Legend tells of how a family of dragons helped defend Vietnam against invaders by spitting jade and emeralds into the sea, jewels which later transformed into these spectacular karsts. Shaped by millions of years of tropical weather, many of the uninhabited islands are named after their unique forms.
Take to the sea on a double-decker junk boat or a captivating kayak tour to get the best views of this UNESCO National Heritage Site. Pass by bamboo fishing boats as you visit sheer cliffs, secret coves and tranquil lagoons, then disembark for a look inside mystical caves. Discover Thien Cung, where slightly eerie stalactites and stalagmites are illuminated by coloured lighting, and the large Go Dao with its 19th century French graffiti belying its history as ‘La Grotte de Merveilles’ (the grotto of marvels).
From Ha Long Bay, journey to nearby Hanoi, Vietnam’s ancient capital. A visit to this cultural city is certainly worth the trip as thousands of years of history make it both picturesque and fascinating. Don’t miss the chaotic buzz of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a bustling maze of markets, French Colonial architecture and lakes. Hunt for vibrant silk souvenirs or escape to the nearby Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake) where giant turtles swim beneath the Bridge of the Rising Sun and harmonious locals practice tai chi and play chess.
Did you know…
- With so many islands and islets in the bay, it makes sense that only half of them are named. Most of the islands are named based on their appearance and shape. For example, Voi Island is so named because it resembles an elephant.
- There are 450 different mollusks and 200 different species of fish in Ha Long Bay.
- Some of the wildlife found on the islands include monkeys,deer, mink, squirrels, birds, lizards and even antelopes.
- Ha Long Bay is classified as both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, and as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2012.
- There is a particular cave in the bay known as the Hospital Cave. During the American-Vietnam War, it served as both as secret, bomb-proof hospital and safe house for Vietnam leaders. It was in constant use until 1975. Today, you can take a guided tour through the cave and the 17 rooms it contains.