The story behind Halong Bay is a real beauty. Legend has it that when invaders came to Vietnam, the gods sent fierce dragons to protect the Vietnamese people. These brave dragon warriors spat thousands of jade jewels into the water to form a great wall against the invaders. These jewels became the limestone islands and islets that still dot the bay today.
As you wind your way through the enormous limestone karsts and islets in a traditional junk, you will have plenty of time to sit back and reflect on this natural wonder, which was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
You don't have to stay on board and admire the water from afar. Take the plunge and swim or kayak. Several of the islands are hollow with enormous caves that you can explore, like Đầu Gỗ (Driftwood Grotto), Thiên Cung (Heavenly Palace Grotto), Sung Sot (Surprise Grotto), and Tam Cung (Three Palace Grotto). Many also have lakes inside, like Dau Be island which has six lakes.
Many of the islands resemble shapes, hence their names. You can visit Man's Head Island, Dragon Island and La Vong Island which resembles an old man fishing. And look out for Island of the Sail, the Pair of Roosters, Voi Islet (elephant) and the Incense Burner.
Halong Bay is located in the north eastern part of Vietnam and makes up part of the western bank of Bac Bo Gulf, including the sea area of Ha Long City and Cam Pha Town and part of Vân Don island district. Cat Ba Island lies to the south west. The best time to go is from March to May when there is constant sunshine.
Many people still live their lives on the water. There's a community of around 1,600 people who live among four fishing villages: Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng. You can see their floating houses, and visit some spectactular floating markets such as the one on Cat Ba.
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After huge demand, we've launched our new 3-day Halong Bay Extension trip. Take a look and make sure you see this incredible slice of heaven on your next trip.
Photo credit: E. Bell