Just beside the Chinese border lies a place of unimaginable beauty with emerald waters, lofty karst limestone pillars, and little islets of distinct shapes- The Halong Bay!
An ethereal and mesmerizing wonder that occupies the Northern region of Vietnam, this place was affirmed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
The bay has attracted many tourists, with thousands of islands scattered over the crystal blue waters on the West coast of the Gulf of Tonkin.
If you have a dream destination, this could be the one once you get the taste of it!
So, sail into the landscape through this article that will leave you awe-struck about its unique surreal beauty.
And don’t worry, I will also equip you to take a trip and enjoy some mind-blowing activities that will indeed knit your soul to the place forever!
1. Is it Worth Visiting Halong Bay in Vietnam?
Spanning a 500 sq km area, the Halong Bay in Vietnam is the ultimate place to glide into the depths of nature’s beauty.
Garnished by thousands of jagged limestone pillars that appear to be rocky and earthen islands over the blue waters, this place is blessed with an extraordinary seascape.
To top it up, there are numerous caves and grottoes, which blend together to add to the magnificence of the seascape.
Nevertheless, it’s also home to unique fauna both on land and water, and you get a package of surprises when you are actually there in Vietnam.
You will feel that the place is right out of a movie for its karst limestone pillars, blanketed rainforests, surrealistic scenery, and magical backdrop.
Indeed, you can call this a dazzling attraction in Vietnam and even the world’s prettiest place.
If you are an adventurer, this is the best place for cave explorations, boat trips, and much more water and land activities, which will be discussed as we enter this article.
And no trip would be considered complete without seeing the Halong Bay in Vietnam.
2. Sailing Backward into the Halong Bay in Vietnam
Halong Bay in Vietnam is known for its divine mythical legend, natural phenomenon, and historical value.
It is actually astonishing to know that what you see today is an effect of million years of evolution.
So, jump into the history of the bay to escape the 21st century!
2.1 Creation of Halong Bay in Vietnam
The evolution of the bay dates over 500 million years. It was sculpted due to tectonic and not volcanic activity.
Three influences have resulted in long-term geological evolution.
Out of these, the most popular is the limestone formation with layers over 1000 m thickness.
This was formed during the Carboniferous and Permian period (240 to 340 million years ago).
Next is the formation of the Halong depression in the Neogene period (10 to 26 million years ago).
Finally, the erosion process that was quite highly active during the
. The erosion process forming the limestone plain was most active in the Quaternary Pleistocene epoch (11,000 to 2 million years ago).
2.2 Sojourning Through the Historical Development of Halong Bay
After 500 million years of evolution, it underwent significant historical development.
Historical evidence shows the presence of prehistoric human existence since tens of thousands of years ago.
Also, the bay marks crucial events in Vietnam’s history, with numerous artifacts excavated along the Bai Thơ Mount, Dau Go Cave, and Bai Chay.
Here’s a run-through of human existence found across various time frames.
2.2.1 Soi Nhu Culture (18,000–7000 BC)
The remains are found in Halong and Bai Tu Long archaeological sites Mê Cung and Thiên Long.
There are excavations of spring shellfish (Melania), mountain shellfish (Cyclophorus) mounds, some freshwater mollusks, and fundamental labor tools.
These show that the Soi Nhu’s thrived, catching shellfish and fish, collecting fruits, and digging for roots and bulbs.
It is said that they existed along the coastal areas, different from the rest of the Vietnamese cultures.
2.2.2 Cai Beo Culture (7000–5000 BC)
Their remains are found on Halong and Cat Ba islands, where the inhabitants were known for a certain level of sea exploitation.
They were mostly ancient fishermen and are known to possess the largest fishing villages, the oldest ever in Vietnam.
It is said that the Cai Beo culture links the Soi Nhu culture and Halong culture.
2.2.3 Halong Culture (3000 – 1500 BC)
Among the four cultures, this is a crucial prehistoric marine culture along with Halong (Quảng Ninh), Bàu Chó (Quảng Bình), Hoa Lộc (Thanh Hoá), Xóm Cồn (Khánh Hoà).
