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Ha Long Bay


Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a group of offshore islands that is the best example of marine invaded tower karst in the world.

The Bay holds over 1.600 islands and islets. There are caves and grottoes, with stalactites and stalagmites. Its limestone pillars are an unique natural feature of great scenic beauty and biological interest. The great extent and the richness of its forms sets it apart from other sites.

The site was first inscribed in 1994, and extended in 2000 to include natural criterion (I).

Visit March 2011

Between 8 and 9 in the morning, you'll see dozens of minibuses plying the streets of Hanoi. They are picking up their passengers for a tour to the famous Ha Long Bay. You'll see the same minibuses over and over again when driving the 3.5 - 4 hours to Ha Long, and the same tourists will be on your boat or the one next to it. Ha Long Bay is an extremely popular destination both for foreigners and Vietnamese: already in the early 1990s it saw over 1 million visitors a year. It is unlikely that that number has decreased over the years - so there will always be about 3,000 other people in the Bay at the same time as you!


I visited just a week after the fatal accident that killed 12 people here on an overnight boat. Traffic seemed to have resumed as normal. Overnight stays are also possible again, some of my group went on to stay for 1 or 2 nights on the boat. I opted for a daytrip only: not because of the accident, but also since I usually get bored pretty quickly looking at "natural beauty". And I had heard bad reports about life on board of the ships: I knew that I had made the right decision when I overheard the guide speak to the others about the evening programme that would constitute of "drinking and karaoke".


The natural beauty of the Bay lay hidden today under a very common fog. As I had already seen the similar karst landscape at Yangshuo/Guilin in China a couple of years before, I cannot really say that I was blown away by it. We went onto one of the islands to visit the Surprising Cave - an indeed suprisingly big and beautiful cave with three hollow chambers. We saw some monkeys here too, just outside the cave exit.

Part of the tour also was half an hour of kayaking - enough to paddle a full circle around the main area. The views from the kayak I found much more impressive than from the larger boat: you're so tiny then and the peaks rise sharply in front of you. I had a better look at the water too, and cannot say that I saw pollution by plastic or other junk floating around (contradictionairy to most of the reviewers below). There is a thin layer of oil on the water in some parts though.


And then it's time to get back in the bus to Hanoi, another 3.5 hours. It has been somewhat of an obligatory trip, to tick off the WHS. However, the tour was carried out well (good seafood for lunch) and I had a satisfying day.

Click here to see more of my photos of Ha Long Bay

Reviews

carole (usa):
I have to agree with the people who complained about the pollution of this most stunningly beautiful area. Also we got the feeling that there was not much life there. We saw people fishing but saw no fish in the water ourselves in the two days we were on the boat. We never saw a bird either during that time. We wondered why it was so devoid of life? Bit off putting really.
Date posted: April 2014
Deborah Graban (United States):
I visited Ha Long Bay as a side trip to a bicycle tour of Vietnam. We stayed overnight on the bay and took a kayak tour the next morning. The boat itself was first class and the service and meals on the boat were excellent.

