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Bai Tho Mountain (Poem Mountain), The mountain of wonderful mysteries
What is Bai Tho Mountain?
Referring to the place of Halong, many people will immediately think of Halong Bay, one of the 7 new natural wonders of the world. But this is not the only destination that attracts you when coming to this coastal city. This famous mountain is a familiar check-in place for young people to dragon land. For the people of Quang Ninh, Poem Mountain is located in the heart of the romantic Halong Bay, a proud historical place with beautiful natural scenery.
The mountain is 200m high compared to the sea level, although not too high, it is enough for tourists standing on the top of the mountain to have a panoramic view of Quang Ninh city as well as the entire Halong Bay. Conquering Poem Mountain is not too hard or exhausting as many people think. Because this mountain is not too high, it will only take you about 30 minutes to be able to set foot on the top of the mountain. The best time to see the scenery is at sunset and at sunrise. If you intend to catch the sunrise, climb from about 4:30 am and around 16:00 if you want to catch the sunset.
On the highest peak of Poem mountain, there is a red flag with a yellow star fluttering from the years of resistance against France, a reminder of the tenacious tradition of the Vietnamese people. On the journey to conquer the summit of Poem Mountain, visitors can see hundreds of undulating limestone mountains associated with the legend of the Dragon land. At the foot of the mountain, tourists also visit Long Tien Pagoda and Duc Ong Temple.
At night, you can not only watch the moon shining brightly in a corner of the sky, the twinkling stars are flashing, but also the mysterious Bay in the dark night. Besides, Halong City is shimmering with lights. The air here is fresh and cool all year round, so at any time you can take a climbing trip, conquering the peak of Bai Tho. You will enjoy, immerse yourself in nature, feel peaceful and take shimmering, unique photos!
We thought that the best way to see Halong Bay was by taking a cruise, but believe it or not, we were wrong. Hiking to the top of Poem Mountain, or Bai Tho Mountain as it is locally known, and seeing the cliffs from above was one of the most insane views we have ever seen. Read on to find out exactly how to get this view for yourself!
Seeing the incredible landscape of Halong Bay is usually top of most travellers’ bucket lists when they come to Vietnam. Thousands of towering limestone cliffs rise out of the water and create one of the most unique and spectacular landscapes we have ever seen. There is a hike up Hang Mua Cave in Ninh Binh that offers similar spectacular views and is known as Ha Long Bay on land.
Check out our full guide on a cruise around Bai Tu Long Bay to find out more: BEST BAI TU LONG BAY CRUISE
Witnessing the natural beauty of this landscape from above was absolutely next level. We are used to seeing places from the sky with our drone, but nothing can beat seeing somewhere with your own eyes. The cliffs extend out into the ocean for miles and the sheer number and size of these mini mountains blew us away. We did some great hikes in Vietnam and we’ve done some amazing hikes around the world and this ranks up there with the best of them.
Is Poem Mountain Open to Climb?
Updated December 2019 – It appears that authorities have once again closed Bai Tho Mountain to the public. This has happened many times in the past and the locals have always found a way to provide access to Poem Mountain for a fee. We are hopeful that access will be re-opened soon and we will try to update on here as soon as we know anything. Please let us know if you have any updated information.
Short answer – Yes! Legally, it appears the answer is no, but who ever let something like that stop them anyway?
Getting to Bai Tho Mountain
The Poem Mountain hike can be found in Halong City and we have pinned it below on the map to show you exactly where it is. Most people will be coming from Hanoi where there are daily busses to Halong City. The cheapest and easiest way to get here is by booking a bus with Bookaway. We booked all of our transport in Vietnam with them as they always seem to offer the best rates. You can book a ticket from Hanoi to Halong City here.
If you don’t fancy riding a scooter here, another great option is to take a Grab (popular app for ride-hailing similar to Uber). From the main touristy area of Bai Chay, it is a 15-minute drive to the base of the mountain.
Finding the Entrance
The entrance to the hike is located on Hang Noi street. We had read a few blogs and reviews about the mountain before we went and many of them said how difficult the entrance was to find. To access the entrance to the mountain, you first have to walk up through the house of a local lady. It is the entrance to this house that can be tricky to find.
