Halong Bay Wonder of Nature – Dreaming Awake

Halong Bay - Kayaking
Dreamy little beach. Halong Bay. All photos are by Tijana.

Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of photos of Halong Bay and dreamed of visiting the mystical mountains amid the emerald colored sea. Nowadays we can see faraway places through the internet and we tend to lose sometimes the sense of wonder and discovery. Nevertheless, Halong bay exceeded all of my expectations. It’s an exquisite wonder of nature.

The best mental images and memories are forever kept in our hearts. I wrote this watching the sunset on the balcony of my cabin while savoring one of the most beautiful sceneries in the world – Vietnam’s Halong Bay.

Halong Bay

The astonishing beauty of Halong Bay. Enjoy the video.

In 1994, Halong Bay (in Vietnamese Ha Long Bay) was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area is selected because of its stunning limestone mountains that formed thousands of years ago by rising up from emerald waters. The Halong Bay has is about 1,600 limestone islands that cover a vast area of over 1,500 square kilometers (600 square miles). It’s only a couple of hours away from the wonderful city of Hanoi.

Several of the islands are hollow with enormous caves. A community of approximately 1,600 people lives on Hạ Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cua Van, Ba Hang, Cong Tau, and Vong Vieng. People live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture.

Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most stunning attractions. The name translates to “where the dragon descends.” According to local poetic legend, the bay’s islands were formed when a dragon charged from the mountains towards the coast. Its tail carved out valleys and crevasses until the dragon hit the water, flooding the area and leaving nothing but peaks visible.

Halong Bay Cruise

Pandora Cruise boat Halong Bay
Our Pandora. It was a small boat with spacious cabins with a balcony. Very cute.

Halong bay is best experienced by the boat at a minimum of 3 days and 2 nights. I traveled from Hanoi and our cruise sailed through dreamy Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay. I must say that in general, I am not a fan of cruise ships. However, Pandora was a small boutique cruise ship with amazing cabins with charming balconies and a lot of character. To wake up every morning and look at the most spectacular nature from your bed was heavenly.

Pandora Cruise cabin Vietnam - Halong Bay
Cabin with a balcony. There is a lot of light and beautiful sights, and in the bathroom, too.

Included in this Pandora Cruise

  • Boutique cruise cabin with a balcony
  • Lovely English speaking tour guide
  • Cooking class
  • Sunset party
  • Kayaking
  • Cat Ba Island visit
  • Marvelous cave visit
  • All meals at the boat
  • Welcome drink
  • Bottles of mineral water
  • Daily fresh fruit in cabin
  • Transfer from and to Hanoi
  • Insurance on board
Halong Bay Boat
Sailing at Halong Bay.

Halong Bay Vietnam.
I was in heaven. Look at the little house between the two islands. This was like a dream.

Cruise deck in Vietnam
Mid-level deck with some nice chairs to read.

The emerald colors of Vietnam
Nature is beautiful. There is a lot of green colors in all shades of emerald.

Halong Bay at night by cruise
At the top deck. At night all you can see are the lights of other ships cruising by.

Vietnam cuisine
The food was delicious. And the staff was very accommodating with different diets. We also had a cooking lesson where we learned to make spring rolls.

Halong Bay view with Tijana
Halong Bay. Sometimes you don’t know where the sky ends and the ocean begins.

Boats on Halong Bay
Outdoors restaurant and a great place for coffee.

Kayaking at Halong Bay

Kayaking - Halong Bay
Kayaking at Ha Long Bay.
Halong Bay Rock formations.
The rock formations are surreal. It feels like a fairy tale.

There is a special connection when you are close to the ocean. While it’s beautiful to immerse myself in the scenery from the boat, I reveled being closer to the water. There is a different kind of peace and quiet when we explored those beautiful rock formations alone on a kayak. It was just our small group and nature around us. It is surreal and humbling when we are part of this spectacular ecosystem. Twice we went kayaking, and each time it was a different experience. The second time we were nearby small water-dwelling communities that offered insights into a very different world. The dwellings were modest but the view you wake up to every day is absolutely out of this world. There are so many different ways to live.