Unfortunately, it's my opinion that this should be taken off of the list of World Heritage sites. Why in one word: POLLUTION. Not only is the air so thick with pollution that it's difficult to see the beautiful limestone outcrops jetting out of the bay, the water stinks to the point where I was concerned about it splashing on me when we kayaked. It seems to me that the 100's of boats in the bay may be dumping raw sewage into it. What a terrible shame and truly an environmental disaster. The Vietnamese government is spending a bundle of money widening the roads and building a new port area so people will visit. Unless they also turn their efforts into cleaning the area up, they might as well leave the roads alone. Furthermore, from what I could see, it will take 15-20 years to clean this site up. Too bad-- the decimation of this site is impossible for me to understand.
Date posted: November 2013
Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
Being in Hanoi in the year 1997, a joined an excursion to Ha Long Bay for only 20 US Dollars, including the bus journey to Haiphong, sailing boat to one of the 1600 islets, plus accommodation in a hut and al the meals! It was a bargain.
Early in the morning a bus was picking up travelers in the hostels of Hanoi. When we were about thirty we left to Haiphong.
Among my companions there were Australians, from USA, Italians, French, Germans, and from other European countries. I was the only Spaniard, so I have to use a foreign language to communicate with my travel companions.
The atmosphere between us was polite and exchanged a lot of travel information about Far East countries. I made friendship with two French, with whom I would travel by train to China after the excursion to Ha Long Bay.
The sailing boat made several stops before reaching our island. In that time we used to swim. The landscape around us incredibly beautiful, we felt in paradise. We saw pagodas on some islets, caves, small villages and many fishermen in their boats.
The afternoon of the next day those who have paid for two days and one night excursion returned to Haiphong and Hanoi. Some stayed one more day in the islet.
Date posted: October 2013
Stephen Brooker ():
We did Ha Long Bay as a one night cruise.

The shear natural beauty of the place is bordering on indescribable, and when coupled with a comfortable junk and excellent seafood, this beomes one of the worlds most romantic places. Loved it znd would go back in an instant.
Date posted: September 2012
Clyde (Malta):
I visited this WHS in February 2011. There are around 1600 limestone karsts that form this incredible seascape. Best seen on board a junk boat for a number of days to take in the breathtaking views especially at sunset and sunrise.
Date posted: September 2012
Susan (Australia):
I have just returned from Vietnam (August/Sept 2010) and of course did the obligatory Halong Bay 3 day 2 night boat trip. The scenery is absolutely beautiful but I was so distressed by the pollution levels (air and water) that I am not recommending to any intending travellers.

The water in the bay we kayaked to for swimming was extremely polluted (althought the small beached area was relatively clean. After swimming, my skin stung for the rest of the day. Maybe the sea is extremely salty...or maybe the little mounds of oily foam floating all over the water are a testament to who knows what chemicals being dumped into the bay.

The sky was so hazy that there were no stars to be seen at night and the islands were invisible until you were almost on top of them.

The depth of the physical pollutants in the ocean was a real shock. For as far down as I could see (bear in the mind the water is pretty clear) there were plastic bags. Add to this the plastic water bottles, fishing flotsam and jetsam (including nets and floats), bits of broken up foam, all manner of food packaging etc etc and you get the picture of where this World Heritage Site is heading.

I asked one of the crew on my day boat about it and he said it mainly comes from the fishing villages (where he lived incidentally). When I asked if anyone came to clean it up he just looked at me bewildered. Obviously the idea of cleaning it up is completely foreign.

On reading the other reviews on here, it seems the problem has compounded in a few short years. How much longer are the authorities going to wait before this site is completely destroyed??
Date posted: September 2010
Claire (Australia):
Just spent 2 nights/3 days on a junk in Halong Bay (April 2010), like some of your other reviews I to was shocked by the amount of pollution in this World Heritage area. The haze was described by the operators as mist and apparently is at its worst at this time of the year April/May. I would describe the 'mist' as smog and if the air quality in this area is as bad as the water quality in this beautiful area I would say this was a fair description. One of the days we visited a beach for a swim. The beach was so polluted by plastic bags, bottles, plastic bags filled with garbage and other flotsam and jetsam, there was no way that I would let my children swim in such polluted water. I found it amazing that the tour operator took us to this beach when it was in such a dirty state. My husband and I found it ironic that the operator didnt employ some locals to keep the beach clean - this could've been done at a minimal cost. Halong Bay needs to be cleaned up - on my return home I told people how beautiful the area is, but I also tell them about the pollution. Eventually tourists will be turned off and the main losers will be the tour operators and the locals who live in the floating fishing villages.
Date posted: April 2010
huongnguyen (Vietnam):
Out of my expectation!