You really do have to walk right through somebody’s house to reach the base of the mountain. We passed a couple of puppies, headed up the stairs and passed the kitchen and living room and came out into the backyard amongst the chickens.
This is where we finally met the infamous lady who owns the house with access to the mountain.
There is no set entrance fee to Poem Mountain. The lady will charge you whatever she feels like and it varies from person to person. We were charged 50,000VND ($2.15 USD) each after trying and failing to barter with her. The couple behind us paid 100,000VND each and we met another couple on our way up who only paid 25,000VND each.
You can try your best to haggle with her, but even if you have to pay 100,000VND per person it is still totally worth it. Plus, we didn’t feel like we had a lot of buying power when she is providing access to the mountain entrance.
Once you have negotiated an entrance fee, it’s time to break into the mountain. Having read numerous reviews, we saw that some people had to climb over barbed wire while others climbed through a hole underneath the main gate. At the time of hiking (June 2019), the authorities had closed both of these access points.
Now you have to scale a 10-foot rock wall and climb underneath the fence. They have literally carved away part of the mountain to allow tourists to gain access. It is a bit of a sketchy climb but the lady will help guide you up by showing you where to place your feet.
Poem Mountain Hike
Depending on your level of fitness, the hike to the top can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour. It took us around 30 minutes to reach the peak. It is not a particularly long hike, but it is straight up and steep the whole way. So although it is quite a short hike, it is fairly difficult. We had to stop every few minutes to catch our breath and drink some water. We went for sunset and even that late in the day the heat and humidity were still a killer.
The first two-thirds of the hike are up cement stairs that are still in very good condition. As it is officially closed, there are several sections where the trees and bushes are overgrown and you have to duck down low and shuffle underneath the greenery to get by. The last part of the climb is along mud and rocks and involves a bit more scrambling, but nothing too crazy.
At the top there is plenty of space to hang out and a few different vantage points to enjoy. There were just 4 other people at the summit when we arrived for sunset. It was so peaceful and we love when we only have to share such an awesome place with just a few others.
Best Photo Spots
There is a green hut perched on the edge of the peak that you can climb on to. It looks kind of sketchy but it felt pretty secure to us. We went to the edge of the roof and enjoyed uninterrupted views of the bay. It is a wicked spot to take some seriously cool photos.
Just above this green roof is a rock that protrudes out of the mountain which we clambered to the top of to take some more photos, and again to enjoy the view.
Shortly before the sun set we started to make our way back down. We wouldn’t recommend climbing back down again in the dark as the top part of the mountain has a couple of slippery sections that were tricky to navigate down.
Travel Tips to Know Before You Go
Catch a Grab or rent a scooter – These are both cheap and easy options to reach the entrance to the mountain.
Wear trainers – The top section is difficult enough that you should wear trainers for this hike. Flip flops are not recommended.
Bring water – It is a short but tough climb so you will need to carry some water with you. There are several shops near the entrance where you can buy water before and after the hike.
Take some cash – You will need to pay the owner of the house to reach the entrance. Take a few hundred thousand Vietnamese dong with you just in case she feels like increasing the price that day.
Plan to take 2 hours – To climb to the top, enjoy the views at the summit and make your way back down again, we suggest taking at least two hours. The best time to enjoy the view is at sunset so make sure you time it right so you are not walking back down in the dark.
Pack your camera – Like we mentioned, the views at the top are unreal. Pack your camera so you can take some epic photos to remember your trip. They should look especially good at sunset.
Avoid after heavy rain – As some of the trail is unpaved and muddy, it would be dangerous after heavy rain.
It is moderately difficult – Even though it is short, the constant uphill climb makes this a tough little hike. Prepare to rest every few minutes on the way up.
Where to Stay
We looked at doing the hike on the same day as arriving from Hanoi and setting out for our our cruise around Halong Bay, but we just couldn’t squeeze it all in. It’s worth staying for at least one night in Halong City either before or after a Halong Bay cruise. Even if you weren’t planning on a cruise, it is worth the bus journey out here just for this hike.
