Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s must-see destinations.
The problem is getting there.
Like much of Vietnam and other developing luxury hot spots, the infrastructure sorely lags development in the tourism sector. So the three-plus-hour drive on crowded roads from Hanoi to catch one of the small boats that cruise through the bay can be anything but luxurious.
One of the country’s leading luxury travel agencies has just launched two options that take visitors to the bay by seaplane.
The trips not only cut down on the sometimes frightening road trip -- when I was there we saw a head-on collision involving a tour bus and a fatal motorcycle accident within a one-hour time span -- it also offers a new option for viewing the bay and its uniquely shaped limestone islands.
Situated in the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay has some 2,000 islands that have been whipped into different shapes by time, wind and waves.
“Viewing Halong Bay from the seaplane is a great way to get a panoramic view of these mystical landscapes,” said Hung Nguyen, director of sales and marketing at Luxury Travel Ltd.
The company is offering both day trips and overnight cruises through the bay.
The tours include a pickup by a private limousine in Hanoi followed by a 30-minute seaplane ride from Noi Bai airport to Halong Bay.
The overnight option includes a night on one of Paradise Cruises' deluxe vessels.
Prices start at $926 for the day trip and $1,097 for the overnight package.
These two packages, Nguyen said, "are ideal to meet the expectations of the luxury travel sector. We never stop trying to bring memorable experiences to our high-end customers who expect to discover our country in a unique way.”