Halong is 170 kilometres east of Hanoi. The name translated into English means “Bay of Descending Dragons” and first appeared in print in a 19th Century French map. There was a story about a huge sea snake being seen by a French boat in 1898 and the name emerged from there as a French newspaper described the snake as a dragon. There is over 100 kilometres of coastline and almost 2,000 islands.
Best Time to Visit
There are two main seasons in Halong Bay. From April to the end of September it will be hot with intermittent rainfall. Temperatures will then drop and there are cool winds much of the time until spring returns again. The climate is described as tropical, coastal with an average temperature over the year of 24C, rising above 30C in the summer but averaging only 14C from October onwards.
Over 80% of annual rainfall comes during the summer even though a second monsoon, that from the north east arrives during the winter. A fairly sheltered bay, Halong is hardly ever affected by the storms which can occur elsewhere in South East Asia.
On balance March to June is the peak tourist season with fewer visitors until October and November. Having said that a Halong private tour can be arranged any time in the year. The climate in Vietnam does involve some compromising when you select your dates because of the two monsoons that hit different parts of the country so take advice from a good tour company who will be only too happy to help.
How to Get There
Some people arrive in the Bay by boat but it is more likely that the majority travel from Hanoi which is the first “port” of entry for many overseas tourists. It is possible to organisea Halong cruise tour from an experienced tour company in Hanoi. Travel arrangements, a comfortable bus from Hanoi, are easy to arrange. The bus trip takes up to four hours from Hanoi while the good road infrastructure links the rest of the country to Halong.