Ha Long Bay, a labyrinth with a mysterious charm, UNESCO World Heritage and a must destination to be included in any travel experience through Vietnam.
The bay goes from the north-eastern coast to the Gulf of Tonkin. There are about 3000 little calcareous islands which have several karst caves. In Vietnamese language, Ha Long means “where the dragon comes to the sea” and whoever saw this bay will easily understand the reference, since the islands look like many hunchbacks of a dragon facing the water.
It is not hard to reach and visit this place, but you will have to join some sort of guided tour… unless you plan to get here with your own boat! There are several companies offering many different solutions. I ended up choosing a complete tour of the bay in two days with one night spent on the boat.
I started from Ha Long harbour. I sailed in emerald green water among these spectacular rock formations. Every boat could take up to ten passengers beside the crew (four or five people including a guide). During the sailing you stopped a few times to visit the caves and enjoy the stunning view over the gulf. Moreover, we visited several floating villages typical of this bay.
The local population numbers about 1600 people spread over several villages. The live on fishing and their homes are proper floating houses. According to the season, they move in order to achieve a plentiful fishing. To go to school the kids have to cover long distances by boat every day.
Among the many activities don’t miss the kayak trip, a fantastic tour into the wild and beautiful nature. And don’t worry about the floating houses: the rooms are really comfortable and the food is excellent. Nonetheless, I have to point out that these organized tours, while comfortable and enjoyable – also come with all negative effects of mass tourism. Often to boat crew doesn’t show any regard for the environment and during nighttime discards all trash into the water. With tens of boats sailing every day, the issue is a really relevant one, even for the local population who as said relies only on fishing.