Halong Bay is a beautiful natural wonder in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border. The Bay is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500 sqkm. This extraordinary area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. For many tourists, this place is like something right out of a movie. The fact is that Halong Bay features a wide range of biodiversity, while the surrealistic scenery has indeed featured in endless movies, the most famous movie recently is Kong, the skull island. The best way to get to Halong City is by car, minibus or bus from Hanoi which is only 170km away. If budget is not a problem, an hour-long helicopter transfer is also available.
Halong Bay attractions
Cat Ba Island is the most popular destination in the bay and every tour company offers a trip to the island. Cat Ba is full of the usual tourist scenario; hotels, restaurants, and bars; still Cat Ba’s locals have carried on doing exactly what their ancestors did for generations before – fishing.
This is a very popular swimming and diving spot because of its rich coral and deep grottoes with three inland lakes. The grottoes and caves can only be visited by rowing boat at low tide, when access is possible.
The bay’s floating villages draw a lot of attention and are one of the highlights of the trip. Locals have been living in these floating houses for many generations as fishing is still the villagers’ main income. Some communities offer reasonably priced home-stays to visitors, too. If you pass by them on your cruise, don’t be surprised if the boat’s on-board chef stops to shop for fresh seafood from one.
Hung Sung Sot Cave is located on the same island as Virgin Cave and has a steep path lined with shady trees. There are two chambers in the cave with a square-shaped outer chamber and a ceiling about 30 metres high. The inner chamber formations look like sentries conversing with one another and another formation, resembling a general surveying his troops, lies in the middle of the chamber. The moving light reflected from the water outside seems to bring these formations to life.
Pelican Cave (Hang Bo Nau) is also popular with tourists. Many of them love to take photos of this cave and its spectacular stalactites hanging from the ceiling.
The Virgin Cave (Hang Trinh Nu) is one of the most famous caves in Halong Bay. It is probably best known for its shrine. Legend claims that a beautiful woman committed suicide in the cave, unable to return home after being forced to marry an old Mandarin. Here her body tuned into stone. Another similar legend says this girl escaped from a Mandarin that forced her to marry him because her father could not pay a debt. When fishermen found her body, they buried her here and built a small shrine inside the grotto.