Exploring Ha Long Bay: An Enchanting Two-Day Cruise from Hanoi | Vietnam's Oceanic Wonder

Ha Long Bay | Introduction

Ha Long Bay, known in Vietnamese as Vịnh Hạ Long, is a vast body of water in northeastern Vietnam and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The scenery of Ha Long Bay is characterized by nearly 2000 islands, earning it the nickname "The Guilin of the Sea." These islands are predominantly made of limestone and their formation dates back to about 500 million years ago . The name "Ha Long Bay" comes from a legend about a dragon descending from the heavens, whose pearls turned into rocks and steep islands in the sea, helping Vietnam fend off foreign invaders .

Ha Long Bay | Tours & Transportation

The easiest way to explore Ha Long Bay is by taking a cruise, with a wide range of options available, from half-day to multi-day trips. Based on personal experience, I would recommend that general tourists choose at least a two-day one-night or a three-day two-night itinerary to delve a bit deeper into Ha Long Bay.

2D1N Cruise in Halong Bay

Halong Bay Day Trip

Cruises typically depart from Ha Long, and most tourists travel from Hanoi to Ha Long to board the cruise. The distance from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay is approximately 170 kilometers. Cruise companies usually assist in arranging transportation, but it's not included in the tour package and requires separate reservation. Additionally, seating is limited. We didn't realize this at first and only found out a week before departure, so we had to ask the hotel to help us book a separate vehicle through a local Vietnamese contact.

Ha Long Bay | Paradise Elegance Cruise 2D1N

We ultimately chose the two-day, one-night itinerary with Paradise Elegance Cruise. The cruise departs from Ha Long around noon, and the following day, it returns to port around noon, making the actual itinerary duration close to 24 hours. In addition to enjoying the stunning views of Ha Long Bay from the cruise, this itinerary includes stops at three attractions. On the first day, we visited the Tung Sau Pearl Farm and the main attraction, Titov Island, where we climbed to a viewpoint to admire the classic scenery of Ha Long Bay. On the second morning, we stopped at Sung Sot Cave, the largest limestone cave in Ha Long Bay.

Itinerary | Day 1

Departure | Ha Long

We started our journey from Hanoi early in the morning, taking a shuttle minivan to the meeting point in Ha Long City. The meeting point was a hotel, and after checking in at the hotel, we had some time to explore the surroundings of Ha Long. The meeting point was a bit of a distance from the ferry pier, and later, the cruise company arranged electric golf cars to shuttle passengers and luggage to the pier.

While waiting, we took a stroll to the seaside, exploring the area near the pier. From the shore, we could already see many boats and the islands of Ha Long Bay waiting for us to explore. Besides the cruise ships, there were also many small boats and rafts along the shore. The residents of Ha Long used to make a living primarily through fishing and aquaculture, using these small boats and rafts made of tires and plastic containers. In the past, people used to live on these boats, but now they are mostly used for ferrying tourists.

Cruise Ship

Upon arriving at the pier, we were finally able to board the cruise ship. The first stop was the restaurant, where we waited for the initial briefing. As we stepped on board, rose petals were sprinkled at the entrance, and it had been a while since I felt this pampered as a traveler. Next, we were welcomed with a drink while watching the welcome dance and listening to the itinerary briefing.

After the briefing, we were finally able to go upstairs to our rooms. The room was quite pleasant, with more space than I had imagined. The bed was comfortable, but what really pleased me the most was the balcony. Most of our time on the ship was spent either on the deck when it was less crowded or on the balcony, enjoying the views of Ha Long Bay.

After the check-in was complete and we had settled our luggage, we returned to the restaurant to wait for lunch. The outdoor dining area on the middle deck had a pleasant atmosphere. By this time, the ship had slowly entered Ha Long Bay, so we could enjoy the scenery while having our meal.

The Skydeck on the top level was my favorite outdoor area. From here, you could have an unobstructed view of the entire Ha Long Bay landscape, and there was even a swimming pool. Perhaps because the weather was a bit cooler, the Skydeck was not crowded most of the time. From daytime to nighttime, we could find peaceful moments to enjoy the view of Ha Long Bay from the deck.


Lunch was a buffet, and the variety of dishes was quite extensive. They had chicken, duck, fish, and the overall quality was fresh. It turned out to be the most satisfying meal during my two-day trip.

Attraction | Pearl Farm

After lunch, the first stop was the Pearl Farm. Visitors put on life jackets and took a shuttle boat to the island.

