Halong Bay or Descending Dragon Bay, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular travel destination along the coast 170km east of Ha Noi. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles dotted with caves and grottoes.

Halong Bay  is 1,533km2 and includes 1,960 islets, most made of limestone. Nearly 500 years ago, it was called the ‘rock wonder in the sky’ by poet Nguyen Trai in his verse Lo Nhap Van Don.

The geo – diversity of the environment has created an incredible range of biology spread over tropical evergreen, oceanic and sea shore ecosystems. While tourism and industry have taken a toll on the ecology, constant efforts to practice sustainable bio – tourism ensure that we will continue to enjoy this natural wonder in a responsible manner.

After enjoying the above ground wonders, step into another world through the expansive caves dotted throughout the islets. Each cavern contains jagged stalactites and stalagmites in a vast spectrum of shapes, all open to interpretation.

A fine example of aging with grace, the bay has been in geological transformation for 500 millon years. Be respectful and it just might last more.

Apart from natural beauty, Halong Bay  has also been the setting of two James Bond films. Through it may be difficult to imagine a speedboat chase through such serenity, how can you blame them for taking advantage of the cinematic scenery?

Hang Sung Sot

One of the largest caves in Halong, Hang Sung Sot was dobbed the Surprise. Cave by French explorers. A narrow passageway opens into an interior cavern with a 30m ceiling and fluorescent lights. Despite the modern additions, it natural beauty is still evindent. Look for stalagmites and stalactites in the shape of young couples a multitude of animals and even the Virgin Mary.

Local insight: If you look closely, you can still see 19th Century graffiti from early French visitor.

Hang Trinh Nu

According to local legend, a beautiful young girl lived on this island with her parents. After refusing to marry a rich old man who had fallen in love with her, the girl committed suicide and her body transformed into a large, flat stone near the cave’s entrance. This tragic tale gave the grotto its name, the Virgin Cave.

Local insight: Hang Trinh Nu is part of same complex as Hang Sung Sot, a major tourist magner extending nearly 2km into island.

Dong Thien Cung

According to legend, Thien Cung, the Celestial Palace Cave, was host to a seven day celebration to mark the marriage of the Dragon King and the Cloud Princess. The party lasted so long that the revellers fossilized into stalagmites. If you look hard enough, you’ll find some formations do resemble party goers.

Local insight: The Cloud Princess supposedly bathed her children in three small pools at the back of the cave.

Hang Dau Go

Wooden Stakes Cave was named after a popular story from Vietnam’s resistance against invading Mongolian troops used the cave to prepare sharp wooden stakes to be planted in the reverbed of the Bach Dang River, trapping Kublai Khan and his men at low tide.

Local insight: In 1917, Emperor Khai Dinh visited the grotto and erected a stone stellae praising its beauty.

Dong Hanh Hang

Accessible by a hidden entrance that only appears at low tide, the Tunnel Cave is Halong’s longest grotto, running through Quang Hang Mountian for nearly 2km. According to legend, three young girl were so engrossed by the beauty of the cave that they failed to notice the rising tide and drowned, becoming water goddesses heard only in echoes.

Local insight: To get inside, you must navigate a small wooden boat by flashlight.

Nui Bai Tho

Poem Mountain is one of the best spots to take in the view of the surrounding bay. In 1468, Emperor Le Thanh Tong was inspecting Halong and became so overcome by its beauty that he composed a poem and had it carved into the 106m high mountain. It has since faded, been recarved and joined by the work of othe poets like Lord Trinh Cuong.

Lacal insight: The climb is short but surprisingly steep, usually taking around 30 minutes.

Fishing villages

Innumerable fish and around 1,600 people call the waters of Halong Bay  home. These fishermen and their families live in floating villages which consist of wooden huts, fish farms and even a school dotted throughout  this UNESCO World Heritage site. If staying abroad a boat, one of the lacals is sure to swing by your vessel for a visit to sell groceries and handicrafts.

Lacal insight: Fishing trips and overnight stays can be arranged.

Bai Tu Long Bay

While the limestone karsts of Halong Bay  may be Vietnam’s most famous denstination, the spectacular islands continue 100km north to the Chinese border into Bai Tu Long Bay. Though it is just as impressive as its more famous neightbour to the south, Bai Tu Long remains mostly undeveloped, which means no pollution, but also no tourist infrastructure.

Local insight: Unless you speak some Vietnamese or have a guide, it may be difficult to get information.

Cat Ba Island

The largest of the 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, this island was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2004. Don’t miss the impressive national park housing a small population of langurs. With sandy beaches, the same dramatic landscape as Halong Bay  and a small city with enough restaurents and shopping to keep you occupied, this island has it all.

Local insight: Some of Southeast Asia’s best climbing is lacated in Butterfly Valley.


0 #2 luigi4235 2015-03-02 19:39
0 #1 luigi4235 2015-02-14 14:13
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