Halong BAY, NATURAL WONDER OF Vietnam

Ha long bay attains world heritage status.

On 14 December 1994, at 17.00 hours, at the famous Le Meridien hotel in the southern city Phuket, Thailand, the World Heritage Committee unanimously decided recognize Ha Long Bay as an area of world heritage value.

The fact was warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese people and by all countries as good news. So , from now on, the list of world heritage includes a natural heritage of Vietnam, further enriching the treasure of mankind’s heritage.

HALONG BAY’ LEGEND

Where and when does the name Ha Long originates from? The following related by the local people:

“In the olden day when the Viet people began to discover their country, foreign aggressors came. The Emperor of Jade sent Mother Dragon and a heard of Children Dragons to help the Viet fight the invaders. While enemy vessels, were launching massive attacks against the mainland, dragons descended in flocks from the sky.

They spited out a considerable amount of pearls. These precious stones changed immediately into jade stone islands. Here they were linked together to form a citadel, there they spread out into a battlefield to check the enemy advance and create favorable for the Viet to gain victory.

After the aggressors were driven out, Mother Dragon and Children Dragons did not return to the Heaven’s Court and remained on earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The spot where Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long and Children Dragon came down was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails wriggled violently was named Long Vi, I .e the present Tra Co peninsula with its beach spreading over dozens of kilometers of smooth sand”

GEOLOGICAL VALUE

Most of Ha Long islands are limestone islands concentrated in Hong Gai bay and schist islands grouped in Cam Pha Bay . Today the land islands like Tuan Chau, Ngoc Vugn, Quan Lan Reu Thua Cong are inhabited by people and animals as a result of transformation of schist islands.

Ha Long terrain comprises islands, mountain alternated with sea depressions which are salted flat expanses of mangroves, and abrupt limestone islands; this is a quite contradictory relief. The terrain is the most ancient of one of the territory of North Vietnam.

Prior to and in the primeval times, was a part of the immense region of mountain ranges alternating with sea depression like the present island area of south east Asia. This terrain was the result of great undulations such as the Caledonian (300 million years ago) Hersinian (250 million years ago) folds. These undulations also shaped sediments of different categories of stones from the lime.

Stone lying deep in the water (in the carbon age) to quartzite along the seashore. In the same period of these undulations, a layer of organic limestone of thousand meters took shapes: it was origin of the limestone ranges of Bac Son, Dong Van, Sa Phin Sa Chay and thousands of stone islands in Ha Long Bay.

Tanks to the motion of into being with 1.600 islands of various forms.
After the Hersinian fold , the terrain of North Vietnam bore a changing and contradictory character, that is to say stone islands alternated with sea depressions.

175 millions years ago, Indosinad orogery much more powerful than two previous folds turned sea depression into the mainland, creating South east Asian land in general and North Vietnam in particular.

However, there were as which had not influenced by the Indosiniade orogery and still maintained its relief unchanged after the Hersinian fold, i.e. Mountain islands alternated with sea depressions in which there were lime clay sediments and salted sediments, ha Long terrain is just one of these areas.

Others sedimentary deposits were buried along with vegetation belonging to fern species and were turned into present northeast coal mine.

So Ha Long terrain comprises bow like islands mountain alternated with profound sea depressions shaped after the Hercinian fold 250 millions years ago. Though since then the earth’s crust has experienced successive undulations, Ha Long terrain has not fundamentally changed.

Its why tourists visiting Ha Long do not only come to see a wonder created by the earth under sky but also a very valuable geological museum kept in the open air for 250 million years, a museum on the primitive face of the territory of Vietnam.

Grottos at different levels on stone islands of Ha Long Bay are not only palaces of Nature but also testify to the seawater encroachment in different ages. At Bo nau and Trinh Nu grottos entrances, one still finds the encroached water level 4-6 meters higher than the present one.

That is the consequence of Ris and Wur glaciers raising the sea water level: It is called the late Pliocene marine transgression, 30.000-40.000 years ago. Then the last glaciers lowered the sea and ocean water, and the sea retreated from the Bac Bo Gulf. The traces of ancient rivers have still remained at the bottom of Ha Long Bay. They are formed in this area.

18.000 years ago, the last glacier raised the ocean water level called the Flandirian marine transgression, drowning the plain of Ha long Bay into the sea. And returning to the relief of mountain islands alternated with sea depressions. After the marine transgression reached the maximum level about 3.000 years ago, the sea gradually retreated and the present table level has been maintained.

So the transformations of the earth’s crust over 250 million years as from the Hercinian orogeny have left traces at different levels on Ha Long Bay, in which the present relief of the Bay mountain islands alternated with profound sea depression is the most ancient remaining terrain of North Vietnam.

BIOLOGICAL VALUE

The distinguishing features of Ha long lie only in its interesting and charming landscape, not only the fact that it preserves vestiges of changes of the earth’s crust, but also in that it has a rich, rare precious fauna and flora. And it may be considered a zoo, a zoological and botanical garden.

