The best way to explore Halong Bay is by getting to the highest viewpoint possible: Bai Tho Mountain, also known as Poem Mountain. If you’re wondering where to go in Halong Bay, this incredible hike should be your first stop! This post will help you start your Halong Bay trip on a budget as well as walk you through how to hike Poem Mountain.
First off, the Poem Mountain hike is in Halong Bay City and it is definitely the must-do Halong Bay Hike.
That is if you can figure out how to get there! Halong Bay travel was actually pretty difficult to plan before getting out there and doing it ourselves. This is why I think it’s so important that we get this information out there.
Of all of the places we’ve been to so far, this is definitely on our list of Vietnam must see! It is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site and can you guess how many islands are in Halong Bay? 1,600!!
Hike Poem Mountain: How Many Days in Halong Bay?
Depending on when you get to the city, you could go that same day or stay the night there and go first thing in the morning. Since we were going in June and it gets crazy hot during the day, we decided to get to the city the night before and wake up early the next morning.
I felt like we would have a better chance of getting to the Halong Bay viewpoint if we did it that way. Our Halong Bay itinerary was a bit different than just choosing a cruise and getting to the city, but you get to experience it a little better that way I think.
Plus, there are not a ton of things to do in Halong Bay from land, so just one night is perfect to be able to do the hike and then head out to the water.
I wouldn’t recommend doing everything on land and sea in Halong Bay in one day, though. It’s such a beautiful part of the world and you already made it out this far, it deserves more than a day trip!
If you’re wondering what to do in Halong Bay and have some extra time after your hike, you can check out SunWorld. We didn’t go, but I’ve been to the one in Danang and loved it!
Where to Stay in Halong Bay
If you choose to stay overnight and go in the morning, we can recommend Halong Bay Fancy Hotel/Hostel.
There are a lot of Halong Bay Hotels and hostels, but we were looking for a budget option, and this was only $13 a night for a private room with A/C and free breakfast! You could stay even cheaper by staying in the hostel part of the hotel.
If you want to stay near the viewpoint, anywhere close to the Halong Bay Sunworld is perfect.
That’s why we chose this hostel since it was right behind the Sunworld and it was also within walking distance of the few Pho restaurants that are in the city.
What Time Should You Go?
Better in the morning, without the crowds and heat. We were there in June and the sun rises REALLY early at 5:14 am. We got up at 5:30 am and after driving there on our motorbike we started the hike at about 6:00-6:15 am.
Plus the Vietnamese get up early and are more likely to be awake at sunrise than during nap time which is 11-2 pm. And the Halong Bay view at sunrise is so incredible!
Halong Bay Weather
On a side note, anytime it’s not raining would be a great time to go. The Halong Bay weather in June is usually pretty rainy. However, if the weather says it will be cloudy, there’s a good chance that it will be sunny during the morning hours and then get cloudier towards the afternoon. Another good reason to go early!
What Should You Bring?
A full 1L water bottle, shoes you feel comfortable scaling a wall in, clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty but still cute enough for amazing pictures, and a good camera. I would also bring a tripod or a friend!
If you want to go the extra mile, bring a bag. A lot of the Vietnamese who do this hike bring tiny water bottles and then just leave them along the path. I know that because I watched them do it.
Unfortunately, we didn’t bring a bag and the hike was way too steep to be carrying a bunch of bottles in our hands. If you want to make a difference on your trip to Vietnam, this would be a good opportunity. Help Halong Bay tourism get a better reputation!
How to Get There
We had our motorbike with us (yes, we drove all the way from Hanoi, we’re insane) so that made it pretty easy to get there. However, if you don’t have that, you can download the Grab app and get a driver.
On Airbnb Experiences and other places online, you can find a Halong Bay Tour that includes taking you to Poem Mountain. However, that ruins all the fun. Where else in the world can you have a real adventure like this?
Save yourself the money and avoid a guide. Especially if you are someone like us and would like to do Halong Bay on your own and without a tour. You’ve got this!