This was the first time I stay overnight on boat. It gave me a strange feelings, romantic and authentic...
Date posted: March 2009
Lopez Mr (USA):
There is a best way to enjoy your cruising in halong bay that is renting a charter and sailing down to cua van (near cat ba island) and this is a place really great for swimming and stay overnight, of course only oneway that you have to rent a boat charter to make this special cruise trip,

My family of 4people from LA had stayed for 3days and was guided by the Vietnampathfinder Travel (www.vietnampathfinder.com) that office base in the florida ( their head office in hanoi) and i would say their quality is really outstanding,

I also have collected some information on Cua dai fishing village to share with you:
Cua Van Fishing Village

"Va Gia "– Cua Van is situated at Hung Thang Commune, Halong City, 20km away from the tourist boat wharf, the fishing village lies in a calm bay surrounded by mountain.
Characteristics: Cua Van Village has a population of 733 in 176 households. They mainly earn their livelihood by fishing.

This makes it ideal for anchoring boats here. Their floating houses look spacious and clean. The well-off families even have tiled roof houses with radios, television sets, tables and chairs, etc.

The village boasts a training establishment for their children. Over an area of 150m2 lies four classrooms and one small room for teachers. They are the first floating classrooms in Hạ Long. At present, Cua Van has 7 classes, mainly in grade 1 and grade 2. The youngest pupil is 8, while the oldest one is 17.

It is interesting to see the rambunctious children going to “school”. Their bustling calling and their flopping rowing liven up the atmosphere of the quite bay. Looking at the small boats driven by tiny oars going to school, and the radiant faces of the children, one feels confident in a bright future for the fishing village.

Thank you mr Tony Pham for makiing the best trip for us!
Date posted: October 2008
Elisabeth Fransisca Situmorang (Indonesia):
It's a stunningly beautiful site. As I always love water, it gives the best out of the site. The changing of shade of colours from the sky as opposed to the bay... the rocks of different size and forms... the misty fog as I went along a 4 hours sail from the port to one of the islands, and not a second was wasted..

I call the place, where some peace of mind can still be found...
Date posted: August 2008
phamdinhnguyen (USA):
The first time we visited Ha Long Bay was in February of 1999. We took a motorized, wooden boat from Hon Gai City all the way south to Cat Ba Island. The nearly 4-hour cruise afforded us visits to well-known caves and beaches that were prepared for commercial tourism. We were absolutely impressed by Ha Long Bay's unique and natural composition of over a thousand islands and islets. Though we encountered some floating merchants, we didn't observe any pollution from tour operators, merchants, or tourists.

Recently in late December 2007, we had another opportunity to revisit Ha Long Bay. This time we decided to take just a one day excursion. The bus ride from Ha Noi to Hon Gai City was on better conditioned highways. However, the experience wasn't any better, due to an excessive number of automobiles, scooters, and just bad traffic in general. What I observed were too many tour operators, too many motored boats of all sizes, and especially too many tourists crunched into such a small welcoming area. Speaking of "welcoming," that was the feeling I least had when the bus dropped us off to board our boat. The feeling of pristine and wonder of nature was nowhere to be found until 5 minutes into the Ha Long Bay water. I was disappointed with the chaotic, unorganized, and unprofessional way of guiding visitors by the Ha Long Bay tour operators.

All in all, it wasn't the same good and memorable experience as it was 8 years ago :-(
Date posted: July 2008
Philip T.K. (Canada):
I visited Ha Long Bay on a day trip from Hanoi in July 2004. It was very cloudy on the day I visited but the resulting mist made the islands in the distance very enchanting and I was able to take quite a few good shots from the boat I was on. Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam's premier destinations and as a son of Vietnamese immigrants, I am very proud of this world heritage site.
Date posted: June 2006
Phlip Thomas (Newzealand):
We did a trip 2 week ago, this is one of the most beautiful on earch, our private overnight boat trip was fantastic with sunset and sunrise, caves visit, long cruise showed us some of hundreds very spectarcular islands and islets juting up from clear water. We recomended for whole travellers comming to Vietnam.