As regards Ha Long ‘s fauna , mention should be made of the riches of shrimp and fish species.
According to initial estimates by the Quang Ninh sea Product Services, Ha Long has 1.000 fish species , of which 730 have been identified . Ha Long fish comprise mostly fo those living near the bottoms of the sea and those close to the surface. Ha long has delicious fish species such as stromatcus, mackerel, tunny-fish.

Among fish species such as herring, gizzard-shad, lizard-shad, lizard-fish long -jawed anchovy etc. Usually caught in hauls fish netted in the bay herring gizzard-shad, lizard fish account for 54% of 3.000-4.000 tons. Ziggard- shads live near islands, when laying eggs they emigrate to estuaries. At Quan lan island, people catch 2 tons of gizzard-shads in one haul. Catching time lasts from October to April of next year.

Ha long is an environment appropriate for most tropical fish. Ha long has a relatively mild climate. The temperature does not change much from one season to another: in the cold season, the average is 16-17 degree C . Salt concentration of Ha long bay is quite high compared with other Vietnamese seawaters, from 23-34,5%. The tide amplitude is large, but the bay has no waves and is calm most of the year. The formation of stone island forests in the bay turns Ha long into a gigantic pond, which suits the living conditions of many fish species. On the other hand ephemera pouring from estuaries into the bay constitutes abundant feed for fish. The above favorable conditions helps fish in Ha Long to have a stable life the whole year.

They don’t need to emigrate like fish of other areas.The special features of Ha long also bring a bout particular distribution of fish species here. In other seawaters, large fish, wild fish live offshore, in the deep sea, which is favorable for them to seek shelter and feed. At ha Long , the seashore is sloppy and the bottom is deep. The forest of islands spreads out shape creating dark blue tones on the water surface. The deep bay is covered by shades and has caves, so large fish a wild fish can live near the shore, hidden amongst the shelter of island forests.

Ha long has many squid species calamary, cuttlefish. When boiled they are sweet and nutritious. The squid species having the highest output and nutritional value is cuttlefish.
Fish, shrimp, squid and crab are reputed sea products of Ha Long and other areas of Vietnam . But Ha Long has some special sea areas don’t have.

Pearl oysters are on eof these special sea products. From ancient times, Ha Long sea was reputed as having many pearl oysters. Among Ha long’ special sea products is Sa Sung, less known to tourists but of high economic and nutritional value.

Ha long has 2 corla species: a branch and a fan species. Branch species are slender like tuberose or dense like a bush wood losing its leaves in winter. Fan species re fan – shaped or curved like a lotus petal, a lid or a dish.

Many other sea products exist plentifully in Ha long waters that other sea areas don’t have such as sea-slug, stockiest formerly only available to be presented to kings, area granosa famous on the Indochina market for a time. On fine days, on market day along side Ha long’s shore, we can see fresh shrimp, fish, crab and snail species displayed everywhere for sale in the market and this illustrates the richness and generosity of Nature in Ha Long.

If Ha Long sea has a lively life in the four seasons, with shrimp and fish species, forests of islands are, day and night , bustling with wild beasts and mountain birds.

Ha Long’s islands are abundant in wild beasts such as the white-headed monkey, antelope, iguana, fox, rabbit, flying squirrel, wild boar spotted deer, monkey barking deer, and mouse- bodied bat.
Ha Long has many bird species in its tropical forests: leaf bird, dove, pleasant, picus, halcyon, black-collared starling and little egret. But what is attractive for people who are fond of birds are parrots that can reproduce the human voice. In the mornings when the sun begins to rise up along the edge of island forests, the twitter of parrots lessens the deserted atmosphere of remoter seawaters. Formally the French liked very much Ha Long ‘s red billed and green-tailed parrots and used to sell them to the owners of birth gardens in Paris.

The vegetation cover of Ha Long’ s islands is quite diversified, including primitive and artificial forests, with precious woods, and flower specious.

bai-tu-long-bay1
NATURAL LANDSCAPE

Ha Long is wonderful artistic work of the Nature: It is a sophisticated coordination of sculpture and painting, of strength, grace and picturequeness. Ha Long is not a static piece of art work but incessantly changes in its appearance is also changed when looked at from different angles, creating unusual sceneries, making visitors fell surprised and embraced.

Ha Long is the only sea in area in Vietnam where, on a not very large surface, stand thousands of islands with a variety strange forms. These mountain islands gather together in two large sea groups, one, is the south and southwest of the Bay and the other in the east? Between these two mountain islands groups, is a fan shaped profound sea depression without any island in between wants to give visitors a comprehensive panoramic view of the wonderful landscape.

If the sea areas of mountain islands were viewed form a plane the surface of the bay would look like an emerald green mirror twinkling with multiform blue gems. Islands in Ha Long Bay are not monotonous and dreary but constitutes lively word with the appearance of mysterious living beings. Almost every island has a familiar shape which makes us think of the living world. This form looks like a fisherman, fog’s head. Others have the appearance of a pair fighting cocks , of a toad, a cat a galloping horse on the water surface etc. It seems all of them have inner feeling full of mystery and idyllic dreams.

