We went to Ha Long Bay in November 2011 to celebrate my son’s birthday. From Saigon, we took Vietnam Airlines to Hai Phong instead of Hanoi as the airport is nearer to Ha Long Bay. Unless you plan to visit Hanoi, you may choose to start from there.
We stayed at Novotel and the room was spacious, nice and facing the sea with the Ha Long Bay outcrop as background. The staffs were wonderful. During our son’s birthday dinner, they joined and sang birthday song to him and we were treated with complimentary medium size chocolate cake.
Halal food is not easily available, so we brought some instant noodles, bread and canned food. We also dined in by having vegetarian and seafood menu.
Exploring the outcrop was wonderful. Since it was reasonably cheap, we had a junk [boat] and a tour guide just for us through the hotel. The junk trip covered numbers of stops including Cat Ba Island, Sut Song cave and a stop at an island with beaches.
Nearby, there is night market where we bought some souvenirs and had coffee at Trung Nguyen Café. The goods sold at the market are nothing much different with the ones at Saigon.
As told by our tourist guide, we also went to Tuan Chau Island. We were hoping to watch dolphin and seal performance but was informed by the ticketing lady it was postponed to the next hour. While waiting for that, we strolled at that park which has nothing much to see except several world landmarks miniature. The next hour when we came, the ticketing lady again said it’s postponed to the next hour. Probably this is culture of Vietnamese where they feel it is impolite to say no. So we decided not to wait and went back to hotel.
Overall, Ha Long Bay is beautiful place. Indulge yourself with the nature, only.