Hanoi to Halong Bay

Old Oct 26th, 2006, 04:31 AM
  #1  
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Hanoi to Halong Bay

Hi
My husband and I are going to Hanoi in end Nov (4D3N) and are booking airfare and hotel ourselves. We would like to visit Halong Bay but are not sure if we should do a day trip or the 2D1N boat trip.

In the instance of a day trip, should we book the tour online or do so when we get there (and how much notice do we have to give, ie can we and and do the tour the day after we arrive?).
In the instance of a 2D1N, should we opt for the boat or hotel overnighter?Which boat would you recommend? For hotel, would the tour operator book for us or do we have to do it ourselves? (this impacts my Hanoi hotel booking as well as I will have to "leave out" 1 night)
Finally, I have a tendency to get motion sickness, so how stable is the boat?

We would really appreciate some recommendations/tips. Thanks so much in advance!
orangeblossom_08 is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2006, 06:43 AM
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I did an overnight on the Dragon Pearl, booked with Handspan, and can definitely recommend it. Comfortable room and good food. It never occurred to me to spend a night in a hotel at Halong Bay - the whole point is to be out on the water among the islands. I booked a couple of days ahead in the Tamarind Cafe, which I also recommend, but Hanoi does seem to be getting more popular, so booking ahead might be a good idea. On the other hand, you're then locked in, even if the weather turns out to be bad. I would allow more than one day if booking when I arrived.
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Old Oct 26th, 2006, 08:10 AM
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I would suggest at least an overnight stay in Halong Bay. When you consider 3+hrs travel by bus in either direction from Hanoi it makes for a long day.

The Bay was pretty calm when I visited, I don't know how much a problem sea sickness will be.

http://www.travelsinasia.com/Vietnam/Halong.htm
WeiLong is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2006, 12:45 PM
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I also did an overnight trip with Handspan on the Dragon Pearl - it was really wonderful.
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Old Oct 28th, 2006, 02:13 AM
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thursdaysd, weilong, dperry

thanks for your recommendations!
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Old Oct 31st, 2006, 07:41 PM
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hi
I think, you'd go to halong bay 2days and overnight on the boat, choose the luxury junk. You'll have a romantic night on the sea. Booking the hotel is so easy, you can tell with your tour operator or book by yourself.
Have a good trip!
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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 06:29 AM
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We have time just for the day trip. We have booked hotels thru Vietnamstay. Should we use them for the daytrip or book ourselves when we get to Hanoi? How do we get a decent boat for the day? I don't want to drown my darling grandchildren.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 08:40 AM
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Is the Dragon's Pearl the most luxurious overnight accommodation option for Halong Bay?
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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 01:33 PM
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It's my understanding that the Dragon Pearl is the nicest junk ship. The Emeraude is also supposed to be very nice, but from pictures I"ve seen it looks more like a riverboat you'd see in europe. We did the Dragon pearl junk, I wanted a more 'asian' experience.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 01:55 PM
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The Emeraude is reputed to be the most luxurious -- and most expensive -- but it is a riverboat-type craft, as dperry says, rather than a junk. Many of us are drawn to the junks.

The Dragon's Pearl is very attractive and offers good service. Handspan also books passage on smaller junks if that appeals to you. We booked an overnight in July on the Lagoon Explorer II which accomodated 8 passengers. Service was superb.

We were bussed in a large group from Hanoi to Halong Bay where we divided up to board either the larger boat (Dragon Pearl) or the smaller boat (Lagoon Explorer II). In trading stories on the return busride to Hanoi, we found that everyone had enjoyed the overnight experience. Those of us on the smaller boat seemed particularly enthusiastic. We also got to kayak, a service not offered to passengers on the Dragon Pearl.

Enjoy!
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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 05:44 PM
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Marya--

Can you please tell me your experience kayaking with Handspan? And, also I'd like to know exactly how your 2 days were spent. I've been reading some stories over on the Lonely Planet forum about being on boats where the only kayaking is in circles around the boats. We'd be interested in actually approaching the caves with a kayak. Is this what you did? Some people on LP also talk about the almost Disneyland type lines when the tour boats all stop at the same lit up cave to see the cave and that this is not a particularly enjoyable experience. Did your boat do this? Thanks.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 07:25 PM
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Julies, Note that we went to Hanoi/Halong Bay in July so I cannot comment on the level of advance planning needed for November. Others on this Board can seasonally adjust these comments.

We booked at Handspan's offices in the Tamarind Cafe. Because we traveled in low season and had a generous window of time (11 nights) in Hanoi, it was easy for us to wait and book on-site. We sat and leafed through binders with descriptions and pictures -- asked lots of questions -- conferred and decided what was best for us.

