Saturday, February 17, 2018

[Travel/ Food Guide] Itinerary to Halong Bay (下龙湾), Vietnam (越南) 2018.

Approximately 200 km away from Hanoi, the capitalof Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is one of the must-visit places in Vietnam; it is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for breath-taking scene over emerald waters and naturally formed limestone islands. Besides witnessing the beauty of mother earth, the nearby area- Ha Long is full of Vietnamese delights and worth-visiting areas so if you have plans to visit, make sure you stop over for at least 2 nights. There are 3 important islands in Ha Long that you will likely travel to- Tuan Chau (the island where the ferry terminal is located), Bai Chay (most hotels are located and the most happening place) and Hon Gai (old market area). As far as currencies are concerned, Vietnamese Dongs (VND) are widely accepted here, same goes to US Dollars as well as Chinese Yuan (Ren Min Bi). Moving around Ha Long has been quite easy, try to get a cab and the prices are pretty much standardized. But do look for those metered ones to avoid unhappy experience.

Nha Hang Linh Dan (Linh Dan Seafood Restaurant)
Address: No. 104, Bai Chay, Halong, Vietnam.
Business Hours: 8 am to 9 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +84 0913 086 958
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Traditional Halong Squid Cake (VND 80,000)

Steamed Prawns with Lemongrass (VND 100,000)

Braised Fish in Claypot (VND 80,000)

Tomato Egg Soup (VND 40,000)

Stir Fried Chinese Gourd with Shrimps (VND 60,000)

Stir Fried Seafood Noodles (VND 60,000)

Fried Rice (VND 60,000)

Tea (VND 20,000)

Hanoi Beer and Saigon Special Beer (VND 20,000 each)

For a less-touristy and more homey meal, make your way to Linh Dan. The Vietnamese restaurant is located at Bai Chay, relatively close to Sun World Park but we would recommend getting a cab. It is located on a slope so it might be physically challenging trying to locate the shop. They have plenty to offer but most of the dishes are classic home-cooked Vietnamese dishes (with strong Chinese-influences). Nothing was particularly impressive except the must-try traditional Ha Long Squid Cake, a resiliently addictive Seafood Pancake that would go perfectly well with a serving of chilled Beer. The plus of dining here is to get away from the crowd as well as for the less-taxing price tags. 

Ha Long Central Market
Address: Hon Gai District
Business Hours: 6 am to 6 pm. Opens Daily.

Ha Long Central Market

Vincom Centre

What is a better place to experience the local culture other than paying a visit to the local wet market? For the same experience and reason, visit Ha Long Central Market (old market) at Hon Gai district. Over there, you will find plenty of locally sourced products, fresh produces as well as exotic delicacies. You may also get to try some in-season fruits at bargain prices. But if you are prone to stomach aches, try to avoid the delicacies. 

Once you have finished exploring the old market, you may now adjourn to the building right next to it- Vincom Centre... one of the few modern shopping malls available in Ha Long. Do not expect to find premium fashion labels here but do visit the grocery- Vin Mart, you will find some local snacks, tidbits or products that you may want to bring back as gifts; prices are typically cheaper than touristy areas. 

Com Ga Ba Van
Address: C323, Pho Co, Bai Chay, Quang Ninh, Halong (Sun World Halong Park).
Business Hours: 7 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +84 08687 30730
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Vietnamese Chicken Salad (VND 60,000)

Vietnamese Chicken Feet (VND 55,000)

Shredded Chicken Rice topped with Salad (VND 45,000)

Chicken Thigh Rice (VND 75,000)

Yogurt with Jelly (VND 25,000/ left) and Passion Fruit Drink (VND 30,000/ right)

Do not worry if your hotel does not provide any breakfast, make your way to Sun World Park, there are plenty of shops in the vicinity that offer breakfast options. One of them would be Com Ga Ba Van, a place specializing in serving Vietnamese Chicken Rice. Generally, the Vietnamese prefer their Chicken to be harder and chewier in texture but the Rice is well-cooked and carefully seasoned. We recommend their Shredded Chicken Rice topped with Salad, a basic but tantalizing concoction with a sour crunch, meaty texture as well as tummy-filling fragrant Rice; when enjoyed with their lip-burning home-made Chili dip, it is the most satisfying bite with a burst of flavors! If your heat-tolerance is below par, make sure you have the Yogurt drink ready to cool you down.

Sun World Ha Long Park
Address: Bai Chay, Halong, Vietnam.
Business Hours: 2:30 pm to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Entrance: Free (with the exception of going in Water Theme Park and Cable Car)

To talk off some calories, make your way to Sun World Park. In the Park, there are few theme parks and exciting activities that you can partake. You may join the Water Theme Park (closed during winter) or Dragon Park (with Roller Coaster and other electronic-machinated games); otherwise, try the record-breaking double-deck Cable Car to the Mystic Mountain Complex (visit their website for more information). For a casual stroll, you may enjoy the beautifully decorated artwork at the complex and entrance is free of charge (to all). We recommend going in the evenings, so you get to see both the daylight scene as well as the evening lighted version. 