Apart from this, the islands in the bay have shown 50 Halong cultural relics where each has a distinct characteristic in making pottery and stone tools.
It is assumed that the inhabitants during this period built water vehicles to trade their tools and pottery to the nearby regions.
Shreds of evidence are found in the axes with unique characteristics of Halong culture in Northern Vietnam up to China.
2.3 Feudal period
During the Feudal period, Halong Bay in Vietnam played a prime part in some of the grandiose pages of Vietnam’s history.
It was during the 12th century when Halong was Vietnam’s first active international commercial port.
With towering mountains dividing the sea and calm waters, the area was perfect for harboring and exchanging goods.
Nevertheless, hundreds of years ago, the bay was a favorite place for kings ruling Vietnam as it impressed them with its stunning seascapes.
Even King Le Thanh Tong had a cruise here during the year 1498.
Upon admiring the scenery, he composed and carved the poem on the stone mountain, which today is called the Poem Mount.
Also, in 1729, Trinh Cuong Lord visited the place and was instantly impressed by nature’s attractiveness on Halong Bay.
Furthermore, history reveals that the bay was a place for local naval battles against invaders from the coast.
One incident happened in the western area where General Tran Khanh Du used the bay as a battlefield to destroy the Mongol ships.
Finally, King Ngo Quyen won over the Liu Hongcao ships from the Bach Dang River.
He placed steel-tipped wooden stakes amid the high tide, sinking the enemy ships.
This victory ended the 1000-year Chinese domination and opened independence for the country.
Today, the Wooden stakes caves are open for tourists to have a view.
2.4 Halong Bay Today
Now it’s a renowned destination and a critical Vietnam tourism symbol. According to Quang Ninh Newspaper, 928,900 visitors visited Halong Bay in Vietnam.
The bay is classified under the Quang Ninh province, bordered by the Gulf of Tonkin in the southern and southeastern parts.
China borders it on the north, and Cat Ba Island borders it on the west and southwestern sides.
The entire area spans approx to 1,553 km2 with up to 2,000 islets.
For more recent developments, click here!
3. Halong Bay Facts
Drenched with the fascinating history of Halong?
Now it’s time to get to know why is Halong Bay in Vietnam so famous through some amazing facts below;
3.1 Halong Bay Etymology
From its name, “Ha Long,” the Sino-Vietnamese language translates it as “descending (Ha) dragon (Long).”
There is a legend to support why the bay was named so.
It is said that once upon a time, a family of dragons descended from the gods to help defend the Vietnamese and their country.
The place where the mommy dragon descended was called Ha Long.
And the area where her children were gathered was called Bai Tu Long Bay (Bai: attend upon, Tu: children, Long: dragon).
Interestingly, the place where the long winding tails of the children wiggled was named Bach Long Vy Island (Bach: white foam made when the tails wriggled, Long: dragon, Vy: tail).
Additionally, you can find islands named after unique shapes.
Some of them are;
- Voi (elephant) Islet
- Ga Choi (fighting cock) Islet
- Khi (monkey) Islet
- Mai Nha (roof) Islet, among many others.
Even today, these legends about the dragons are believed, stating that they have not yet returned to heaven.
They continue to protect the place residing underwater at Ha Long Bay.
3.2 Halong Bay Geography
Boasting thousands of islands, the bay spans an area of 1,553 km2 approx.
Also, it is known for its exquisite natural wonders. For instance, King Kong or Kong–Skull Island is known for its exceptional beauty that you cannot find elsewhere!
The core area of Halong Bay is highly visited by cruises to showcase the densely clustered 775 islets for visitors.
Interestingly, there is a triangle-shaped formation in this region, and its corners are defined by Ba Ham Lake, Dau Go Island, and Cong Tay Island.
And there are high chances of getting lost inside this triangular matrix filled with grandeur and beauty. But it’s a worthwhile adventure for you!
3.3 Halong Climate
There is some misinterpreted information on many websites stating that Halong experiences four seasons.
In reality, there are just two: a hot and sweltering summer and a cool and arid winter.