We booked this trip through internet and we went with: http://www.explorer.com.vn

Following is website of Ha Long Bay, which provides beautiful pictures and photo gallery of Halong.

Cheer

Philip Thomas
Date posted: May 2006
Daniel (United States):
We were in Vietnam in December, 2005. We did an overnight junk trip on Ha Long Bay and were thoroughly enchanted. Stunning scenery, and really quite a special place especially cruising through in the morning mist. We did not see any of the pollution that others have written about. We really felt like we were far from land-based civilization while we were out on the water.
Date posted: April 2006
Deborah (USA):
I have just returned from a trip to Vietnam which included 2 days on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat in Halong Bay. The site itself is breath-taking, but unfortunately, there is little respect for nature shown by those operating the tour boats. I repeatedly saw boat operators throw their garbage overboard into the waters. These are the people who survive on tourism and ought to care more about protecting the very site which is bring the tourists to them in bus-loads. It was sad to see this and I hope the government forces people to clean up their act.
 
Denys nguyen (Australia):
To whom it may concern

I was real disappointed when I received this email from friend of mine. This is a part of her email she send me.
"We had an overnight trip to Halong Bay - with a half day boat cruise - the bay was beautiful but the terrible pollution was quite a shock - the boats just throw all their rubbish overboard resulting in us swimming among plastic bags etc. Also saw buckets floating around, cans, bags of rotting" food etc.

I know this issue had come up before and you tried to stop this pollution of bay by tell the government to clear up there act (literally). If they don't you would withdraw your found from your organisation. I think you have to raise this concern again and try a different direction or something. I don't know, but you as an organisation found can't let this continue.

After reading my friend's email, I had a second thought about visiting Halong Bay on my next holiday trip.

Thank you for your time to reading my concern and please let me know on how your progress going.

concern traveller
Denys
 


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Site info


Ha Long Bay
Country: Vietnam
Inscribed: 1994
Natural Heritage
Criteria:  (7) (8)
Category: Geological formation, Karst / caves

Site history:
2000Criteria
Additional criterium added (Natural i), no boundary change
1994 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription
1993Deferred
Bureau - Agreed not cultural but natural values are OK - however boundaries etc need redefining to exclude induct areas. Also better Management plan

Site links


Official website:
»Ha Long Bay (in Vietnamese)

In the news:
» Vietnam province retains row boat tours in Ha Long Bay (07-11-2014).
» Public worried about concert's potential harm to Ha Long Bay cave (16-10-2014).
» Cruise passengers protest at skipping Ha Long Bay visit (16-02-2014).
» Hawkers banned in Ha Long Bay (27-09-2012).
» Vietnam tourist boat sinking kills 12 in Halong Bay (10-03-2011).
» Ha Long Bay campaign targets Chinese tourists (21-11-2007).
» No more jet-skis on Ha Long Bay: The People's Committee of Quang Ninh Province has decided to stop the operation of jet-ski services in Ha Long Bay in a move to protect the world famous tourist site from possible environmental pollution. (18-08-2007).
» Vietnam to build marine park in World Heritage bay (19-11-2006).

Related links:
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Getting there


This WHS has 1 location(s).



Connections


Constructions
Hospitals .
Ecology
Coral . Dripstone . Mangroves . Natural Arches and Bridges . Orchids . Significant Karst Features .
Geography
Archipelagos . South China Sea .
History
Shell Mounds (Middens) .
Human Activity
Historical Graffiti . Secret Locations .
Religion and Belief
Legends and Folk Myths .
Timeline
Holocene .
Trivia
Dragon . Fatal Accidents or "disasters" . On Banknotes . One million visitors or more .
WHS on Other Lists
ASEAN Heritage Parks . Biodiversity hotspot . New 7 Wonders of Nature . World Monuments Watch (past) .
World Heritage Process
"Extended" Sites .



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