On your way, you should cross over a bridge that looks like this:
Type in “Poem Mountain” or “Hang Noi” Street into Google Maps or in your Grab App. If you are getting a ride, make sure to reconfirm when you get in the car that you are going to Bai Tho Mountain or Poem Mountain.
Ask them to take you to this location:
Jake dropped a pin at the exact location of the house, so here’s that location on Google maps:
Getting in the Door
There are two entrances but we chose the lady way because it had more reviews on TripAdvisor. As a warning, some people have said that if you try to sneak through and they catch you and she might call the cops.
If you are on a motorbike, park your bike away from the street to save on parking. The locals might try to charge you but we just parked on the main road and had no problems.
You will probably hear that you are at the right place before you see the blue-framed door. The dogs are pretty vicious and a man was holding a Pomeranian back so that it wouldn’t bite us.
This dog didn’t seem to mind much, but watch out!
I’m sorry about the blurry images here from inside the house. The lady wasn’t friendly at all and the dogs were pretty scary so I didn’t want to make anyone madder by stopping to take good pictures. However, I think these will get the job done.
You go up multiple sets of stairs through the woman’s house. We didn’t actually find the woman until the second set of stairs when she came out of her room saying “Money, Money!” (More about the cost in the next section)
On the way back down, she was laying in her bed and didn’t talk to us at all. We were pretty scared of the dogs though and the Vietnamese tourist that was with us asked someone else in the house to hold the dogs while we passed through.
Her backyard was pretty filthy and there were tons of chickens, puppies, cats, etc. You can spot the elderly lady in this picture in the blue shirt taking us up to the gate.
How Much Will it Cost You?
It’s a mystery! But here’s our tip for you: have 20k or 50k ready in your hand to show her. If you show higher she will ask for higher. She asks for a different amount from everyone who goes through.
We knew better but had only gotten a few hours of sleep and weren’t thinking properly, so Jake took out a 100k and she asked for double. When we shook our heads and offered the 100k she got even meaner and just walked away and started to shut the door.
At that point, she had the upper hand and there was nothing we could do to change her mind. So we handed her 200k dong (about 9 dollars) and decided to do it anyway.
Other reasons she might have charged us more were that I was holding my camera instead of having it in my bag, we were one of the first people to come there that day, or maybe she was just in a terrible mood.
We tried not to dwell on it too much. The truth is that the views were worth it, even if a mean lady was rewarded for doing literally nothing except being the gatekeeper to the coolest backyard ever.
Climbing Up the Gate
She did show us up to the gate though and pointed to where we should put our feet. Anything extra in our hands we could reach through the gate and set it on the steps before climbing up. She even pushed me up!
As you can see in the photo above, there are scary signs saying that the hike is dangerous and forbidden. However, everything was fine and nobody pays any attention to those.
Also, some people reported green goo on the gates, we found none. Or at least none of it got on our hands or clothes!
I just started the hike and can you already see how sweaty I am? I hardly sweat when I was living in the USA (I’m from Arizona) but the humidity here just does me in! Anyways, see where they bent the bars up? You crawl through that hole and you’re in.
Here’s the view from the other side. Honestly, it was not that hard.
I have definitely climbed up harder things and had problems getting back down since I’m pretty short but it was a piece of cake. Lots of handholds and ledges to put your feet on while climbing.
After that, there’s only one spot where it’s possible to get lost:
When you come to this fork in the stairs, go right! The side that has the railing is the correct way to go.
Viewpoints on the Way Up: Our Halong Bay Photos
Just so you can remember that all the hiking and dangerous fence jumping and haggling with elderly Vietnamese women is totally worth it:
There are a couple of stops on the way like this. Don’t stress, you will definitely find a perfect place for a picture! Hiking in Vietnam always ends with an incredible view.
Climbing on top of the green tin roof
We found pictures of this green roof on Instagram which made us want to come to this spot in the first place. I am not someone who risks their life for a selfie especially because I get really shaky when I feel like I am close to an edge.
However, I found that this whole hike and even the viewpoints weren’t that scary.
I was able to get on and off the roof without having any problems. Plus there’s a rock perched above the roof that makes it possible to get shots like the one above.
