your stay your HaLong Bay Trip with Glory Legend Cruise click here

When you book using my affiliate links, I receive a small commission that goes towards the cost of this webpage... (and, lets be honest... future travel). 


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