When sailing in Ha Long Bay with thousands of big and small stone islands of being in a word creatures that were petrified millions of years ago. Look at the foot of Stone Island close to the water surface. Here the sea has perseveringly carved delicate and strange figures with many strata and layers sewing as ornament similar to that on stone columns of temples.

Some islands have their foot eroded so deeply that it appears to bee fragile to support such as heavy mass of the huge island body, which becomes so grotesquely unproportionate.

The wonderful carving of Nature has turned Ha Long islands into real works of sculpture. And natural relief pictures which constitute a unique, lively architectural ensemble in the shape of a pyramid, a parallelepiped or a cone, standing imposingly in middle of the sea depression like a grandiose symbol of the past. Some islands have the form of enormous cubes, black and smooth as if they were made of well planned iron wood; others are curved the shape of an elephant tusk which has been made sharper and more pointed by the wind as it soars further in to the sky. Others are formed by separate stone blocks piled up one upon another into a pyramid or lined into a row of several peaks bay looking of an unfinished work of sculpture or the ruins of a collapsed ancient palace.

To go sailing in Ha long is perhaps the most peasant way of visiting the bay; one could silently slowly admire different corners of the mysterious clusters of islands.

From Bai Chai, the boat will take us rapidly across the Bay of Hong Gai to the southern and southwestern island area. In the distance, the islands appear to be a solid citadel wall separating the high seas from the waters near the coast and making the horizon line. When the boat comes nearer, the citadels wall suddenly breaks up and a multitude of sea lanes open to our eyes winding and passing through the citadel wall. The boat glides on the dark blue water in the shades of steep faced mountain. Sometime when we go sailing, a line of island suddenly stands in front of us baring the lands, we thought that we are driven to an impasse. But when our boat reaches the islands, they seem to make room for us to pass by and open unexpected ways leading us to a forest of others islands which are both familiar and alien.

A great number of tourists are surprised at and feel a passion for the scenery of Ha Long bay now appearing, now disappearing, with so quick changes in a moment
In spring when the vegetation cover around Ha Long begins to produce blooms and buds, the Bay becomes a mysterious world of nature.

Early in spring in Ha Long, island flicker on the vast silvery screen of mist, in which dark blue mountain tops bob now appear, now disappear. The coarse, strong, rugged stone mountain become suddenly soft and flexible as if they were painted with a quill. When the sun rises high in the sky fog in the surface of the bay gradually melt away, only left a thin membrane moving on the islands. The later look like gray haired fairies sitting meditatively on the bluish green surface ion the bay, reflecting in the bottom of the bay , making an impression that stone islands have roots.

Summer in Ha Long is the season of southeast wind. The endless wind blowing from the ocean across ranges of mountain islands brings the mainland the freshness of high seas. In summer, if one stays in Bai Chai tourist resort on will make the most of the very fresh wind blows unceasingly from the sea. Tourist of all corners flock into Ha Long, take a rest in Bai Chay or Tra Co Peninsula to benefit from wind and take a sea bath. After one night of struggle with the high seas, fishing boats make their ways through the southern forest of islands and gather on the wharves. They’re white, brown, red sails fully as a gigantesque bouquet of fragrant flowers of the sea. Sunrise on Ha Long Bay is really a wonderful view. All tourists who come to Ha long for the first time earnestly wish to see with their own eyes this memorable moment in Ha Long.

In summer in Ha Long Bay, the sun shines over the water surface rippled with silvery gentle waves. Stone mountain lines up showing their bare ruffed breast. Here and there, tuffs of orchids grow on cliffs; their yellow, white, violet soft blossoms emit sweet fragrance in the healthy atmosphere of the sea.

In the evening, when stone islands turn from blue to dark violet, there remains only the blazing red coal globe which gradually moves to the west, then disappears behind the row of islands, casting golden glows on the skyline. That is the moment when Bai Chay beach has a bustling life.

Summer in Ha Long is a season of tourism and swimming. On land road and waterway, tourist flock into Ha Long with an earnest desire to admire a natural wonder. Along the one kilometer windy and sunny beach of Bai Chay, tourists in their swimming costume take either sea bath or sunbathe with such animation as a festival. On Ha Long wharves, airy and stand ready to bring tourists to the mysterious word.

In mid summer when the oceanic wind suddenly stops blowing and the hot, a coming shower or a typhoon originating from the Pacific Ocean. In ha long, showers usually drop at noon or a short moment after noon; black clouds suddenly cover the clear blue sky, then come thunder in successive peals and repeated lightning. Strong wind begins to blow. In some violent storm, columns of water rise up suddenly from the surface of the bay fire horse. And Ha long has its typical beauty in a storm.

In a moon of autumn, sitting on Ha Long shore, we will find that Ha long is dashingly beautiful and mysterious. The quite surface of the bay looks likes a mirror reflecting the silvery moonlight gleamy like mercury. At moonrise or at moonset, the islands appear in half lighted, half dark scenery, only the wind blow and sea breaths are heard. Islands, which are so familiar in day time, become alien and mysterious at night.

