We had a fabulous day trip to Halong Bay. Small group tours are so much better as you don't waste time waiting for everyone. We had five on our trip and our guide was great, unfortunately we could not remember his name. Yes it takes 3 hours from Hanoi and part of the trip can be a little rough due to the road conditions, but it is soon forgotten when you see the spectacular scenery! The crew on the boat were very friendly and the lunch was fresh and delicious. The nicest part was the peacefulness of cruising the bay and especially having only 5 others on the boat, we felt like we had lots of space and the only tourists on the boat. We had limited time and were unsure as to whether it would be worth doing just a one day trip, but can happily recommend that it is worth it and we didn't feel rushed at any stage. We booked with Viator on the internet before we left and would thoroughly recommend this company.
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