Or you can bring a tripod and get pictures like this! We never go anywhere cool without our third wheel. <3 (Also if you look closely, you can see me sporting my “Thai Tattoo” Motorbike Exhaust Burn on my left leg from when we lived in Phuket. Super cute lol)
Halong Bay Tip:
Obviously, I need to tell you to be careful of rust and not to get too close to the edge. Don’t ever risk your life for a photo!
The Best Part
Usually, even when we get up early to go somewhere, we feel like we need to take our pictures and then go so that we aren’t in someone’s way. There’s almost always someone else waiting to take a picture and we don’t want to be rude.
However, because of how difficult this is and adding in the early morning, we were able to sit on the rooftop for a while and just enjoy the incredible views!
Nobody bothered us and we didn’t feel rushed at all. Even in the 100-degree weather, there was a bit of a breeze so we were able to cool down before the hike back. It is definitely the best way to see Halong Bay.
How Long Did the Hike Take?
30-45 minutes up and the same going down depending on how quick you are and how many stops you make to take incredible pictures. Overall, I would say it was not a difficult hike at all! It was a little steep but I’m only 5″1 so that might have something to do with it lol.
Jake even went out of his way to count the steps for you! 770 steps in total. Definitely not a difficult hike!
Was the Poem Mountain Hike Worth It?
Absolutely! If you are up for a bit of a challenge and adventure, this is definitely for you. I hope this Halong Bay blog post has convinced you to go for it!
If you are scared of heights maybe skip this one. But I’d say it was the best way to visit Halong Bay. If you’re wondering if Halong Bay itself is worth it, I’d still say YES!
To read all the Halong Bay reviews that we found, check TripAdvisor for Bai Tho Mountain here and another one here. Anyways, this is one of the must-see places in Vietnam that I’m so glad we didn’t miss!
Want to go to Halong Bay without going broke while also having more fun? Check out this post to see why you should skip a Halong Bay Cruise and do our itinerary instead!
Liked the post? Don’t forget to pin this for your Vietnam Trip! (:
Saturday 16th of July 2022
Your guide was very helpful, thank you. Your guide was especially helpful in finding the old woman’s house. For me, I waved a 50k bill and she asked for 500k. I ended up settling at 250k dong.
The reason I write my comment, your guide is no longer 100% current. I was there today, 7/17/2022, and the beginning of the route is now different. You can no longer climb over that fence and slide under those bars, etc, as in your picture. They have put up taller fences and more iron bars. I was with a Vietnamese friend and he asked the old woman about this route, she said it was recently blocked off.
Now, the old lady directs you towards a 20 foot ladder on the side of the mountain. After the ladder you must scale a pretty steep & sketchy cliff side. After this you will find the concrete steps. My friend and I still did the climb, but this new beginning route was much harder than what is seen in your pictures (& on the other poem mountain guides on the internet). I would not recommend this climb to most because of this new beginning route (coming down was very dangerous and we got covered in mud).
I think this mountain is becoming a frequented tourist spot, which is why the woman is asking for more money, and the government is putting more iron and concrete in place to block the route.
Anyways, thanks again. Cheers!
Thursday 1st of September 2022
Hi @Aaron, thank you for your input. Do you have a photo of how steep the way up?
Thank you so much
Wednesday 8th of June 2022
Would you be able to tell me when you went? We would love to go this summer but keep seeing notices that poem mountain is closed. Thank you!
Friday 10th of June 2022
Hey Katie! We went in 2019, but even then there was a lot of information telling us that it was closed. I think it totally depends on the day, especially since you have to go through someone's house to get there and then climb a fence like I showed in the post. If the person doesn't want to let you through, then it's closed. I would still try since it's such an amazing view and experience, but know that it's definitely possible that they won't let you in. Good luck! Dayna
Saturday 8th of February 2020
This is an incredibly awesome blog and extremely helpful! My husband and I are visiting in March and definitely plan on this adventure. You answered all the questions I had and really appreciate the time you spent in sharing your experience. Hopefully soon I'll be able to post my photos on my instagram at AliBugPhoto. Happy Travels, Ali