Budget: Ha Long Bay Fancy Hostel – We stayed in a double room with A/C which cost 300,000VND ($12.93 USD) per night and included breakfast. The room had a private bathroom and was very comfortable. It is also in a great location right in the Bai Chay area. There are plenty of good places to eat nearby. We recommend the restaurant next to the hostel as it was super cheap and some of the better food we had in Vietnam.
Mid-range: The Bay, Ha Long Homestay – Great value for what you get. The homestay is super clean, well-decorated, with a cute garden patio to relax while still being right in the city centre. The owner and staff are also super helpful with all your tour booking needs.
Luxury: Vinpearl Resort & Spa Ha Long – With a private beach area, swimming pool, tennis court and fitness centre, this resort is the epitome of luxury. Not to mention, it is located on its own private island just off the Bai Chay shoreline.
Disclaimer – This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. This will never impact our reviews and we only recommend products and services we firmly believe in. Thanks for your support!
Halong Bay Cruise Recommendation
As most people will do this hike as well as do a cruise, we thought we would offer up our recommendation. We went with Cristina Diamond Cruise and could not have been happier with this decision. Our stay was not sponsored – we paid full price. We just really enjoyed our stay, our guide, Lucky, was fantastic and every expectation was exceeded. We cannot recommend them enough.
This cruise actually visits Bai Tu Long Bay instead of Halong Bay. The landscape is the same, but there are fewer boats here which we thought was fantastic. We did a two-day, one-night trip but would have loved to stay an extra day.
Check out rates and availability for Cristina Diamond Cruise.
I’m not sure we can really put into words how awesome the Poem Mountain hike was. Most places we visit are pretty cool and get a couple of thumbs up from us, but this really was next level. I would definitely say it was the single best thing we saw in Vietnam and it’s one of the better views we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing anywhere in the world.
Most people head straight from Hanoi to do their cruise around Halong Bay and then go straight back again. You’d be mad to miss out on this experience and you should stay at least one night in Halong City so you can do this hike. As it is just starting to grow in popularity, it still doesn’t attract too many tourists.
This is the hidden gem of Vietnam but it may not stay that way for long.
Have you hiked Bai Tho mountain recently? Let us know your experience!
Planning a trip to Vietnam? Check out our other blog posts on the area:
*Please note, prices are a reflection of our experiences while traveling Vietnam in June 2019 and are subject to change. Prices quoted in local currency (VND) were the exact prices we paid and USD conversions are listed for your convenience.
Poem Mountain, also known as Bai Tho Mountain, offers one of best views of Halong Bay. With over a thousand towering limestone karst islands and emerald coloured waters, Halong Bay is one of the world’s natural wonders and should be included on every itinerary of Vietnam. Seeing Halong Bay by boat is the most popular way to experience it, however if you want a truly unique view of Halong Bay away from the crowds (and at a fraction of the price!) then you need to visit Poem Mountain! The only way to get to the top of Poem Mountain is to climb, and it will certainly be one of the most craziest and memorable hikes of your life!
Why visit Poem Mountain?
Whilst the rest of Halong Bay is swamped with tourists, Poem Mountain (Bai Tho) remains relatively untouched. Despite it’s popularity on Instagram, many people are put off because of the challenging climb, or simply they just cannot find the inconspicuous entrance so give up. Below I will explain exactly how to find the entrance and what to expect, so you can enjoy the absolutely breathtaking view from the top of Poem Mountain.
Is Bai Tho Mountain closed?
Whilst Bai Tho mountain is not the highest mountain in the area at only 200 metres high, it is very steep and there have been fatalities in the past. Therefore the hike has been technically closed and there are official signs up that say it is a dangerous area. However it is still absolutely possible to do the hike, you just need to find the back entrance. Read below to find out how.
Where is the entrance to Bai Tho Mountain?
