Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay (also "Halong Bay") is in northern Vietnam, 170 km (105 mi) east of Hanoi. The bay is famous for its scenic ocean karst topography and is often included on lists of natural wonders of the world, including the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin

Islands

The Ha Long Bay archipelago is made up of 1,969 islands, both inhabited and uninhabited. These can be accessed from various ports, though in the special case of Cat Ba you can also arrive either by car, motorbike or bus (via Haiphong) or combined bus/boat (from Hanoi via Halong City).

Understand

"Ha Long" means "Bay of Descending Dragons" (Chinese: 下龙湾; Xiàlóngwān), though prior to the 19th century this name was not recorded in any document or archive. When mentioning the present-day Quang Ninh Sea or Ha Long Bay, old histories often referred to them by the names of An Bang, Luc Thuy or Van Don. Not until the late-19th century did the name of Ha Long Bay appear on a French maritime chart. The Hai Phong News, a French newspaper of the time, had an article, Dragon appears on Ha Long Bay, reporting the following story: In 1898 a sub-lieutenant named Lagredin, skipper of the Avalanse, reported seeing a huge sea snake in Ha Long Bay. This was also witnessed by many of the crew. Thus emerged the European image of the Asian dragon. Whether this appearance of a strange animal resembling a dragon resulted in the name of Ha Long Bay is unknown.

Get in

There are a number of domestic connections, particularly to the ports of Halong City and Haiphong.

From Hanoi

Independently

From Hanoi, you can take a minibus from Gia Lam bus station. Tickets are 90,000 dong, takes approximately 4 hours and the bus will pick up passengers along the way. Air conditioning is minimal, so be prepared to sweat in summer. Larger-sized tourists will not find it to be a pleasant journey, but it is a authentic Vietnamese experience.

You can also hire a private car from Noi bai airport or Hanoi city centre to Halong Bay. There are many providers.

As a mass tourist bound for Cat Ba Island

The vast majority of tourists take a 'tour'. This consists of a morning shuttle bus from their hotel or an agent in central Hanoi to a Halong Port controlled by a mafia that basically only ships people to Cat Ba Island. This gives you the least possible options but can be an easy alternative for time-short tourists. If you do choose this option, standards vary considerably: while comfortable (or even luxurious) boats, excellent food and knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides may be available, most are characterised by long and crowded bus journies, rip-off trips on boats so slow you could swim faster (to get you to buy more food and drink on board), hard-sell add-ons such as brief stops for kayaking, water cave visits and other shady practices. If you must visit Cat Ba, then you can avoid the tourist port entirely by crossing from Haiphong.

Internationally

From Nanning in China's Guangxi province, the Nanning International Tourist Distribution Center (有爱南路10号(中华路口); Yǒuàinánlù shí hào (zhōnghuá lùkǒu); #10 You'ai Nanlu on the corner of Zhonghua Lu) provides daily buses to Halong City (170元, 8 hours) at 07:30.

Get around

The islands can be accessed from various ports:

Ha Long Bay - Northeast Vietnam

Eat

Recipe

Go next

Head up to Hanoi, take the coast or a train towards China's Nanning or Yunnan or continue heading south down the coast from Haiphong.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, August 16, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.