FACT: There are 3 bays in total in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is one of the most well-known destinations in Vietnam. If you ask any foreigners or even local people in Vietnam, Halong Bay will be the name that is mentioned a lot. It’s not the best destination in Vietnam but you will regret if you miss this place in your trip to Vietnam.
Although Halong Bay is so popular, people actually don’t really know about the bay. Most people know this bay through the recognition of UNESCO as a world heritage or sharing from others people. The true is Halong Bay is not a single bay because surrounding the bay are two other bays, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.
To distinguish these bays, it’s not an easy task even for a local people. Most scenes and landscapes are similar and you have to stay on the bay for many years to know the differences and the name of each limestone. In the other hand, you can base on the name of some specific places to know which bay is mentioned.
The overview of all there bay (from right to left: Lan Ha Bay, Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay)
Halong Bay is well-known with the Amazing Cave (Sung Sot Cave) and Titov Island for overnight trip and Heavenly Cave (Thien Cung Cave) and Dau Go Cave. With Lan Ha Bay, you will easily recognize the bay by Cat Ba Island. Finally, Bai Tu Long Bay is famous for its unique route with Vung Vieng Fishing Village and Thien Canh Son Cave.
Normally, when you visit Halong Bay, most tours or recommendation will guide you to Halong Bay due the recognition of UNESCO. But after many years, Halong Bay is now really crowded and busy. You will have to wait in a long line to visit Amazing Cave and only can stand on the beach at Titov Island when visiting during peak-season (from November to next April). Even in low season, it’s still pretty crowded in this bay.
Recently, tourists tend toward to Lan Ha Bay via Cat Ba Island. You still need to go to Tuan Chau Island in Halong Bay and catch a ferry to go to Cat Ba. You can visit Viet Hai Village on the island; explore Ba Trai Dao Island and cycling around the island.
While in Bai Tu Long Bay, the bay has fewer tourists and has a good balance for either calm or active tourists. The kayaking area is fresh and large and the fishing village is quite interesting to learn and interact with local people. Especially, when you go to Bai Tu Long Bay, signal is completely out of range so you can spend all the time with your lovers and family. From 2018, you can also do a day trip in Bai Tu Long Bay since some cruises have offered this service recently.
At the end of the day, you will find all three bays are worth to pay a visit. If you have enough time and budget, visiting all of them is not a bad decision. They do look similar the outside but the atmosphere of the bay, the fresh air and the laziness you have are worth trying. However, not all of us have time so if you can choose only one bay to go, I highly recommend Bai Tu Long Bay for a better first time experience then you can choose others for your next visit.