If you're looking to explore the under-the-radar cousin of Vietnam's Halong Bay, the Gulf of Tonkin's other jewel, Bai Tu Long Bay, is 131 miles (211 km) from Hanoi. You have two options to make the journey to Van Don Island, the main island in Bai Tu Long Bay. You'll have to hire a private driver either way, but you can also opt to take the first half of the journey by train.
Consider this 9-day itinerary if you're interested in taking leisurely cruises along both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 3.5 hours, more with stops
The simplest way to reach Bai Tu Long Bay from Hanoi is by taking a private transfer. Two hours into your drive down the QL5B highway, you can choose to stop in the city of Hai Phong, which has 19th-century colonial architecture from its time under French control.
Almost an hour past Hai Phong, you can merge onto the QL18 and journey to Ha Long, where you can stop for views of the legendary Halong Bay and take some time to explore the popular area. From Ha Long, you have one more hour of travel time until you reach Van Don Island, where you'll find many boats for hire.
By Train and Private Transfer
Duration: 2 hours by train, 1.5 hours by car
If you're a big fan of train travel, you can head to Hanoi's Gia Lam Station and book a two-hour journey to Hai Phong, where four trains make the trip each day. Once you arrive at the train station in Hai Phong, you can find a private driver to take you the final 61-miles (99 km) of your journey to Van Don Island.