Monday, 16 May 2011


Ha Long Bay, situated in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1600 islands and islets forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and relatively unaffected by human influence.  The bay is located 160 km away east of Hanoi and it takes about 3 – 3.5 hours to get there by car or minibus. 

Ha Long literally means “descending dragon” and according to local myth, long ago when their forefathers were fighting foreign invaders from the north, the gods from heaven sent a family of dragons to help defend their land. This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long Bay and began spitting out jewels and jade. Upon hitting the sea, these jewels turned into the various islands and islets dotting the seascape and formed a formidable fortress against the invaders. The locals were able to keep their land safe and formed what is now the country of Vietnam. The Dragon family fell so much in love with this area for its calm water and for the reverence of the people of Vietnam that they decided to remain on earth. This is a perfect day trip out from Hanoi.

On the way to Ha Long, one passes many small towns and villages around which are market gardens and many rice paddies.
Rice cultivation requires much back-breaking work, most of it done by women.
We stopped at an embroidery and craft workshop where many young people were working, once again, mainly women.
A sample of the women's handiwork.
The harbour at Ha Long, with numerous vessels that take the tourists on trips out on the bay.
Sailing out on the bay in a beautiful old wooden boat.
We had a tasty, traditional Vietnamese lunch on board the boat.
On the 28 April 1962 Ha Long Bay was established as a historical and cultural relic and national scenic spot under Decision No. 313/VH VP, issued by the Minister of Culture in Vietnam and is
on the Unesco World Heritage List.
The Junks, are built in Vietnam using local materials and the handiwork of skilled shipbuilders, craftsmen and artists. As in the days of old they are built entirely of wood.
 One of the floating villages in the bay. A community of around 1,600 people live on Hạ Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng in Hùng Thắng commune, Hạ Long city. They live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture.
Another beautiful junk negotiating its way between the rocky crags of the islets.
The floating villages are supported somewhat by tourist-oriented activities such as selling crafts and fruit or renting out kayaks.
A fruit vendor near one of the floating villages.
The scenery is truly spectacular!
Many of the islands are associated with local myths and legends and have been given specific names, e.g. "Kissing Rocks", "Turtle Island", "Cat Island", etc.
Many of the islands have limestone grottoes and we visited one of the most famous ones, Thien Cung. The sign says it all.
A causeway and several flights of steep stairs up the cliff lead to the entrance of the cave.
The grotto is enormous and has some spectacular formations in it.  Local legend has it, that beautiful young lady named Mây (cloud), caught the eye of the Dragon Prince and he fell in love with her. They were betrothed, and their wedding lasted seven days and seven nights in the very centre of the grotto. In honour of the wedding, small dragons flew about through the stalactites and stalagmites, elephants danced together happily, snakes twined themselves around trees and two stone lions danced with their manes flowing in the wind. A large elephant, smartly dressed, waited for the bride and the groom. The genies of the south and north stars also came to attend the banquet, and the atmosphere was definitely animated and lively. All these scenes have been turned to stone in the grotto. 
It is very hard to not take many many photographs in this grotto!
The enormous scale of this chamber is indicated by the tiny figures of the people in the lower centre of the picture.
Last one!
It's a popular place! Junks waiting to take the visitors back to Ha Long City.
We had to pass through 4-5 junks that were moored next to each other to get to our own!
We made a stop at a roadside café and trading centre. This beautiful tropical lily was growing in the garden. Does anybody know what it is called?
Fruit for sale, beginning for the apples and going anticlockwise: Peaches, sugar bananas, pomelos, large and small mangoes and in the centre, dragonfruit.
I rather like this slightly impressionistic shot taken from onboard the bus.


  1. Your post has the most interesting facts and amazing photos. Loved seeing the embroidery workshop and floating villages. Your Ha Long Bay and the Thien Cung Grotto photos are beautiful.

  2. What a wonderful place! Definitely worth the distinction of being included in the UNESCO world sites of significance. it sounds as though you had an excellent time there!

  3. Hi everyone, Blogger has lost some comments during its recent re-fit...

  4. I love to read such a review like this. I feel prouder of Vietnam. Hope you continue your journey to discover beautiful sites of Vietnam.