According to local legend, long ago the gods sent a family of dragons to help defend Vietnamese land from Chinese invaders. The dragons spat out jewels and jade which transformed into the islands and islets dotted around the bay. These islands then linked together to form a great wall that kept out the invaders.
Still part of North Vietnam today, the 1,500 square kilometres of water and 120 kilometres of coastline are home to an array of natural life and a cluster of 3,000 limestone monolithic islands topped with dense vegetation. The area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.
Cat Ba Island
The largest of the Halong Bay islands, Cat Ba has the spectacular landscapes of limestone and coral terraces, sandy beaches, freshwater wetland areas, tidal flats and mangrove forests. Cat Ba National Park was established in 1986 in order to protect the island's many marine and land-based ecosystems. Bantams, antelopes, monkeys and iguanas reside here as well as a few fishermen and their families.
Dau Go and Sung Sot Caves
These hollow islands both consist of three vast chambers, lined with stalactites and stalagmites and centuries-old grafitti. Visitors to Sung Sot will be stunned by its big pink fertility symbol. Most of Halong Bay's caves are uninhabited and only accessible by charter boat. For travellers looking for a more undiscovered experience, beautiful Bai Tu Long Bay is much less developed.
Vietnam's enchanting capital city was once hostile to travellers but now welcomes guests to its shaded boulevards lined with French-colonial architecture, lush public parks and tranquil lakes. The Old Quarter brims with temples, monuments and pieces of historic Vietnam while Hanoi's bright young things sip coffee and chat on mobile phones like the rest of us in the modern world.Top