Halong Bay consists of some 1600 limestone islands and islets in the Gulf of Tonkin. Mostly untouched by civilization, the pointy peaks set against a calm sea is extremely beautiful and well worth the long road trip from Hanoi on bad roads.
Package cruises include road transport from Hanoi on uncomfortable minibuses. The pier is fairly new, and passengers are transported to the cruise boats by smaller ferries.
Boarding the boat at around lunch time, the first activity is to grab a bite as the cruise sails along many of these limestone peaks.
I picked a mid-range cruise, which offered 3-star facilities with a nice rooftop deck to enjoy the scenery. December is a great time of year to visit northern vietnam as it is dry season.
Lots of tour boats ply these waters. Most of the passengers on my boat booked a 2-day overnight cruise.
Some fishermen continue to live in these waters, taking advantage of both natural resources and also the curious tourist.
Cruise itineraries include a cave visit. The "Surprise Cave" is accessible by a long staircase and consists of a huge interior with many stalactites and stalagmites.
Sunset over Halong Bay is quite spectacular. The itinerary included a swim in frigid cold waters or a hike up a hill.
Kayaking is also included in the trip, but I opted to have a chauffeur command a row-boat to enjoy the scenery.
The monkeys did not mind our intrusion.
I think a 2-day cruise is sufficient to admire the area's natural beauty. By the end of this trip, I was all limestone island'ed out.