Ha Long aesthetic value does not only lie in the shape of mountains, colors of the sky but is also hidden in grottoes. The most beautiful cave of Ha long Bay, in my opinion, is Thien Cung grottoes. (Heaven Cave)

In 1994, the guardians of Dau Go grotto explored the surrounding and they discovered a new cave that so far no one has set foot on. This is a Thien Cung grotto, also called Bach Tuyet grottoes. It lies in the same island as the Dau Go grotto, about 150-m away from the later. Its opening is small and looks on the North, on the almost perpendicular wall of the island, about 80-m above water. The opening of Thien Cung is about 25m above that of Dau Go. It was previously unheeded because its opening was small and high and covered by climbing wild plants.

Thien Cung is the largest and highest situated among the caves in Ha Long Bay.To visit the grotto, we must climb the steep slope, crawl under the climbing liana, amidst the good smell of orchids and the singing of birds. Visitors will have the pleasure of mountain climbing and the enthusiasm of being on the way to Heaven.

The Thien Cung has a rectangular section, about 25m wide, 250m long, and 20m high, lying in the North South direction. From its opening looking inside, we have the impression that it is very spacious and abroad. The further we go inside the more surprised and deeply impressed we are by the Wonder of Nature. On the opposite Eastern and Western walls are too giant magnificent bas-reliefs representing men and animals and also strange shapes that we have never imagined…The lines of the sculptures, rough or smooth to touch, the stone cutting is clear and neat, Here are representation of a kneeling elephant, a cuirass horse with brilliant swords and shields. Looking to the ceiling in the east we are amazed by the living fugues of the Heaven Court: The Emperor of Jade, the thunder God, the Nam Tao and the Bac Dau god with their beards and hairs floating like clouds.

There are fine looking fairies with their gorgeous clothes, absorbed in their dancing and singing. Hanged in the middle of the air is the marvelous stick of Monkey King who made disturbances to the Heavenly Court. Now and then, the stick emits light, it 2 meter long a circular section perfectly straight as if some one has leaned it on a stalactite at one end and at the middle of the grotto ceiling and on the eastern weal at the other.

Each wall of the grotto is a wonder; each compartment

of the grotto is a sculptural masterpiece. Under the high and broad vault, the light blues of the stalactites and stalagmites make them look like being silver-plated . Standing among this world of strange shapes, both real and unreal, we believe having been lost in the mysterious and overwhelming Heavenly Place.

Sung Sot grotto lies in the Ho Hon Island the same row of islands with Trinh Nu grotto. To visit this grotto, one should walk under a large parasol of vegetation, on lottery stone stairs. The grotto has two compartments: The outside one of 30m high looks like a perfectly square waiting hall. The smooth vertical partitions are similar large man walls. The skilful hands of Nature have covered the compartment with a modest violet blue paint with here and there some rosy veins.

From the outside to the inside compartment, one has to go through a 3 meters long passage, so narrow that there is barely enough rooms for one person. This inside compartment is a quiet building decorated with lively stones statues. What is brought in relief is at the entrance a group of another as if they were discussing confidential army affaires. Lying at the feet of “army generals” are petrified crocodiles, lion’s cubs and squirrels. Awhile imposing stalagmite and stands in the middle of the floor of the grotto’ if looked at more carefully, it has the shape of an army officer clothed in an overcoat, standing akimbo with face up looking ahead.

The visitor goes form surprise to surprise so this grotto has this name ‘Surprise grotto’.

An-overview-of-Lan-Ha-Bay-and-Cat-Ba-Island
HA LONG CULTURE

Ha Long is not only the concrete image of thousands of large and small islands in limpid and blue seawater. Today, according to archaeological research, Ha Long is till symbol of an ancient culture: Ha Long culture

VAN DON THE MOST ANCIENT FOREIGN TRADE SEA PORT OF VIETNAM

Van Don, now belonging to Van Hai archipelago, lying in the south east of Ha Long Bay, located on Bai Tu longBay, was considered by Nguyen Trai a wonder of country which has very beautifully depicted in his writings.
The complete History of Dai Viet writes “In the Ky Ty year, the 10th year of Ly Anh Tong reign(1149) in spring the second lunar month, Javanese and Siames merchant ships entered the East Sea for trade. They were concentrated in island area, called Van Don, for trading precious goods, and presenting local products”

QUAN LAN: ISLAND OF RUINS HAD PLENTY TO OFFER

These days sleepy Van Don Island may seem like it is being left behind by a rapidly-changing world.
However, the locals will be only too happy to tell you of a time when the island occupied centre stage in the nation’s history.

For this unassuming community on the perimeter of picturesque Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province has a glorious heritage. It was the country’s first international commercial sea port in the 12th century and the site of the first successful naval battle against foreign invasion in the early 13th century.

Now, it is hoped that the island’s dramatic past, coupled with its unspoiled natural beauty, will make the island a place of action again, this time as a prominent eco-tourism destination.
A joint venture has ambitious plans to offer a tour of Van Don’s pristine wilderness, where tourists can stay in stilt houses, swim, scuba-dive, and trek through the forest to see the ruins of the old port.

Food abundant out there
If you ask the islanders whether they have any plans to increase their meagre incomes, they will look somewhat confused. There is plenty of food on the island, they reply – it’s there for the taking in the wild.But apart from the abundant food supply, the island’s residents seem blissfully unaware that they are living on a veritable gold mine. The island is rich in a number of resources that are only just starting to be developed.