We paid $125 per person (for the smaller boat, Lagoon Explorer II, not the Dragon Pearl) plus a $40 single supplement so that my son would have his own room. (Cabins on our boat had double beds.) The per person cost for an overnight on the Dragon Pearl, the larger boat, would have been $97 but my teenagers wanted what was billed as a faster boat.

Here's how the land transport segment was managed by Handspan/Tropical Sails. It takes about 3 1/2 hours to drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay, actual time depending on hotel pickups as well as traffic. There are no restrooms on the bus. Halfway through the trip, they stop for a restroom break accompanied by some mandatory shopping time. (They lock the bus for a good 20 minutes to encourage you to browse or at least purchase refreshments.) We made the exact some stop on the return journey.

We reported to the Tamarind Cafe at 8 am and boarded the boat in Halong Bay around 12:30 pm. We had a very relaxing, delicious lunch, cruised, kayaked, then some of us swam and others of us didn't owing to concerns about the water being polluted. We had a long, leisurely dinner -- delicious! -- and stayed up talking on the upper deck well into the night. The next morning, we loaded into launches and explored the intriguing "Surprise" or "Amazing" Caves. The trip ended with a lovely bruch, then we returned to port and boarded the bus back to Hanoi.

I too have read of the experience of lots of boats in the harbor jostling to set out at the same time -- a sort of rush hour on Halong Bay -- but that wasn't our experience in July.

The kayaking was much better than going in circles. Yes, we went off to explore some modest caves (although the real treat as far as caves go was the "Surprise" or "Amazing" Caves that we explored on foot the next day). I was the least capable kayaker in the group so the kayaking itinerary was undoubtedly compromised by my ability level but we definitely went out of sight of the boat rather than in circles around it.

Other questions? I'll try to remember and will ask my children if I cannot recall the answers.

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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 10:36 PM
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Have heard tell of a helicopter option from Hanoi for a full day trip to Halong Bay -- copter to the area, then private boat for the day (lunch made on board). Does anyone know the details of this option (and if it is prohibitively expensive and/or less desirable than the other options under discussion on this thread)?
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 11:33 AM
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Wintertravel: I'm looking into this option myself.

Looks like the pick-up point is the Sofitel Metropole with a 9.00 am departure returning at about 3.30 pm.

The helicopter departs on Saturdays only. RT costs U$200 (or $100 one way).
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Old Nov 4th, 2006, 08:27 AM
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Femi - thanks for the info. Are you making the arrangements with the hotel directly? Does the price include arrangements for the whole day (helicopter, boat, meal, etc...) or does one have to make those all a la carte?
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Old Nov 4th, 2006, 12:49 PM
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We, too, would like to take the helicopter but we can only go Tuesday, Dec. 26 for the day. Anybodyelse want to go that day to share expenses? There are 6 of us. I have also put out an email to vietnamtravel to see what they can arrange.
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Old Nov 4th, 2006, 07:50 PM
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The helicopter is prohibitively expensive to charter on a private basis (thousands of dollars).

I am planning to book my trip as part of a private tour package, but it seems relatively easy to book on one's own.

Here's a brief description that I've lifted from one of the myriad websites that offer this trip...

Halong Bay By Helicopter
Detailed Itinerary :

Pick up at the hotel & transfer to Gia Lam Heliport for a 50-minute flight by chartered helicopter to Halong Bay. (Each helicopter can carry from 20 to 24 passengers.) Arrive at Halong Heliport and transfer to a private boat for a five-hour cruise on the magnificent Halong Bay with a seafood lunch. Halong bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 3,000 spectacular limestone islands rising dramatically from the emerald green waters of the bay. Visit Thiencung cave. Transfer back to Halong Heliport and board the helicopter for a different but just as spectacular view of the bay. After a 15-minute flight over the bay, head back to Hanoi. Transfer to the hotel on arrival at Gia Lam Heliport
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Old May 15th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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Well we book and travel with Explorer Tours website, all your choice and budget can be found at
http://www.halongbay-vietnam.com

Cheers
johncollin is offline  
Old May 26th, 2007, 06:40 AM
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We did not go by helicopter, but did look into it while in Hanoi. It holds a certain number of people (10? 12? can't remember) and it only flies if full. You could book 4 seats, but if the other seats are not booked the flight will cancel. This may not be a problem if you are there for long enough to make an alternative plan, but could make Halong Bay impossible if you have only a short time.

In the end, we decided to arrange a car and driver via the hotel and to go by road. While it made for a long day, it was actually quite an interesting way to see some of the countryside and the development that is underway in Vietnam.
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Old May 26th, 2007, 06:30 PM
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We did the daytrip, booked thru our hotel (Metropole). Excellent day. We had boat to ourselves, as well as the van since we were 6 people. Food on boat some of the best of our trip. Everything good. Overnight nice if good weather, good boat and enough time.
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