This week, we check out the perfect place for a romantic getaway in Asia, or in Vietnam to be specific -- Ha Long Bay. With all these commercialized tourist attractions such as Bali and Phuket being overly explored, Ha Long Bay is definitely a much treasured island for a quiet escape.
Just three hours from the main city of Hanoi, Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with several islands, fishing villages and caves for the nature-loving traveller.
Where to stay
Staying in Ha Long Bay is a little different from the usual island holidays you might experience. For one, you can opt for staying on board a cruise ship instead of the beachside resorts or hotels within the inner city. Paradise Peak is the latest boat launched by Paradise Cruises, in January 2012. This floating hotel is designed as such that it's comparable to any land hotels, if not better. Paradise Peak features the most spacious spa facilities and the very first and only library and fitness room of Halong Bay.
Each guest is attended by a personal butler from the start, with a full itinerary planned out according to your needs during your stay on board the Paradise Peak.
For bookings of Paradise Peak or more information, please visit paradisepeakcruises.com.
If you prefer to stay on land, check out Novotel Ha Long Bay, which sits by the beach overlooking the stunning bay. All rooms, with panoramic bay windows, look out to either the bay or city view.
Novotel Ha Long Bay, Ha Long Road, Bai Chay Ward, Ha Long City, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam, +84 (0) 33 3848 108, www.novotelhalongbay.com
Where to visit
Ha Long Bay is really all about the islands around it. Cat Ba Island, for one, is the biggest island in Ha Long Bay and provides all the mandatory tourist amenities, such as bars, restaurants, hotels and ecosystem. More than half of the island was declared a national park to protect the natural habitat. It's here where tourists can go hiking and take in the tranquil atmosphere of Ha Long Bay.
The waters off Cat Ba Island are home to over 200 species of fish and if you're lucky, you can catch sights of larger marine animals in the area including seals and three species of dolphin. Live like the locals at the fishing villages, where you can do home-stays and enjoy fresh seafood dinners. The best time to visit? September to November, for clear skies and cool weathers.
For something a little less touristy and more challenging in terms of maneuvering around, take a trip to Bai Tu Long Bay, just right next to Ha Long Bay. Being mostly untouched by tourists, it is unpolluted and definitely more beautiful in the natural sense, compared to what you'd find in its neighbouring island. Explore the caves, fishing villages and kayak around the island to fully experience the natural beauty of the place.
What to eat
Designed like an imperial palace, Co Ngu Restaurant brings you back in time to the imperial dynasty period, providing a wide selection of both Western cuisine and Asian delicacies, with the highlight being seafood. To complement your dinner, there's a fine selection of wines to pair with. Some of the recommendations include fresh foie gras with toast, baked oyster French-style and steamed pig’s trotters with chinese herb.
If you're heading to Cat Ba, Green Mango is one of the top choices to visit. Providing both indoor and outdoor settings, guests can choose between a harbour view or get cosy within the restaurant. While Green Mango does serve your usual Vietnamese cuisine, it's the fusion international fare that catches our eye. Some must-trys include the classic fish and chips, lamb shank and sesame encrusted Ahi-tuna.
Co Ngu Restaurant: Block C2, Luxury Villa Zone, Halong Road, Bai Chay, Halong City, Quang Ninh, +84 33 3511 363, www.halongcongu.com; Green Mango Cat Ba, Group 19, Clock 4, 1-4 Street, Cat Ba Town, +84 0988 681 208