Holiday Information for Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay is located in Vietnam and consists of a 930 square mile (1500km) body of water containing around 3000 tiny islands. Rich in wildlife, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty and has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO.
TYPES OF HOLIDAYS
Travel times to from the UK to Vietnam do vary. Most flights are not direct and will require a stopover, so can take up to 14 hours â" however, more and more direct flights are beginning to operate, with flight time cut down to 12 hours.
Either way this is a fairly long trip, so to allow for acclimatisation and jet lag, most people opt to stay for at least two weeks. Vietnam is also a good base for exploring the rest of eastern Asia as part of a longer trip.
BEST TIME TO GO
The winter months are the dry season when temperatures are slightly milder. Temperatures do remain high all year round, but the most popular time of year to visit is the dry season.
SIGHTS TO SEE
Ha Long Bay is an area of outstanding natural beauty and there are plenty of ways to explore the bay.
You can take a boat tour with an English speaking guide through the bay and learn more about the history and wildlife of the area.
Many of the islands are hollow and have extensive cave networks.
The ¢u Gá" cave has several translated names including âwooden stakes,â âdriftwoodâ and âend of wooden barsâ. It is believed that during the 13th century, sharp wooden stakes were stored here before being planted in the water of the Bach Dang River to sink an invading Mongolian fleet of ships.
The Sá"ng S´t or âsurprise caveâ has three huge chambers, one of which contains a âpenis rockâ, believed to be a symbol of fertility!
And the Thiªn Cung, or Heavenly Palace Grotto, is the legendary sight of the wedding between a dragon prince and a beautiful young mortal named May, with scenes of the festivities depicted in the stone.
Nature lovers can visit Cat Ba Island, which is the sight of a large national park. Here you can find mangrove and sea grass beds, coral reefs, karsts, limestone forests and many other types of plant life.
You should also check out the Hospital Cave, about 10km north of Cat Ba City.
This bomb proof, three storey structure was built into the rock in the early 1960s with assistance from the Chinese. It contains many rooms, including an operating theatre and a cinema, and was used right up until 1975. English speaking guides are available to show you around this fascinating structure.
Sporty holiday makers will also be in their element in Ha Long Bay.
The abundant marine life in the bay means that scuba diving is extremely popular. There are a number of ways to go about this, with diving schools providing short dives for beginners, and some companies offering diving tours of two or three days for more advanced divers.
Kayaking and rock climbing are also available throughout the bay.
There are several idyllic beaches located around the bay if you fancy taking a break from sightseeing.
Bai Chay Beach is closest to Ha Long City and is 100m wide and 500m long. The beach can become very busy, but there are many amenities nearby such as restaurants and showers, with many water sports also being available.
About 8km away from Bai Chay is Tuan Chau, which is another artificial beach that stretches for over 3km. This is a great spot to relax after indulging in some sports activities, such as rock climbing, that are available nearby.
Ti Top Beach is 14km east of Bai Chay and is a rather more secluded, crescent shaped beach. You can head here to soak up the sun and paddle in the clear, shallow waters while being overlooked by the beautiful landscape.
And if you are visiting Cat Ba Island then you will find two small beaches close to Cat Ba Town â" Cat Co and Cat Vang, both of which are in the shadow of towering cliffs and offer a perfect way to relax after seeing the rest of the island.
The best place for nightlife is Ha Long City itself, on the mainland. Here you will find a huge array of pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants. Some resorts, such as the Saigon Halong Hotel, actually have nightclubs on-site.
If you are staying in the bay itself, it is most likely you will enjoy the entertainment provided on the boat you are staying. Many people are content to relax in the peaceful atmosphere of the bay with some drinks at the bar and perhaps some live music.
Many people include a visit to Ha Long as part of a larger exploration of Vietnam, and so many people visit the bay via tour operators whilst staying in nearby Haiphong City or Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital. The packages they provide will usually last a few days and include sightseeing trips, accommodation and meals.
The Novotel Ha Long Bay is a popular place to stay for a base on the mainland while exploring the bay.
The most popular way to stay in Ha Long Bay is on a âjunkâ â" which is a form of Japanese fishing vessel. These boats sail around the bay and have cabins as well as restaurant and bar facilities. A junk comes highly recommended as some can be found for a very good price and there is simply nothing more magical than waking up surrounded by the mists of the beautiful bay.
Prices and packages differ between companies so do your research to make sure you find the right deal for you. Check out Bai Tu Long, Annam, Emotion, Emeraude, Huong Hai and Dragonâs Pearl junk cruise companies and see what takes you fancy.
You can also stay on Cat Ba Island. The Sun and Sea Hotel, in the centre of Cat Ba Town is a popular choice with clean and comfortable rooms.
And the Sunflower Hotel is right next to Cat Co Beach and offers budget accommodation with a restaurant serving both Vietnamese and European food.
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