You can find the entrance on Google maps, just type in ‘Poem Mountain entrance‘. If you are coming by taxi, tell the driver Bai Tho – they’ll know to drop you off right by the alleyway. If you are coming by scooter, just follow the Google maps location. The entrance is located on the street “Hang Noi”, just behind “Le Thanh Tong” street. There is plenty space to park your scooter on the main street.
The entrance to Bai Tho Mountain is very easy to walk past and completely miss! It is a tiny doorway in between some shops, there is no obvious sign. You really have to be looking for it and know what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure, ask the locals. They don’t speak much English but are all friendly and they’ll all know that you’re there trying to find the entrance and will point it out to you. There are actually a few different entrances, but the one below is the most common one.
Look for a photocopy shop (the sign is big and yellow with red “photocopy” writing) and a shop with the sign “Sea Store”. You’ll see a blue doorway in between them – this is where you need to go. Some small dogs will probably come to the doorway and bark at you, in which case you’re definitely at the right place. Some people say the dogs can be unfriendly, but they were okay with us. They just bark a lot to let their owner know that someone is coming.
As you go inside the narrow and dimly-lit passageway you will really feel like it is somewhere you shouldn’t be. But just keep walking, go up some stairs, past more dogs, and you will see a house at the end. Usually the old lady is sitting inside and her front door is open. Sometimes she will even come downstairs to see who is there when she hears the barking. Often the lady will tell you that the hike is closed though. However, if she thinks you’ll be able to get past the obstacles on the hike, she will let you through her backyard to the start of the hike for a small fee. If she doesn’t, just be more insistent with her, or so I have heard.
How much do you have to pay to climb Bai Tho Mountain?
Pay the lady a couple of dollars (50,000 dong) each and she will let you pass. It is a small price to pay, so please don’t argue with her. You’ll pass some dog cages in her back yard to the stairs to the start of the hike on the right. Often one of the dogs will walk a little bit of the hike with you.
How to climb Poem Mountain:
PASSING THE METAL GATE
This is the hardest part of the hike. Once you have gone past the woman’s house you’ll climb some steps then reach a metal gate that is locked. Previously you could just climb up over the gate and fence to pass it. Now however it is completely covered in barbed wire 2-3 metres high and is impassable. So you’ll need to actually climb UP the rocks to the right of the gate for about 3 metres to bypass the fence. Then you need to crawl underneath a hole that has been (very kindly!) cut out of the fence. The hole is big enough for a tall person to squeeze through, so as long as you can climb up the rocks you should be ok to squeeze through. Coming down is tricky too as you have to jump the last bit.
CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN
The rest of the climb is not too bad as it is mainly stairs and so is quite easy to follow. It is a bit strenuous though so you might need to stop a couple of times and have a sip of water. You can enjoy the beautiful views of Halong Bay all the way up the hike, so it’s a good reason to stop.
The last part o the hike however is tricky as the steps disappear and you need to climb up big rock boulders. When we climbed it, there had recently been a fire and mudslide so my friend literally had to pull me up as there was hardly anything to hold on to. All in all, it only took us about 25 minutes to climb to the top of Bai Tho Mountain.
Where to get the best picture from the top of Bai Tho Mountain?
There are 2 main places where people take pictures: on one of the big rock boulders at the top, or on the green roof of the abandoned shed.
You need to climb across a few big rocks to get onto the green roof or the big rock but it isn’t too tricky.
Whilst it’s not impossible to get pictures of yourself with a tripod here if you are travelling alone, I really recommend to visit with a friend. This is not only for safety reasons (as mentioned below), but because taking pictures will be a lot easier as you won’t have to keep scrambling across the rocks to check your images.
When is the best time to visit Poem Mountain?
Despite us visiting at sunset, sunrise is actually the best time to visit Bai Tho Mountain. It gets very hot and humid in Vietnam and so going at sunrise will mean the temperature will be a lot cooler and more bearable than at sunset, making it much easier to hike. You don’t have to climb up in the dark and wait for the sunset at the top, just wait until it is light until you start climbing. It will still be beautiful when you read the top, plus it will be much safer. Whilst there will never be too many tourists at Bai Tho Mountain, the majority of them come in the middle of the day, so if you come at sunrise you’ll have this place to yourself.
