Halong Bay – a Hidden gem in Vietnam
While this is part of our Wild Places piece – the place is a tourist attraction and became even more popular after the British Top Gear programme visited in 2008 – a decade ago, showing of the true beauty of the place which made it even more popular, before then it was a hidden gem, known to travellers and explorers as a must visit place.
Legend has it that soon after the Vietnamese founded their country, invaders came from the sea and as the raiders approached the shore Jade Emperor sent mother dragon and her children down to protect the locals. The dragons then opened their mouths and spat out showers of pearls which turned into the thousands of islands which are now located around Halong Bay. The raiders we’re apparently unable to stop and smashed into these islands and their boats were destroyed. After the dragons saved the locals, they stayed here on earth in Halong Bay with their tails forming a long called beach called Long Vi.
While I love the story and very much doubt its true, myth and folk tales like this are one of the reasons I love to travel and explore new places and to hear about them from the locals.
The bay itself is located near the border with China in Vietnam’s Quang Ning province and is truly remarkable and a must visit place. Halong Bay is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a very popular one.
Unlike how Clarkson and crew travelled around, the most popular mode of transport around the bay is via a junk, the iconic Indo-Chinese mode of transport.
These boats travel through crystal clear waters, zigzagging around the limestone pillars which fill the bay. The islands are filled with countless beaches of white sands grottoes created by the power of the waters over millions of years.
The low water areas are home to over 400 different types of fish and mollusc making them a perfect place for a spot of scuba diving or snorkelling. While beneath the waves are spectacular it’s the damage the waves have caused themselves, which will take your breath away.
The Islands are a wide range of amazing shapes and sizes from over 500 million years of coastal erosion, no two are alike and even visiting the bay numerous times you will spot something new that you have missed on a previous venture out. One of the islands looks like an elephant (Voi Islet) while Ga Choi looks like a pair of fighting cocks which is a very popular sport in Vietnam.
Ga Choi (Fi is located in the heart of the bay and is one of the most popular and photographed attractions within the whole bay, standing 12 metres above water and appear to be leaning (or fighting) towards each other. The island is also known as Trong Mai Island (Cock and Hen Island) depending who you speak with. – the best times to visit these is either at sunrise or set making the rocks turn a reddish colour helping to enhance the cockerel like appearance.
Cua Van Floating Village
This village was the finish point for the Top Gear challenge, but there is a floating village in the middle of the bay. It’s one of the must-visit islands if only to see how people live and survive on water.
The village is made up of quite a few floating house tied together, some people literally spend their entire lives here and never step foot on dry land.
It’s quite hard to describe – but its well worth visiting.
Heading to Vietnam why not check out the things you need to know about before heading to Vietnam, a useful guide to help you get the most out of your trip.