Remote Quang Ninh province, Vietnam Published on: 28-04-2017
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Why Ha Long Bay is special ?
Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by a human presence. The site's outstanding scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest.
The geomorphology of Ha Long Bay is known as a drowned karst landscape due to the exceptional combination of its limestone karst features which have been subject to repeated regression and transgression of the sea over geological time. The limestones of Ha Long Bay have been eroded into a mature landscape of fengcong (clusters of conical peaks) and fenglin(isolated tower features) karst features, modified by sea invasion at a later stage.
The smaller islands are fenglin towers of 50m to 100m high with height. Many have vertical walls on all or most sides and these continue to evolve by rock falls and large slab failures.
Marine invasion of Ha Long Bay has added an extra element to the normal process of lateral undercutting of the limestone towers and islands. The most conspicuous feature being the main notch cut into the entire rocky coastline. Notches are a feature of limestone cliffs worldwide, but those of Ha Long Bay are exceptionally well developed and, at many sites, extend into arches and caves. This process of undercutting and subsequent erosion maintains the steep faces of the fenglin karst towers and thereby perpetuates the spectacular nature of the landscape.
A distinctive feature of Ha Long Bay is the abundance of lakes within the larger limestone islands.
Extensive limestone caves represent another important feature of Ha Long Bay, with three main types able to be identified: old phreatic caves formed below the water table of the time; old karstic foot caves formed by lateral undercutting of cliffs at base level; and marine notch caves formed at sea level where rock structures are powerfully eroded and eventually reduced to a wave cut platform.
In summary, Ha Long Bay possesses a tremendous diversity of caves and other landforms which derive from the unusual geomorphological process of marine invaded tower karst. These areas provide a unique and extensive reservoir of data for the future understanding of geoclimatic history and the nature of karst processes in a complex environment.
What to explore at Ha Long Bay?
A visit to Vietnam wouldn't be complete without a traditional junk boat cruise around spectacular Halong Bay, with its iconic limestone peaks and emerald green waters.
While a peaceful cruise is the perfect way to kick back, relax and take in the iconic views that this UNESCO World Heritage site has to offer, there is plenty else to keep you busy in Halong Bay.
1. Learn Tai Chi on deck
The ancient martial art of Tai Chi has been practised for generations in China to promote the health of mind, body and soul through its soft, controlled movements. It is said that practising Tai Chi in the peace and tranquillity of the great outdoors aids in the deep concentration and inner peace many hope to achieve through this art form – and what better place to do it than surrounded by the sublime beauty of Halong Bay?
Guided by an experienced Tai Chi master, you can learn how to control your body and mind on the deck of your junk boat cruise, as you breathe in the fresh air and watch the sun rise behind jungle clad peaks.
2. Visit a traditional floating village
For most of us a cruise on the emerald green waters of Halong Bay is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it may be difficult to imagine living day-to-day life surrounded by the incredible beauty of this famous bay. But for the families of Halong Bay’s floating fishing villages living in a water world is second nature. Rising and falling with the tide, these villages have been home to generation after generation of fishermen who earn their living from the bay’s bountiful supply of marine life and growing tourism in the region.
Pay a visit to one of these charming villages, meet grinning fishermen and playful children and learn about their fascinating way of life in Halong Bay.
3. Go cycling on Cat Ba Island
As if being the largest island in Halong Bay was not enough, Cat Ba also possesses some of the most impressive natural beauty found in the region, and not to mention an incredible range of species and fascinating natural habitats. Forming part of the Cat Ba archipelago on the south-eastern edge of Halong Bay, this beautiful isle can be reached by boat and is best explored on foot or bicycle (rented locally).
Explore the limestone hills and discover hidden waterfalls, lakes and grottos; spot wildlife (like the Cat Ba langur) hidden in coastal limestone forests and mangroves; or go snorkelling off the coast in search of underwater life – the possibilities are endless!
4. Discover hidden caves and grottos
Hidden among the thousands of jungle-covered peaks rising dramatically out of the emerald waters of Halong Bay are illuminated caves, isolated grottos and picturesque hidden coves of all shapes and sizes. Hop on board a row boat and venture out to explore these hidden gems for yourself, such as the beautiful Thien Cung Cave – nicknamed the Heavenly Palace Cave, famed for its many stalagmites and stalactites, and Dau Go Cave – known as the Cave of Wonders, featuring fascinating rock formations illuminated by a kaleidoscope of colour.
5. Kayak between karst limestone outcrops
While a traditional junk boat cruise is an excellent way to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Halong Bay at a relaxed pace, the active among you can get your paddle out on an off-boat excursion and explore the beauty of the bay up close on a kayaking adventure.
Paddle out to the calmer, less-visited corners of the bay, which the bigger boats cannot manoeuvre, and discover hidden caves, isolated lagoons, unspoiled islands and much more with the direction of a local guide.
6. Halong Market
Take a taxi to Halong City and visit the Halong Market. This market is right in the heart of Halong City and you cannot walk there unless you have a few hours to spare. Best would be to take a taxi there. Once here, explore the dry and wet market. A number of interesting items can be seen here while it would be wise to stock up on snacks and drinks for your Halong Bay Cruise.
How to get to Ha Long Bay?