The vast stretches of white sand dunes along Van Don’s coastline are one example. The sand is now being used for crystal and glass-making industries.

Just below the sand lies another source of wealth: sea worms. These dried worms fetch up to VND500,000 per kilo on the nearby Chinese market. Hunters require just a shovel and bucket in order to rake in a comfortable living.

With an area of only 60sq.km, space to farm on the island is scarce. Locals have adapted to the conditions as best they can, and the island is now a patchwork of terraced lots slotted in amongst limestone mountains and beaches. Here, residents grow wet rice, vegetables and cash crops such as ground nuts, tea, and sweet potatoes.

However, it is the sea that truly provides the key to the heart and sou

Vietnam – Seven Reasons to Visit

Travel is all about destinations, experiences and memories. CEO Lux Group Pham Ha suggests a new slogan and tagline for Vietnam Tourism.

The gods did not compromise when they chose to endow this small Far Eastern country on the coast of the East Sea. Resembling the shape of a serpent, Vietnam has an array of natural and cultural riches that make it one of the world’s must-visit destinations.

The tagline for Vietnamese tourism, “Touching the heritage,” invokes the country’s blend of heritage and modern life for travellers who wish to experience the defining characteristics of V.I.E.T.N.A.M.

Son Doong Caves

V – Varied landscape

Vietnam is one of the favourite playgrounds of Mother Nature, boasting a wondrous blend of mountains, highlands, caves, rivers, plains, beaches, and epic delta regions.

With Mount Fansipan, as its backdrop, Sapa is home to terraced rice fields, cascading waterfalls, and secluded tribal villages perched on distant slopes. Halong Bay is the perfect getaway to experience luxury cruises as well as outdoor activities such as kayaking. It is an enthralling experience to cruise amidst the towering limestone karsts jutting out of the Gulf of Tonkin. The endless spectacle of the limestone world continues further south in Trang An and Tam Coc located in Ninh Binh province, offering limitless opportunities for travellers.

Complementing the Central Highlands, exquisite pristine beaches enrich the beauty of Central Vietnam. Son Doong Cave, the world’s largest cave system, is a particular highlight, although it remains difficult to explore. However, this imposing cave kingdom in Phong Nha and Ke Bang features many more, easy to explore yet stunning caves, grottoes, and underground rivers. Impressive coffee plantations sprawl over the highlands of Buon Ma Thuot, whilst Dalat is surrounded by spectacular scenery and churning waterfalls. The sandy shores of Cham Island, Nha Trang, and Quy Nhon meet the turquoise sea where scuba divers can explore the rich aquamarine ecosystem. Following the course of the mighty Mekong River, South Vietnam is equally photogenic. The river branches off into many estuaries, drawing up an agritourism paradise.

The one thing you must do in Vietnam: attend a water puppet show

I – Indigenous culture

The country’s indigenous cultures bear the marks of China, Japan, and France and a homestay within the ethnic communities is a special way to learn about their culture. Whether in the north, centre or south, there are significant cultural treasures and celebrations by individual communities expressed through festivals and performances. The A-O show portrays the rural lifestyle of farmers and fishermen nationwide. The Quintessence of Tonkin show narrates the ancient tale of the Thay Pagoda, Buddhism, and literature. Traditional music and folk art can be gleaned through the performances of Xoan and Cheo singers, while the captivating Water Puppet show in Hanoi, which originates back to the Red River Delta, is also a must-see. Mythology is an integral part of Vietnamese culture and beliefs and legends revolve around four sacred creatures – the Dragon, Phoenix, Turtle, and Unicorn. There are many colourful festivals observed all year around while the most important one is Tet – Vietnamese Lunar New Year which foreign visitors need to experience at least once.

Relax time at beautiful beach with day tour of Emperor Cruises Nha Trang

E – Exotic beaches

Undeniable luxury and incredible visual treats are on offer along the nation’s 3,260-kilometre coastline, home to some of the most romantic beaches and islands in the world. Mystical hideaways, secluded beaches, and coves on remote islands, the stretches of white and golden sands fringing the seas at My Khe, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Phu Quoc, and the Con Dao archipelago are high on the wish-lists of beach lovers. The crystal-clear water offers unrestricted visibility of colourful marine life as well as swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, and kayaking. Luxury beach resorts and hotels offer idyllic accommodation. Even the most remote are home to boutique resorts for luxury in seclusion, allowing discerning travellers to experience life close to nature.

Eating like a local in Ho Chi Minh City

T – Timeless charm

Emerging from a painful past, much has been done to restore Vietnam’s many treasures and add even more. It is not only the natural world that draws visitors in, but also the people, culture, lifestyle, cuisine, and art. The honking of the ever-moving traffic in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are a complete contrast to the tranquility of the countryside. The country presents a plethora of unforgettable images, from epic landscapes, ethnic cultures, legendary cuisine, and imperial monuments and continue through to its timeless village traditions, idyllic sea resorts, and bustling cities. The taste of egg coffee, using chopsticks to enjoy traditional dishes such as pho bo or bun cha, the ubiquitous conical hats, and the twinkling lanterns of Hoi An make for images that travellers will cherish forever.