Inside the island, there was a small pearl museum as soon as we entered, showcasing some pearl knowledge and even a live demonstration of pearl harvesting. However, we watched as the staff expertly opened the shells to retrieve pearls and then professionally placed them back inside after the crowd dispersed. It's for the best, considering that oysters die when pearls are removed.

After learning about pearls, some of the tourists chose to participate in the paid kayaking excursion, while others continued to explore the pearl museum, observe the farming operations, or visit the observation deck on top for photos. The water here was quite clear.

Attraction | Titov Island

Titov Island, sometimes spelled Ti Top Island, was the highlight of our first day's itinerary. This island is one of the famous attractions in Ha Long Bay, located in the center of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, about 8 kilometers from the harbor. It is known for its crystal-clear blue waters and a crescent-shaped beach. The name of the island sounds a bit different from other Vietnamese landmarks because it was named after Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who visited Ha Long Bay in 1962 with Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh. Here, you can climb to the summit to enjoy the panoramic views of Ha Long Bay. As the small boat approached the island, we could see a tall hill, and our destination was the peak of this hill.

After disembarking, we began the ascent. The trail was narrow, and there were quite a few tour groups, so it was a bit crowded along the way. We climbed approximately 450 steps to reach the summit. At the top of the hill, there was a spacious viewing pavilion where we could fully appreciate the stunning views of Ha Long Bay. The scenery of Ha Long Bay from this island was indeed picturesque.

On the island, there was also a beautiful sandy beach. After descending from the hill, many people headed to the beach for some water activities and swimming. We waited by the lovely beach for our boat to take us back.

Event | Cooking Class

After returning to the boat, the sky was gradually darkening, approaching dusk, and the view of Halong Bay was stunning at this time. We went back to the Skydeck to watch the sunset.

The cooking class was a popular activity during dusk, teaching us how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. Although cooking classes are common in Vietnam, we hadn't participated in one until now, even after spending three weeks in the country. The instructions were detailed, and the steps were simple—just moisten the rice paper, wrap it around the sliced carrots, ginger, cucumber, onions, and other ingredients, and you're done.


After sunset, it was time for dinner. The dinner on the cruise was quite lavish, with appetizers, main courses, and desserts, but I found the flavors to be less appealing than the lunch we had earlier. Our main course consisted of steak and fish fillet, which was somewhat akin to the quality of business class airplane meals. However, the atmosphere was enjoyable, with a live band performing, and the music was pleasant.

Itinerary | Day 2

Time flew by, and it was the second day of our cruise. Since we were more inclined to enjoy the scenery, we chose to skip many of the activities on the ship, such as the night squid fishing and the morning Tai Chi. Most of the time, we stayed on our room's balcony, savoring the breathtaking views of Halong Bay.

Ha Long Bay, Ha Long Bay 71

Attraction | Sung Sot Cave

After a simple breakfast, we headed to the only attraction scheduled for the second day, which is also a must-visit spot in Halong Bay – Sung Sot Cave. A small boat carried us towards the destination, a rounded limestone mountain ahead.

Sung Sot Cave is the largest and most beautiful cave in Halong Bay. It was discovered by the French in 1901. The cave entrance is located high up on the limestone rock formation, so you need to climb a staircase of 50 steps to reach the cave entrance. Along the way, you can stop at a viewing platform to admire the tranquil scenery.

The interior of the cave is spectacular and very large; Sung Sot Cave covers an area of over 10,000 square meters and is divided into two main chambers. The first chamber, known as the "Waiting Room", is very spacious and contains many stalactites and bamboo shoots.

The second chamber features a soaring ceiling and is renowned for its intriguing rock formations, some of which are associated with local legends and resemble animals. Here, you can find representations of a turtle on the ground, a dragon in the sky, and a phoenix, all of which are considered auspicious creatures in Vietnamese culture.

Viewing the entire cave from above is truly spectacular.

At the cave's exit, there is an area called the Royal Garden, and ahead is a higher observation platform where you can enjoy another perspective of Halong Bay.

Descending from the exit, there is a trail next to it, and alongside, you can still see some parts of the cave submerged in water.


After finishing the last attraction, we returned to the ship for breakfast, which was also a substantial buffet.

While enjoying breakfast, the ship passed by several other notable landmarks, including the Thien Sung Cave, Day Go Cave, Fighting Cock Islet, and islands belonging to the Cat Ba National Park. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for a more in-depth exploration, so we could only pass by these sites.

Ha Long Bay, Ha Long Bay 114

Breakfast concluded, and we returned to the starting point right on schedule, bringing an end to our two-day, one-night journey.

Further reading

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