I Swam at the Halong Bay

Today we went swimming by the little caves in one of the islands. One had a tiny opening below with waves splashing continuously. With a wave, if you are very fast and in sync, you glide through the tiny entrance. Your heart pumps. On the other side is the jungle. We followed the little path through lush greenery and ended up in another little magical cave alcove. Little white stones were stacked in piles in perfect balance all over the place. Rock stacking has carried spiritual meaning across cultures for centuries. The act of balancing stones carries with it a practice of patience and a physical effort of creating balance. Each stone can signify an intention of grace for thankfulness, or offered up for another in need.

Swimming in the jade colored waters of Halong Bay.
Pure bliss. And all these shades of blue and green are incredible.

And then, like a mirage, you see a tiny opening showing you a completely deserted small sandy beach. The only thing you will find is the jade-colored ocean of the China Sea and magnificent nature. Your heart is full. And you don’t want to leave. Ever.

Swimming in Halong Bay
We couldn’t get out of the water. It was late October and so warm. Halong Bay.

Long-time Waiting to Go

Halong Bay Boat cabin balcony - Pandora Cruise.
Soaking it all in. What a wonderful way to wake up.

 “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”

– Seneca
Halong Bay Little boat seller
Tiny boat shop selling snacks and necessities.

Sailing through Halong Bay in Vietnam
Never gets old. Being by the water and sailing by boat always brings me a sense of joy.

Deck views of Halong Bay
Topdeck. Dreamiest place, day or night. Perfect for reading. And early in the morning with sunrise, we had great Tai Chi lessons here.

Tour guides in Vietnam
Our fabulous guide was full of joy and loved his work so much. He had taken us to that amazing swim adventure. I am so grateful for that memory. With somebody so passionate about his work, your joy and happiness multiply.

Boats and the Halong Bay mountains
The variety of boats at Halong Bay is fascinating to watch. They range from very traditional styles to superyachts. Gazing upon the scenery and sailing ships all day long is one of life’s simple pleasures. We were lucky to have all that breathtaking nature for ourselves.

Halong Bay mountain formations
Simply astonishing – imagine 1600 islands like this? Many formations were very sculptural, nature is an amazing artist. Halong Bay.

This was my second visit to Vietnam over the years. Somehow there is never enough time in the day to do everything I would like to experience. On this trip, I just wanted to see Halong Bay and made it my center focus. This adventure made me think about how fun it would be to work for UNESCO Heritage Sites and search for these incredible places.

Halong Bay Memories

Halong Bay Cave Visit
Tijana. So happy. This was one of my favorite moments at Halong Bay. I should have probably combed my hair and put some makeup, but who cares? This was a trip into a magnificent cave.

I started to write about this trip when I was traveling, but continued now while we are in the midst of COVID-19. I felt solace in coming back to these memories. Since then, our world has changed immensely. Good memories for all of us are like a treasure chest, triggered by the conversation, picture or thought. With memories, we can travel in our minds to revisit places or moments that we love and cherish.

Insider Tips for Halong Bay

I chose the Pandora Cruise that my hotel recommended and planned the excursion with a cruise company. Pandora is a smaller charming boat with maybe maximum of 20 cabins. The first and second floors had delightful balconies with views to make your heart sing and to enjoy your own private experience. If you’re looking for activities, there are plenty of tours that tend to be packed with events but you can also create your own schedule. I personally wanted just to swim, kayak, read, and watch the world go by.

The cruise companies offer two packages: one-night two-day, or two-night three-day cruises. I absolutely recommend taking a longer one, one night is not enough at all. You can combine your nights in cabins, on the island, or simply stay on the boat. I found it better to be on the boat, nicely settled and enjoying the experience.

Halong Bay in the evening
As we were cruising I noticed different ships. Few other fellow travelers recommended more modern boat Stellar (pictured).

How to Get There

In 2019 it was easy to get to Vietnam from any Asian country. The flights within Asia were very affordable. I went to Vietnam from Malaysia via a short and direct flight. As of last October, if you are US citizen you had to get a visa in advance. EU citizens didn’t need a visa. Please check the latest information here.

It is the easiest to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Most of the hotels can organize all kinds of tours. I booked Halong Bay through the hotel.