Touching the heritage on Vietnam’s first boutique cruise – Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan

N – Natural heritage sites

Vietnam takes pride in its diversity and has been blessed with some stunning UNESCO-recognised Natural Heritage Sites, such as Halong Bay, Trang An, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and Cat Ba Island. The world’s largest cave system, Son Doong stuns visitors with its otherworldly splendour and ecosystem.

Halong Bay, featuring a cluster of 1,600 islets, is one of the world’s natural wonders. Cruising through this karst landscape is a cinematic experience. Sailing beyond Halong Bay, visitors can get to Cat Ba Natural Heritage Site nestled in the heart of Lan Ha Bay, a treasure trove of flora and fauna. Trang An is another limestone world where the footprints of prehistoric humans and the fossils of extinct animals have been discovered. A bamboo boat ride along the Sao Khe River leads to mysterious underground caves and grottoes as well as ancient cave pagodas and temples.

Visit Hue Citadel and explore the history of Nguyen Dynasty

A – Ancient cities

Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh was the ancient capital of Dai Co Viet (the ancient name of Vietnam). This ancient city, full of temples and pagodas dedicated to former kings, has witnessed many historical events. Its annual festival welcomes tourists from near and far. Hue is the last imperial capital of Vietnam and still preserves many relics from the royal empire. The Imperial Citadel of Hue, the royal tombs of King Minh Mang, King Khai Dinh, and other emperors along with the ancient Thien Mu Pagoda are just some of the major attractions of the former capital. UNESCO-protected My Son sanctuary dates back to the Pre-Angkorian era and was the capital of the Cham Dynasty. Hoi An was the most important port for trading in ancient Southeast Asia. The tranquil ambiance of this UNESCO-protected town, with its colonial architecture, traditions, and coffee culture, makes it a magnet for travellers. Further south, Dalat was one of the favourite hill stations for French garrisons and is filled with a plethora of colonial buildings. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long marks the origin of today’s capital, Hanoi, dating back to the 11th century and the reign of the Ly Dynasty. Ho Chi Minh City is also an ancient establishment from the prehistoric era and witnessed one of the earliest Asian civilisations.

Biking tour visit Hoi An ancient town

M – Memories to cherish forever

Nothing quite compares to the charm that Southeast Asian countries and Vietnam have developed as a great holiday destination for both leisure and business travellers. It is a truly memorable experience travelling across the country, exploring the treasures of Halong Bay on a luxury cruise, savouring tasty Vietnamese dishes in the finest restaurants of bustling Ho Chi Minh City, relaxing on the idyllic sandy beaches of Phu Quoc Island or strolling through the lantern-lit alleys of ancient Hoi An. Holidaymakers will definitely fall in love with the food, landscapes, and lifestyle of Vietnam.

Once a hidden paradise, Vietnam is now fast emerging as an exciting upmarket destination in Asia, with a sophisticated hospitality industry. The recent development of world-class golf courses has opened a new avenue for golf tours to the nation. The introduction of luxury train journeys, boutique cruises, and upscale private tours spanning the length and breadth of the country has escalated the demand for new destinations and journeys. Travel is now all about places, experiences, and memories.

Lan Ha Bay or Halong Bay? Which one is better?

Lan Ha Bay or Halong Bay? Which one do you choose? In the northwest region of Vietnam, there is an increase in a new destination – Lan Ha Bay appealing lots of visitors. It can be seen that Lan Ha Bay makes tourists feel exactly like globally acclaimed Halong Bay yet without a large number of visitors who have blemished the experiences of its magnificent sceneries. Halong Bay, undeniably, is always lied on the list of every Vietnam’s travel itinerary because of its natural beauty. On the other hand, there is no denying that Lan Ha Bay is highly recommended to be a “must-visit attraction” by many visitors as well as travel bloggers. Probably, you find it hard to decide which place you’ll go on a holiday. 

In this article, Heritage Cruises will help you to list out all of the necessary information of Lan Ha Bay and Halong Bay regarding geographical features, how to get to the destination and some differences between the two as well so that you can decide by your own, which one is better. 

  • Geographical features 

It can be true that Lan Ha Bay belongs to the same area with Halong Bay so both of them share similar geographical features and the climate condition. Despite some similarities, there are absolutely different topographies. 

* Halong Bay 

Situated in the northeast region of Vietnam, Quang Ninh Province, Halong Bay is a part of the Gulf of Tonkin. It covers a total area of around 1,553 km2, with 1,969 islands of varied sizes and shapes, including 989 of which have been given names. There are two main kinds of islands which possess different types of topography: limestones and schists. The average age of topography on this island is between 250 and 280 million years old. 

The dense concentration of limestone islands, caves and grottos, magnificent sceneries creates the central area of Halong Bay, one of the World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO. The area of 434 km2 including 775 beautiful islands is put under protection. 

