Click here if you would like to read an overview of my 3 months experience in Vietnam.
I had a different kind of experience in Ha Long Bay. I didn't go on a boat tour, which is what most travelers go there for. I was there with a local friend to visit his hometown at Ha Long City. It was a wonderful experience for me, that involves a lot of eating and drinking with his extremely warm and friendly family. One experience that i'll never forget.
The local bus from Hanoi to Ha Long City cost about $6. Head to My Dinh bus station and ask around for buses to Ha Long. Board the bus and have a sit, the bus ticket officer will collect the money from you when the bus depart.
If you ever go to Ha Long Bay, you should try to visit the local hometown area and go for a short 45mins hike up a mountain to see a the view of Ha Long Bay. It's amazing! I'm sorry i do not know the name of the mountain but it's a very popular place for the locals, so i'm sure you will be able to find it if you ask around.
You should also visit the Local Market, i was so amazed by the variety of seafoods they have there. It also have great view of the bay! I ate so much seafood at Ha Long, it's so fresh and delicious! Simply irresistible.
Overall, i am extremely thankful for the unique experience i had in Ha Long Bay, I didn't feel a need to go on a boat tour because I intended to go Cat Ba Island, and honestly, the view is pretty much the same. Ha Long Bay is where tourists go and Cat Ba is where the locals go for vacation. I also didn't like that boat tours in Ha Long Bay are mainly about drinking and partying. Very pleased about how my plans worked out. :)