Vietnam - Getting to know Halong Bay
Halong Bay looks like those cinematic images of coastal Asia that hover in the collective subconscious - traditional junks sailing past craggy shorelines, as apricot sunsets blaze into the ocean. You may blame these on the Bond films, but Halong Bay is the coastline that started it all. Here you can cruise the waters in a luxury junk (there are some you can have all to yourself - perfect for a honeymoon treat), explore the bays by kayak, and relax on tiny island beaches before dining in style aboard your boat.
One of the world’s ‘natural wonders’, and an absolute must-do on any first-time holiday in Vietnam, Halong Bay (also spelt Ha Long) is an area of more than 1,000 towering limestone karsts, winding tributaries and sub-tropical islands of various sizes. It’s slowly modernizing, but the Bay’s UNESCO status makes sure it stays well protected. The area plays host to a huge diversity of ecosystems, including offshore coral reefs, freshwater swamp forests, mangrove forests, small freshwater lakes, and sandy beaches.
What to do in Halong Bay
- Cruise the Bay on a traditional junk. Throughout much of the year (weather & season permitting!) overnight junk journeys give you the chance to sunbathe, swim and snorkel. You can be sure to stop at caves, deserted bays, remote islets and hidden lagoons. If you fancy taking things even easier, just stretch out on the sundeck, sip a cocktail and soak up the magic.
- Island hop. Folklore says that dragons descended from the heavens to help locals by spitting jewels and jade into the sea, forming a natural fortress against invaders - the islands that you see today. Several of these boast beautiful grottos and huge caves that you can explore during your tour of the bay.
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Caring for Halong's environment
Efforts are being made to minimise the environmental impact on the bay. While the number of junks has increased in recent years, and pollution levels in some areas are causing concern (particularly around the main ports), Halong Bay’s iconic status and irresistible beauty are unaltered.