Weather and Climate in Vietnam

Vietnam’s unique geography creates a range of weather patterns, with both tropical and temperate zones. The climate of the bay is tropical and wet with two seasons: hot and moist summer, and dry and cold winter. If you are concerned about the weather, then the periods September to November and March to May are ideal for a trip to enjoy Halong Bay.

While March to May offers the best weather countrywide, there is no bad time to visit Vietnam, as there is always some part of the country to enjoy. This is the guide to the climate of Vietnam’s major regions and destinations.

Current Situation

This is a good resource about the current situation and updates in Vietnam.

Where it Is?


  • Bea

    Halong bay is such a breathtaking place, so incredibly described by you. Love the video – what a great little tour. Thank you.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      I am so glad that you enjoyed the article! Thank you so much for the comment about the video. Halong bay is even more amazing in real life. I am glad if you got the sense of this wonder of nature. Our planet is very beautiful. So many places to discover.

  • svetislav

    I admire the textual – visual richness of your travelogues, Ms. Tijana, I vote for them in the future, thank you !

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Dear Ceca, thank you for your gracious comment. I am running 5 counties behind, and have in my mind at lest 10-15 blog posts, Sorting photos is bit time consuming but they are are on their way. Funnily, I have 4-5 blog posts in the works. I have to write in inspiration or otherwise all is quiet. Luckily I have been quite inspired lately, to outpouring all this energy in this challenging times into the creativity.

      That makes me so happy that you are enjoying in travelogues. And I hope that you are well. Always amazing to hear from you.

      • Sazehgar

        it is interesting
        Have you ever analyzed why you enjoy and understand this part of the world more?

        There are many factors to consider ، For example, the weather, the beauty of nature, color, environment, good and native host in the region, tour and quality services, foods and odors, and taste of food, music, dance, etc. All and all the elements of our memories will be
        But in fact, all the details that we have given as a reason, they all create a wavelength that they are in harmony with ،
        Just like a symphony that uses different instruments to create a beautiful song
        You have heard and understood this music with emotion ، And you whisper a beautiful melody …

        • zestandcuriosity (author)

          It is very interesting that you noticed that! I was just speaking about my passion for Asia with my mom a few days ago. It started with Cambodia, which is a very special place for me. Than the other countries followed – Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Bali.

          I just love the region.

          You are right about the frequency, something is very much in sync with me when I am in Asia. Perhaps, because it is so different than the places I grow up, I feel that can always learn a lot from all the wonderful people there. Also there is that thrill of unknown. All these cultures and people from these places were very wonderful in their hospitality.

          There is some magical mix that works for me. I was very surprised about that affection and love every second when I am there. World is full of wonderful places – each place on Our planter has marvels to offer. This was such a great comment and a marvelous observation, thank you! Do you feel about some places like that, too?

          • Sazehgar

            I’ve never been there … But your feelings put us well in this environment
            Part of my life has been in nature and mountaineering, I am familiar with this strange feeling
            You feel comfortable and relaxed in some places. It’s like you belong there ! It’s like you’re in your mother’s arms
            That is, we are the lost piece of the puzzle, now we find ourselves

            Close your eyes and imagine yourself there ، Then ask yourself, do you like it here? Do you want to live there?
            I asked myself this question many times with my eyes closed …
            Some beautiful places of my answer were negative !!
            Because of this just just a beautiful but synthetic appearance
            But there are places that absorb the soul and the body of the ، And there is no scientific explanation for it !!
            In Singapore, my response was often positive, but in Malaysia it was always negative ،
            Due to the beautiful nature of Malaysia but a sense of belonging I didn’t
            I think this is the frequency of the environment that affects us

  • zestandcuriosity (author)

    That is such a great question – can you live there? When I travel I always imagine that. Can I live here? Each place has something beautiful to offer. I love doing the most ordinary thing to get a sense of place, like going to hairstylist whenever I visit some new county. Or going to a local market and art events, even I don’t speak the language. It can be a theater, too. I understand that different places make us feel different. It is so interesting how we create those connections. And how something can deeply resonate with us. I like how you put it – a sense of belonging. Somehow I always feel, when I come back to Cambodia I feel that I came back home.

  • Leonhard Pauli

    Oh a beauty to dream of!! Awesome feature!

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you Leonhard, I am so happy that it made your day! and, lovely to hear from you!

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