The city of Halong, situated on the South China Sea in northeast Vietnam, is the disembarkation point for Halong Bay, one of the world's most dramatic landscapes. Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is translated as "Descending Dragon Bay." The area's accommodations include traditional Chinese junks, upscale international hotels, a collection of mid-range hotels and budget accommodations.
Halong Bay Cruises
Floating among the majestic limestone karsts, exploring the nearly 2,000 islets and revisiting a human history that dates back more than 10,000 years is an epic way to explore Halong Bay. A number of cruise companies offer two-night cruises aboard traditional Chinese junks or modern sailboats. Cruises, accommodating between eight and 40 guests, provide an all-inclusive experience including meals, guides and activities -- fishing, swimming, kayaking and village visits. Recognized companies offering Halong Bay Cruises are Far Eastour, Halong Classic Sail and Prince Cruise.
Halong, Vietnam, is a thriving city built upon mining and, more recently, tourism, but very upscale accommodations exist. As of 2010, only three properties, all located along Halong Bay, are considered luxury: Novotel Halong Bay, Saigon Halong Hotel and The Royal International Gaming Club, Hotel and Spa Resort. All properties provide panoramic views of mystical Halong Bay as well as restaurants, pools, fitness centers and business services. The Royal International has a small casino with slots and table games, as well as an amusement park with cultural shows, a museum, shopping mall and hot-air balloon.
Mid-range options in Halong range from hidden gems to hidden disasters. Some properties are located along Halong Bay while others are situated within the city, and even some can be found on Tuan Chau Island, a sanctuary in the midst of Halong Bay. Tuan Chau Island Holiday Villa provides a spectacular setting for a mid-range price. Asean Halong Hotel, situated along Halong Bay and minutes from downtown, is a European-style hotel. Royal Lotus Hotel is located in the downtown area and five minutes from the main pier to Halong Bay.
Visiting budget backpackers and international travelers looking to save a few dollars should head for Hotel Alley, a collection of carbon copy dwellings lining Vuon Dao Street. Rooms range from fan- to air-cooled with fluffy to firm mattresses, but cost less than a Western lunch. After arriving in Halong, just head for Vuon Dao Street and wander the road until you find a suitable hotel. Haggling, especially during the off-season -- April to November -- saves you a few dollars.
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