Average temperatures in the region range between 15°C and 25°C, with rainfall between 2 and 2.2 meters.
Also, there is a daily tide system with amplitudes between 3.5 and 4 meters.
So, it’s best to take your trip in March as this month marks the end of winter. Pack simple and light to enjoy!
3.4 Halong Biodiversity
The bay doesn’t have waters and isles; there is a world of unique flora and fauna.
Featuring a tropical evergreen system, there are over 1,000 plant species.
Even the marine life is rich and diverse.
Also, the islands are inhabited by different animals, including amphibians, magnolias, birds, and mammals.
The mind-blowing fact is that the Halong Bay region has around ten distinct types of ecosystems!
3.5 Floating Villages Exist Even Today on the Bay
Just as fascinating as the islands are its native inhabitants.
Many of the islands on the bay are uninhabited and untouched for various reasons, including their steepness.
So, people simply live on boats.
You can find the entire village thriving on the water for generations now!
3.6 Halong Bay Hospital Cave
Wondering what this is?
These are caves actually that Vietnam leaders used during the America Vietnam War.
These massive caves served as a home, refuge, and even a bomb-proof hospital for wounded people and soldiers!
More than 17 rooms were inside the cave, and it was used till 1975.
Today it is open to visitors.
4. Where is Halong Bay in Vietnam?
The bay lies within the Quang Ninh Province in the Gulf of Tonkin, northeast of Vietnam.
It is 165 km away from Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam.
5. When is the Right Time to Enjoy at Halong Bay?
Spring (March, April) and fall (September, October) are the best times to enjoy the bay amidst cool weather.
Summer (from May to early September) makes the bay sunny and warm, and you can swim across the bright sky in the blue waters.
However, some days have light showers, even an unexpected typhoon, that can cancel your cruise. So, plan and book your tour.
Winter (November to March) keeps the weather cold, especially in January and February, not making it a good time to swim.
This is also a season that makes the place foggy with strong monsoons.
Click here to learn how to get there!
Accommodations for all kinds of travelers at Halong Bay are available here!
6. Tips Before Packing for Your Trip
Touring Halong Bay in Vietnam is most done by cruise.
So, with various cruising options available to take a tour or stay aboard for a few days, ensure you book ahead.
Carry cash with you, as you can NEVER trust an ATM generally.
Water activities and island stops are a prime part of cruises. So, ensure to pack additional clothing that is comfortable and light.
Also, bring hats, sunscreens, and medications as required, as you cannot get them once you’re out into the bay.
Check with the tour operators whether the cruises are eco-friendly. Dumping waste is a sad practice in Vietnam, especially along the bay’s coast.
Do your research before booking your cruise with them.
However, as you get deeper into the bay, particularly Lan Ha Bay, the waters are clean and safe for swimming.
7. How to Book a Tour for Cruising?
Choose wisely here!
The type of cruise you choose can make or break your trip to the bay.
Inspect the cruise itinerary, what is included, and what activities you can do.
For budget travelers, here’s the best way to visit Halong Bay!
8. Things to do at Halong Bay
For both adventurers and nature lovers, here’s a list of activities you can indulge in at the bay;
- Cruise the bay
- Explore a floating village
- Paddle out in a kayak
- Clamber into a cave
- Try your hand at rock climbing
- Enjoy the local cuisine
9. Places to Stop by
As you venture sailing through the bay, don’t forget to stop by these places;
- Sung Sot Cave
- Cat Ba Island
- Virgin Cave
- Dau Be Island
- Dong Thien Cung Cave
- Ti Top Island
- Hon Trong Mai
- Bai Tu Long Bay
If you have time, try exploring these places too!
10. Exiting the Halong Bay
Now that you know everything about Halong Bay, doesn’t it sound impressive?
I have heard visitors say pictures do not do justice to the bay’s beauty.
If you wish to affirm this all by yourself, pack your bags, reserve your cruises this minute, and explore the world from its unknown here in Vietnam!
Have you been to Halong Bay in Vietnam? Or do you have any more exciting news to convey to us about the Bay?
What is your opinion about Ha Long Bay, Vietnam?
Comment down and notify us!
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