Cong Caphe Sun World Park
Address: C101-C102, Sun World, Bai Chay, Ha Long, Vietnam.
Business Hours: Opens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Banh Mi- Vietnamese Bread served with Condensed Milk (VND 20,000)

Hot Cocoa with Coconut Milk (VND 40,000) and Coconut Milk Latte (VND 35,000)

Coconut Milk with Green Rice (VND 50,000)

Cafe lovers are not forsaken in Ha Long; though Cong is a chain brand in Vietnam, this particular branch near Sun World Park is huge and creatively designed according to theme. The retro-fitted cafe is a picturesque haven for Instagrammers or hipsters-alike. Every corner of the cafe offers good photography opportunity but the food is not shabby either. Apart from the imaginative drinks, their snacks are not to be forsaken as well. For drinks, we recommend their Coconut Milk with Green Rice, a beautifully concoction of ice blended Coconut Milk with Green Rice (Glutinous Rice) infusion... which tasted more like dessert in lieu of a conventional drink. Equally good was the Coconut Milk Latte... like any Latte but with an extra savory Coconut Milk fragrance. To munch on, go for their Banh Mi- Vietnamese Bread served with Condensed Milk.

1958 Restaurant- Vietnamese Cuisine @ Paradise Suites Hotel Halong
Address: Tuan Chau Island, Halong, Quang Ninh, Vietnam.
Business Hours: 10 am to 2 pm, 6 pm to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +84 33 3815 088
Service Charge: Yes 5%
Government Tax: Yes 10%

Fresh Halong Oysters (VND 8,658 each)

Grilled Halong Oysters (VND 8,658 each)

Lotus Root Salad with Shrimps and Pork (VND 94,372)

Braised Tofu with Spicy Seafood (VND 77,056)

Braised Basa Fish (VND 67,532)

Stir Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts (VND 77,056)

Wok Fried Rice Noodles with Seafood (VND 51,082)

Morning Glory (VND 41,558)

Seafood Fried Rice (VND 51,082)

Surrounded by waters, it is no surprise that Ha Long can churn out mouth-watering Seafood and according to netizens, 1958 restaurant housed in Paradise Suites Ha Long is one of the best places to taste fresh Ha Long Oysters. Not too sure how true but at least it is a proper restaurant and it convinces us in terms of hygiene. The menu features classic Vietnamese eats with a mix of Chinese-influenced dishes. The Oysters were fresh but not as delicious and bold-tasting as we would have expected; flavors were subdued but this was entirely because of the breed, not because of its freshness or the way they prepared them. Another much-lauded item was Lotus Root Salad with Shrimps and Pork... addictively crunchy and appetizing. Other dishes were however, disappointingly average.

Pho Ha Long
Address: 129, Sun World Park, Bai Chay, Halong, Vietnam.
Business Hours: 12 pm to 2 pm, 7 pm to 10:30 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +84 0983 282 113
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Traditional Halong Squid Cake (VND 150,000)

Steamed Octopus (VND 150,000)

Fish Paste Soup Noodles (VND 50,000)

Grilled Goldenstripe Thread (VND 10,000)

Stretch of shop houses that open in late evenings near Sun World Park are known for notoriously charging tourists. But even then, for convenience sake, we headed straight into one of the the traps- Pho Ha Long. Before we decided which one to go to, those servers will try to pull you in by introducing their fresh catch of the day and many would convince you that theirs will be the freshest and cheapest in town. We had no complains for Fish Paste Soup Noodles, but other dishes were either too expensive or too disappointingly average. For the case of the Squid Cake, we were charged double from Linh Dan (same portion). I rest my case. 

How to go to Ha Long Bay:
Visitors have the option to take bus/ limousine directly from Noi Bai International Airport to Ha Long or from Hanoi City to Ha Long. We chose the latter option. We purchase a ground tour from a local travel agency, for this, we recommend Lily's Travel Agency for the extraordinary services- explanation, pays great attention to details and reasonable prices. For USD 58 or VND 1,300,000, we got ourselves a limousine (Mercedes Benz if you must know) that chauffeured us directly from our hotel in Hanoi to the hotel in Ha Long. Usual Day Tour (via conventional Bus) costs USD 46 or VND 1,035,000 per pax.

Lily's Travel Agency
Address: 18 Ngo Huyen, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Business Hours: 7:30 am to 9 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +84 24 3938 2065
Lily's Travel Agency Facebook Page

Tuan Chau Ferry Terminal

Our Cruise

Seating Arrangement

Deep Fried Spring Rolls


Stir Fried Squid

ToFu dish

Stir Fried Chicken with Vegetables

Braised Fish

The day tour started at noon, with all in the same group gathering near the entrance. We were then escorted to our cruise. Lunch was served shortly... with close to 7 dishes served. Do not expect top-notch quality but more than good enough to have your tummy filled. The time taken to the first destination would be around 1.5 hours so visitors will get to enjoy some leisure time on the cruise after the meal. 

There were 3 activities included, the first was a brief 30-minute stop to an island that required some hikes up the hill. The island is famous for its naturally formed limestone figures, visitors are required to present their Ha Long Bay entrance tickets so they should be properly kept at all times.

We were given 30 minutes for the next activity either. Visitors have the options to do either Kayaking or joining the Boat Ride. The former choice requires visitors to row the Kayak Boat physically while the latter option does not, there will be a dedicated staff to make it work and all you need to do is to sit back and relax.

The last stop was Ti Top Island, for the same 30 minutes, we need to traipse ourselves up the steep flights of stairs (many of us in the group did not make it), the stairs can be narrow and steep so for those who are not physically well, do not attempt. The reward was a 360 degree view over Ha Long Bay but there were too many tourists flooding the area so there were not much photo opportunity for us. If you enjoy beach activity, Ti Top Island is one of the few islands that have a beach so you may soak yourself in the crystal clear water (applicable to non-winter time only) or just to sit back and enjoy the warm sunlight. The tour ended here and the distance back to the Terminal took another 1.5 hours.

Have Fun Exploring Ha Long Bay! 


  1. So what did you eat that brought you down with severe food poisoning?

  2. Food portion looked small for the first and last restaurant,how many of you sharing those food?