It was actually really scary when we had to come down in the dark even though we had a torch with us. Remember when you are walking amongst trees that it appears a lot darker than it really is, and it was literally pitch black by the time we got down. At least if you go up for sunrise you’ll be coming back down in the day. Also remember, sunsets aren’t always so spectacular at Halong Bay as it can regularly be overcast and cloudy in the area.
Quite often the visibility from the top of Poem Mountain is not the best as the area is often susceptible to lots of rain and fog. I visited during the peak season (November) and whilst it was dry, the sky was still overcast and grey. I did quite like the mysterious vibe it gave to the place though. Just don’t visit when it is raining as it will be incredibly difficult to complete the hike.
What to bring for your hike up Bai Tho Mountain
Absolutely necessary if you want to visit Bai Tho Mountain at sunset as the path is not lit up. There is no light here and you’ll be climbing down in the dark which is very dangerous. If you don’t have a torch, use the one on your phone!
Another absolute necessity for your climb up Bai Tho Mountain. I am not someone who says that lightly – I regularly hike in flip flops and sandals and think nothing of it. I wore sandals to hike to the top of Bai Tho, thinking it would be an easy climb as I hadn’t researched it too well. It was definitely hard trying to climb and I even took my sandals off at one point in an attempt to get better grip! Bring shoes with a good grip. Especially if it has rained the night before the earth and rocks will be very slippy. Going down is just as difficult too so it is easy to slide down and fall if your shoes don’t have adequate grip.
SUITABLE HIKING CLOTHES
A BOTTLE OF WATER
Trust me you will need it! The hike is intense and of course there is no option to buy water once you start the hike.
Safety when climbing Poem Mountain:
DO NOT go alone. Especially if you will be hiking in the dark. It is so easy to fall and hurt yourself, and only a handful of people come up here a day so if you injure yourself it might be several hours before anyone finds you. Also, if you go with a friend you will be able to help push/pull each other up along the tricky bits of the hike. I definitely would have struggled if I would have gone alone.
Whilst it is a tricky hike though, the views from the top make the hike absolutely worthwhile, especially seeing as you’ll probably have the whole view to yourself!
What else is there to do near Bai Tho Mountain?
There are lots of restaurants and places to grab food, but my favourite place was at Ha Long Night Market as it was full of locals and hardly any tourists. Make sure to try the Vietnamese favourites of Banh Mi and Pho at the food stalls at the market! The outdoor market is really big and there are lots of lovely Vietnamese ladies selling local products. Lots of souvenirs, knock off products and handmade handicrafts. I ended up buying so many things here!
Why visit Ha Long Bay?
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay is really beautiful and one of the most well-known areas in Vietnam. Exploring Halong Bay on a boat trip and sailing past all the majestic islands is such a magical experience. However, sadly over the years Halong Bay has become completely overrun with tourists, and you’ll see lots of litter in the bay. Luckily the further you get from the shore, the more beautiful and clearer the water gets.
When is the best time of year to visit Ha Long Bay?
March – April and October – December are the best times to visit Ha Long Bay due to a lower chance of rain and more pleasant weather. As fall (October – December) is peak season, Ha Long Bay is extremely busy at this time and prices will rise. Rain and fog can happen at any time of the year in Ha Long Bay though, so always be prepared for rain or shine!
Where else to see the best views of Halong Bay?
If you can’t make it to Poem Mountain, or fancy climbing another mountain too, head to Ti Top Island (sometimes written as Titov Island). As the name suggests, it is an island, meaning if you want to visit it you have to do a boat cruise that stops at Ti Top. There are 400 steps to the top and the views are just as incredible as from Bai Tho Mountain.
Whilst you are on the boat trips it is hard to actually get a good view of the limestone karsts as you are so close to them and are beneath them, but the panoramic viewpoint from the top of Bai Tho Mountain and Ti Top Mountain really puts it into perspective and makes the climb so worthwhile!