* Lan Ha Bay 

Lan Ha Bay is situated in the east of Cat Ba Island (Hai Phong Province), the south of Halong Bay and has around 400 karst limestones island surrounded by evergreen charm and vegetation. By going around this bay, you’ll a have chance to contemplate many islets with small and untouched beaches. Lan Ha Bay is the home of lots of mountains with different names depending on the imagination of tourists, for example, Hon Quoc Islet (Wooden Shoe islet), Dao Khi – Monkey Island and etc. Lan Ha Bay possesses about 139 beautiful sandy beaches and spreads over 7,000 ha including that the area of 5,400 ha is under-managed by The Biosphere Reserve recognized by UNESCO – Cat Ba National Park. 

Geographically and aesthetically, there is no difference between Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay. Both of them possess thousands of limestone karsts, magnificent islands, plenty of beaches and spectacular landscapes and seascapes. It can be true that Halong Bay has a high level of the density of the islands compared to Lan Ha Bay in which the islands are scattered along the bay. On one hand, Halong Bay is recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders in the world; therefore, it has been opening the gate for tourist visitations and tourism development from the very first time. On the other hand, Lan Ha Bay still keeps its pristine beauty, even unique and attractive ones. Thereby, tourists truly enjoy the beautiful sceneries and immerse themselves in Lan Ha Bay. 

2. How to get there 

2.1 How to get to Halong Bay 

  • From Hanoi: around 174 km from Hanoi City. Due to the new highway, taking 2h50 mins. There are several options below helping tourists to travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay.
  • By road: Coach from My Dinh Station or Gia Lam Station (Hanoi) to Bai Chay Station (Halong City). Ticket fee: VND 100,000 to VND 250,000/person/one way. From Bai Chay Station, you can take a taxi to get Halong Bay, 40 mins. 
  • The shuttle bus is offered by Hanoi local tour operator. Tourists can be picked up and dropped off tourists around the Old Quarter area. Then it transfers the guest to arrive in Halong Bay. Ticket fee: USD 10 – 20/person/ 1 way. It can be included if you book a Halong Bay tour or an overnight cruise. 
  • Going by a private car takes 1.5 hours. It’s more convenient and suitable for a family with kids. 
  • By air: You’ll take a seaplane at Noi Bai International Airport, from Hanoi to Tuan Chau Port (Halong City), only 45 mins. Besides, you’ll have 15 mins to look over Halong Bay from the seaplane. Hai Au Aviation is the only seaplane service-provider in Vietnam up to now. The price is about VND 9,300,000/adult/1 way.  
  • From other places like Ho Chi Minh City, Danang City or Buon Ma Thuot, etc. You can take an airplane directly to Van Don International Airport (Quang Ninh Province). 

2.2 How to get to Lan Ha Bay

  • From Hanoi:  around 134 km from Hanoi City, nearly 2 hours due to the new highway. Common route: Hanoi – Haiphong City (by road) – Cat Ba Island (by speedboat or ferry or cruise) – Lan Ha Bay. Unlike Halong Bay, you can visit right away in Halong City; however, to go to Lan Ha Bay, you have to access to Cat Ba Island by speedboat or ferry. Then you can continue Lan Ha Bay trip. Like Halong Bay, there are also some options to get Lan Ha Bay for the guests to choose: 

By road

  • By sharing tourist bus/a shuttle bus to Dinh Vu Port offered by some companies such as Good morning Cat Ba (VND 340,000/person/1 way). Cat Ba Express (VND 590,000/person/ roundtrip including bus + speedboat); Hoang Long (VND 225,000/person/1 way), Inter Bus Lines (VND 150,000/person/1 way). It can pick up tourists at hotels in the Old Quarter and drops off at hotels in Cat Ba Island. Then get on a speedboat to Cai Vieng Port on Cat Ba Island from Dinh Vu Port, 30 mins. This way costs 3.5 hours.  
  • By private van: taking around 2h. This is highly recommended for a big group of travelers or a family with children. When you reach Got Harbour, following the rest of the route by speedboat to get to Cai Vieng Port on Cat Ba Island. If you rent a private van, it will take VND 2,600,000/one way. 

By air: You can get Cat Ba Island from Cat Ba International Airport. The route is that Cat Bi Airport (Haiphong) – Binh Harbour (by road, 35 mins) – Cai Vieng Pier on Cat Ba Island (by speedboat, 10 mins) – Cat Ba Town (by bus, 40 mins) – Lan Ha Bay. 

By cruise: Hai Phong city – Got Harbour (by road, 45 mins). From Got Harbour, Heritage Cruises offer distinctive tour itineraries to discover Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay. 

  • From other places: Tourists can take a plane to Cat Bi International Airport. Then, you look through common routes mentioned above on how to get to Lan Ha Bay. 

Generally, there are several ways to reach Halong Bay as well as Lan Ha Bay. Those ways are quite convenient and easier to find. 

3. Differences 

3.1 Must-visit attractions 

There is no denying that for quantity, at least Lan Ha Bay matches with Halong Bay regarding the top destinations and unmissable features of each itinerary visiting the gulf. The quality, however, modifies significantly. 

