Ha Long Bay - Descending Dragon bay
Ha Long Bay is one of the most visited areas in Vietnam and a UNESCO World Heritage site. That should not surprise you, it is really beautiful. The name Ha Long Bay means: Descending Dragon bay.
The name Descending Dragon bay has a legend. Is says that long ago, when the Vietnamese were fighting Chinese invaders, the gods sent a family of dragons to help defend the land.
This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay.
There are over 1900 islands and rocks. Only two of the islands, Cat Ba and Tuan Chau have inhabitants. Both have tourist facilities, including hotels and beaches. There are a number of wonderful beaches on the smaller islands. Around some islands you will find floating fish farms.
The pinnacles and grottoes are a made of limestone which also means there are plenty of caves. Many islands have imaginary names (Elephant, Fighting Cock and Roof ) because of their shapes.
Cat Ba is the main entry island in Ha Long Bay. It's partly a fishing village and partly a hotel area. Tuan Chau is nicer, it was also the island where president Ho Chi Minh stayed for holiday.
Cat Ba can be very busy during national holidays and weekends. However, if you get a boat out in the mountains, the scenery is still spectacular.
Tuan Chai is since some years changed into a tourist attraction with the dolphin, sea lion, and performing-seal club, animal circus club, golf course, cultural-sports center, beach, rural market, ornamental fish lake and several midrange and top end hotels.
Getting there and away.
Haiphong is the entrance. It is a large industrial port city. There is little of interest in Haiphong so many travelers just go to Haiphong to get on a boat to either Cat Ba or Tuan Chau. There are two ways to go to the islands of the bay. The easiest is to organize a tour in Hanoi for a couple of days. It is just as easy simply take a bus or train to Haiphong and get a boat to Cat Ba. You can visit Tuan Chau by road, it's about 2km from the mainland.
If you don't book a tour in Hanoi, you can easily organize your boat in Cat Ba or Tuan Chau. The best is to do this through the hotel where you want to stay in Cat Ba. A boat tour of 2 or more days is possible and you will enjoy Ha Long Bay even more.
Hotels and guesthouses
There is a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses in Ha Long Bay. The cheaper ones you will find at Cat Ba while some more up market hotels can be found at Tuan Chau.
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Ha Long Bay on land, that's what Ninh Binh is called. The beautiful limestone mountains with caves and pagoda's is worth a visit.
North West Vietnam
Sapa, Lao Cai, Dien Bien Phu and Son La are some of the bigger and well known places in north west Vietnam
Cycling from Hanoi to Vinh
It's not the most spectacular part of Vietnam but it's a nice bike ride of several days and there's enough to keep you busy.