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The world heritage site Halong Bay is a well known gem of Vietnam. Despite the fact that the bay should get more publicity it deserves, Halong Bay is already crowded with boats and tourists, especially during peak season. This doesn't make the seascape less amazing but somewhat lessen the thrill of the beholders. Imagine when you visit the Sung Sot cave (Cave of Surprises), you may find a hundred of other travellers in the cave and 4 to 5 other groups in the same chamber with yours. The guides begin to tell the mystical legends woven about the cave but it is noisy and you can hear nothing. That's why some prefer to go off the beaten track and choose Bai Tu Long Bay instead.
Bai Tu Long Bay is actually a part of Halong archipelago, it is right in the northeast of Halong Bay. Bai Tu Long Bay is no less beautiful than Halong Bay with hundreds of karst islets rising from emerald water. The only difference is the rock forms are not in diverse and special shapes like in Halong. Currently, there is a handful of boats cruising in Bai Tu Long Bay.
Bai Tu Long Bay is roughly of the same distance from Hanoi, around 4 hours by car or 45 minutes by seaplane of Hai Au Aviation. Do not stop in Bai Chay, but go straight to Hon Gai (over the Bai Chay Bridge). Some local boat operators offer luxury cruises to Bai Tu Long bay are Indochina Junks (including Princess Junk, Prince Junk, Red Dragon Junk and Dragon Pearl Junk); Bhaya & Au Co Cruise and Heritage Line Cruise (including Ginger, Jasmine and Violet boats). Some 3 day cruises offered by Au Co go to both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. Paticularly, the Indochina Junk offers a 3 day cruise with a speciall dinner in the cave. You can check price for Halong cruise and Bai Tu Long cruise online at visitwonders .com, Booking. com or Agoda site.
Most cruises in Bai Tu Long Bay take you discover a less visited part including Cong Do area, Cong Dam area, Vong Vieng, Cong Dam floating village, Thien Canh Son cave, some small nice beachs for BBQ lunch... Besides Bai Tu Long Bay, there is the bigger area off Quan Lan island, Ngoc Vung island, Cong Dong and Cong Tay island ( a small number of local people live in these islands). In order to get there, you start from Cai Rong ( Van Don district) by local wooden boat or speed boat. The tourism infrastructure is still not widely developed there but it gives you a real taste of adventure.