Halong Bay cruises
Despite it being overrun with tourists, a cruise around Halong Bay is incredible. There are many tour options available, ranging from 1 day budget trips, to staying overnight on luxury junk boats in the bay for a few days, to even staying overnight on an island! The 1 day trips take you to the nearest islands, whereas the multi-day ones take you further away from the bay, which is where the more beautiful islands are.
How to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay:
If you are a party person, you absolutely need to go on the Castaways Trip to Halong Bay! Castaways have their own private island in Halong Bay and the island is simply stunning and so secluded. It is an experience you won’t forget, with open-air beach bungalows, beautiful white sand and parties every night (and boat parties during the day!). There are plenty of adrenaline filled activities to do as well, such as rock climbing up the cliff face and several water sports. This 3 day trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay is perfect for young, fun-spirited and energetic people!
At Castaways Island
Which airport is near to Ha Long Bay?
There are 3 main airports people use to get to Halong Bay:
Van Don Airport, Cat Bi Airport and Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi).
Cat Bi Airport (also known as Hai Phong Airport) is located in Hai Phong and is also 50km from Ha Long. It still takes around 2 hours to drive to Halong City from the airport. Taxis charge around 750,000/800,000 dong (£25) for the ride, which seems reasonable considering all that driving! As with many situations in Asia, please negotiate before getting in the taxi!
The most popular choice for visitors to Halong Bay is however Noi Bai (Hanoi) International Airport, which is actually the furthest of the 3 airports from Halong Bay. Noi Bai is located 27km from Hanoi (180km from Ha Long) and it takes around 3 hours to reach Halong Bay. However, as many international airlines fly here, the majority of visitors to Ha Long will go through Noi Bai Airport. Also the transportation to Halong Nay from Hanoi is quite easy, cheap and convenient, as mentioned above.
Other places you cannot miss on your Vietnam itinerary: Saigon and Mui Ne!
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When referring to Ha Long, people often think of Halong Bay – the UNESCO World Heritage site with thousands of islands, white sandy beaches, and delicious seafood. It’s certainly packed with things to see – check out our list of top 20 Halong Bay attractions!
Bai Tho Background
Bai Tho Mountain is a limestone mountain 200 meters high, located in the heart of Halong city. This mountain is quite special: half of its foothills rove over the land, and the other half are immersed in the ocean. People have a long history of interpreting the mountain’s shapes to look like a lying tiger, a preying lion, or a dragon preparing to fly.
Culture and History
Not only does the mountain have a high value in regard to tourism, Bai Tho Mountain also has a rich, storied role in the culture and history of this province.
A long time ago, Bai Tho Mountain was called Truyen Dang Mountain (Lighthouse/Light Projecting Mountain). Legend has it that soldiers perched atop the mountain would use their high vantage point to announce oncoming aggressors by lighting up the top of the mountain to warn the city below.
In 1468, King Le Thanh Tong patrolled the northeast coast by boat and stopped at the foothill to drink wine and recite a poem. Touched by the charming scenery of natural mountains and sea, King Le Thanh Tong had the poem carved into a cliff face.
From that time forward, people have chosen to call this place Bai Tho Mountain (Poem Mountain).
How to Get to the Best Viewpoint
This is not the highest mountain in the city, but it is an ideal location for you to admire the entirety of the bay and the city from above. From the central post office downtown, one can easily find their way to climb the mountain.
– Go straight along Le Thanh Tong Street to see Nam Phong Coffee at Hang Noi Town.
– Turn into the opposite road. Bai Tho Mountain road is a small lane and you have to go up through the local houses there. You can ask people here and they are enthusiastic to show you the way to go up.
on the Top
After 30 minutes of hiking, you can rest your feet on the top of Bai Tho Mountain.
Apart from the poem engraved in the stone; you will also be able to enjoy the impressive vista stretching out below. Standing at the top of Bai Tho Mountain, you can see the whole city of Halong.
A small note: if you see signs warning of a misty sky or potential rains, you probably should not go up because there is no shelter. Moreover, when you see the sky is very cloudy, your visibility will be very limited, which makes it difficult to see the sights below.
Have you been up Bai Tho Mountain? Send us in your pics for a chance to be featured in a future post!
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