Halong Bay is an Unesco World Heritage site and it is a popular tourist destination. Hạlong Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. Its waters are host to a great diversity of ecosystems including offshore coral reefs, freshwater swamp forests, mangrove forests, small freshwater lakes, and sandy beaches. The folk tale has it that the dragons descended from heaven to help locals by spitting jewels and jade to the sea, forming a natural fortress against invaders; these precious stones are represented by the lush green outcrops. Several islands boast beautiful grottos and caves with contiguous chambers, hidden ponds and peculiar stone formations.
We visited Halong Bay in 2010 before we had kids. We had booked an overnight tour on an old sail boat named the Dragon Pearl. I was a little nervous about spending time on an old sail boat, but when I saw our cabin, all my fears vanished, because it was a modern and beautiful cabin with a big double bed and a little bathroom. The ship also had a dinning room and a sun deck.
There were 4 other couples on the boat, all of them sweet and easy to talk to. We spend the afternoon exploring a cave and did some kayaking.
At night we were served a great dinner at a refectory table, so we got to small talk with all the other couples. It was a beautiful quiet night and a spectacular experience to enjoy the sunset from the sun deck.
The next day we visited a floating fishing village. The people living in the village were poor and the small wooden chalets they lived in where extremely simple. They earned a little selling sodas and chocolate from the small boats to the visiting tourists. I couldn’t help to wonder what a life is like living in Halong Bay in that fishing village. The kids did not go to school instead they were out fishing with their fathers or selling sodas to tourists like us. The smaller kids stayed in the small chalets crawling on the wooden floors. None of them fell in tha water while we visited, but it must happen sometimes that a baby fall in to the sea, and they were not wearing life vests, but maybe they can swim before they can walk? I hope so….
After visiting the fishing village we went back to the harpour and ended out tour.
What to expect from a sail tour in Halong Bay
- Do not expect a private tour on less you booked a private tour. Most tours are onboard old sailboats you shere with others. You get close to other couples or groups onboard sharing sun deck and maybe dinner table. You get your own cabin with a private bathroom.
- Expect simple dinner, fish and rice
- You can buy drinks and snacks on the boat including water
- The boat will make a few stops maybe at the fishing village, caves etc.
- Bring your swimsuit because you might be able to swim from the boat or do some kayaking
If you bring kids – be aware:
- You have to bring everything for the kids including food, diapers and maybe also a travelbed.
- If you bring a baby – you might want to bring your own kettle to heat water for the baby. Otherwise you can get it in the kitchen, but if you want to heat a bottle infant formula at night, it is nice to have a kettle.