A natural wonder of the world and one of Vietnams four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, magnificent Halong Bay lies 160km to the east of Hanoi. Over three thousand jagged limestone islands emerge from the emerald green waters of Halong Bay. While some islands are no more than large rocks others are much more substantial and contain huge cathedral-like caves of stalactites and stalagmites. Most of the islands are clothed in thick green vegetation and ring with the sound of bird song in the early morning. Secluded sandy coves are everywhere and in the summer months the warm waters of the bay are ideal for swimming.
The best way to appreciate the delights of Halong Bay is to cruise among the islands on a wooden junk. Fresh seafood can be bought from the local fishermen directly room their wooden rowing boats and cooked up for a delicious lunch. Halong s largest island, and one of the few that are inhabited, is Cat Ba which has some nice beaches and a national park on it.
Around 50km south of Halong Bay is Haiphong, Vietnam’s third largest city and northern Vietnam’s main port. Despite being a largely industrial city the centre of Haiphong has many classic French colonial buildings, wide tree-lined streets and some pleasant parks. Haiphong is a good overnight alternative for visitors to Halong Bay and boats can be taken from Haiphong s harbour.