From Hanoi, tourists can catch a high quality bus going to Quang Ninh at My Dinh, Luong Yen or Gia Lam Terminal. All the buses from other provinces when travelling to Quang Ninh stop at Bai Chay Terminal, which is located quite near Vuon Dao tourism center. Travellers can consider “xe om” (motor-taxi) service (with about VND15,000) or a taxi (from VND20,000-VND30,000) to Vuon Dao Area, where tourists are supposed to reach before heading to Ha Long bay. After that, there are plenty of cruise operators that you can choose from to hop on. This way of transport is exciting partly because you get to be part of the daily commune of the locals, who come and go to Hanoi. Additionally, with someone who has no fix schedule, taking the bus is very convenient. However, this type is more suitable for those who are more familiar with Vietnam conditions or has adventurous streak; for first time tourists, it is not recommended.
Bai Chay Harbor, where travellers can find cruises sailing to Ha Long Bay, is only 2 km from Vuon Dao area. The most convenient way to get there is to use “xe om”, which costs about VND20,000.
Of course, the most popular way to go from Hanoi to Halong Bay is to book a tour. Tours from operators are cheap and available every day. They will take care of your transportation, cruise and accommodation. There will also be a guide that will help explain things along the way. Depending on the different tours operators, all of them will provide shuttle bus that starts from the Old Quarter. Some will also have private car option for you if you do not want to join 20 others on a shuttle bus. This will increase the cost but also comfort. Going on tours is recommended for family, group of friends and anybody who want to have a fuss free trip. An average cost for a 2 days tour is about 3million VND. The operators will take care of everything. To book a tour operators, you can scout around the old quarters, there are plenty of choices depending on your budget and types of add ons.
Once you are in Vietnam, you can reach basically everywhere by motor cycle, even at the most remote places. This type is the utmost adventurous and thrilling of all. Since Halong bay is only 170 km away from Hanoi and the road is quite straight forward, one can rent a good bike from the Old quarter, a map and good riding skill to make the trip. It is advisable that you should embark on this with a small group of friends to support each other on the way, especially in case a bike brakes down. Careful inspection of bike before the trip is crucial to ensure a safest trip. An average price for bike rental is about $20/day. However, it will take slightly longer than bus or car to reach Halong and is considerably more tiring. Thus unless you plan to stay long in the area, riding the bike to Halong is not very worth it.
- Incredible beauty in Vietnam
- Mystical and dreamy
- Great natural wonder
- One of the most beautiful places on earth
Quang Ninh province, Vietnam
Tips for you
For beach days, pack two swimsuits, one beach cover-up or large T-shirt, two rash guards, one baseball hat or wide-brimmed sun hat and flip-flops or waterproof sandals per traveler. Pack a light sweatshirt or sweater for chilly mornings and evenings, and a lightweight nylon jacket if there is a probability of rain in the forecast.What to bring
Forecast at least 1 day before the cruise for better preparation of backup plan. Alternative tours from Hanoi is numerous such as Hanoi City tour, Hoa Lu- Tam Coc / Trang An (Ninh Binh), Cooking class, Perfume Pagoda tour, Mai Chau. Or simply staying in a hotel in Halong city, and then cruise the very next day cruise upon weather condition and boat availability.Weather
Kayaking is great fun – strictly following the instruction of the tour guide in a secluded bay and soaks in the amazing surroundings. You would be surprised at the beauty of limestone caves that can reach only by a small boat. The water is lovely and refreshing when the sun is out, but extremely salty. Don’t ever forget wearing the life jacket even you can swim.Safety
From the photos, it is paradise. Reality is somewhat different. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful and unique place. It's also a place I highly recommend visiting. When the sun sets over those crazy rocks, it is a gorgeous sight to see. Sung Sot cave is also something special and the overnight boats do take you there. We had great food and extremely friendly hosts on our boat. They even accommodated my 6'5 husband by giving us the room with the longest bed on the boat.Now for the not so great news: there is a LOT of waiting involved. Waiting to leave on the boat. Waiting to get off the boat. Waiting for your transport. Waiting at the forced shopping stops that the transport takes you to. I realize this is Asia and I was used to the same thing in other Asian countries, but I wish someone had mentioned that this visit would be loosely organized chaos. My advice? Relax and enjoy the ride.
I had a four days trip to Hanoi-Vietnam in January, and decided to take a one day tour to Halong Bay because i didn't have enough time to spend the night. It was fantastic. I went there during the winter, so the weather was pretty chill and foggy that gave the scene some mystical ambience to it.The tour guide took us into the cave, i'd have to say i did't really enjoy the cave, i mean with the lighting and the stories they made up, i just don't get it. The should've left the cave alone, it's better of without the lighting and those stories.But the whole experience was a blast tho'.Would love to comeback next time.
We did a two day tour on paradise luxury tours. The boat and service were vey good. We had deluxe cabins with windows overlooking the bay with private balcony.,Kayaking and swimming facilities are available.The crew took very good care of us. I have food allergies and they made special dishes for me. The caves visit that are part of the cruise are very intersting and beautiful. The floating villages, beautiful lagoon visit, the fantastic rock formations rising out of the calm bay waters - All in all a very enjoyable experience.
I always dream of being there, one of the most beautiful place in the world and quite rightly wonders of the world. You should never miss the beautiful sunrise and sunset over the bay, have a casual boat ride, interact with locals, go for a walk along the coastline, have a great night view of The Cable bridge and have mouthwatering sea food and local vietnamee cuisine. Its all available at Halong Bay. Young Children may find it difficult to find interesting spots to keep them engaged, I personally feel the pace is great for couples and friends.