  • Halong Bay 

Titop Island, Soi Sim Beach, Tuan Chau Beach, and Bai Chay Beach are considered as one of the most attractive beaches in Halong Bay. Titop Island has a beach which is the most accessible for guests, so this place can get serious congestion in the peak season. Besides, Soi Sim Beach can offer a panoramic view from the top but it’s in the development process. The beach remains its mystery, probably due mostly to the very recent development and the appearance of the appealing of thatched-roof umbrellas that create plentiful shapes. 

Sung Sot Cave is the masterpiece of uniqueness and natural beauty for its large cavernous areas featured by stalactites and stalagmites. Thien Cung and Trinh Nu are also known for their magnificent beauty. For history, Dau Go (Cave of the Wooden Stakes) brings itself lots of historical proofs, which serves as a vital place to store the wood that would finish preventing Mongol invasion in the 13th century. 

Cua Van Fishing Village still remains its ancient, grace, and retain a distinctive traditional culture. In 2012, It has been listed on the Journeyetc.com tourist website as one of the 16 most beautiful ancient villages in the world. 

  • Lan Ha Bay 

Lan Ha Bay also has amazing destinations to attract visitors to this area. There are  139 beaches lying scattered throughout Lan Ha Bay, which allows tourists to contemplate from the cruises. The trio of Cat Co 1,2 and 3 Beach, Van Boi Beach, Ba Trai Dao Beach (Three Peaches Beach) and Tung Thu Beach are known as one of the most appealing beaches in Lan Ha Bay. Ba Trai Dao Beach has attracted tourists by not only its charming beauty but an interesting myth to explain the appearance of the three rocks that give the islet its name as well. Tung Thu is another attractive one offering on the south coast of Cat Ba Island, while Van Boi offers the chance to engage in scuba-diving to watch the colorful coral reefs underwater. It’s true that Lan Ha Bay has remained more tranquil and pristine beaches than Halong Bay. 

Light and Dark Caves which are the two opposing ones, as their names, show the difference in the amount of light entering from outside. The Dark Cave is longer, so it’s necessary to require torches for discovering meanwhile, the Light Cave has a short corridor opening up into an amazing lake covered by stretching limestone cliffs. 

Hospital Cave is the most interesting cave in terms of historical value since its large grottos made it an ideal place for taking care of and hiding the injured Viet Cong soldiers during the war against the American. Moreover, it’s hard to find the Hospital Cave from the ground and the air, making it perfect to rest up the troops and form attacking plans. 

Viet Hai Fishing Village, which is ecological attractions, appeals to tourists by tranquil and peaceful landscapes as well as hidden charm villages of local people and their lifestyles. 

3.2 Tourism activities

The natural landscapes of both bays make them perfect for some water sport activities, especially kayaking is the most popular activity. Undoubtedly, every itinerary visiting Lan Ha Bay or Halong Bay includes kayaking activity around the gulf, including the day trip. Tourists can realize the importance of being closer to the natural environment from a plastic canoe. 

On one hand, there are many places in Halong Bay for going kayaking such as Cua Van Fishing Village, Luon Cave which can provide the guests with some of the most magnificent and unique views in Halong Bay. Ho Dong Tien offers the tranquility that tourists are supposed to be totally got lost amongst the beautiful landscapes during a 30-minute kayaking session. 

Like Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay also possesses plenty of spots for tourists to go kayaking, for example, Ba Trai Dao Beach, Tra Bau, and Viet Hai Village. Paddling around Ba Trai Dao Island will be absolutely an awe-inspiring activity. A peaceful area where big kite birds fly above and mountains slope high out of the pristine water in Tra Bau is also an ideal place for kayaking. It can be seen that Viet Hai Fishing Village on Cat Ba Island – a historic community living closer to the water area provides a chance for tourists to get involved in kayaking activity. Undoubtedly, Lan Ha Bay or Halong Bay is an ideal attraction for kayaking activity after all.  

3.3 Numbers of tourists 

As mentioned before, due to the similarities of Lan Ha Bay or Halong Bay, tourists might find it hard to choose between two destinations for their trip. Actually, tourists regularly complain about the huge number of people coming to Halong Bay like them. As a result, some famous spots easily get crowded, especially Titop Island and Sung Sot Cave; however, the bay is extremely enormous so there still has enough space for the guests’ relaxation. 

Regarding Lan Ha Bay, its unique selling point is that it looks exactly the same as Halong Bay but it still keeps the pristine beauty compared to Halong Bay and not many tourists come to this beautiful island. Recently, there is a rising trend for tourists to shift visiting from Halong Bay to Lan Ha Bay. It’s also true since Quang Ninh Province stopped new firms from starting cruise ships in Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay; consequently, Lan Ha Bay becomes the only place in the Gulf of Tonkin to develop. Heritage Cruises is available to ensure the guests have a beautiful cruise trip around Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island.

Which one should you visit? Some aspects of Halong Bay are better than Lan Ha Bay and vice versa. When deciding to choose between Halong Bay or Lan Ha Bay, it’s vital for you to consider what do you want for your trip. If you would like a wide range of tourism activities with many spots to visit, Halong Bay has something suitable for you. However, if you want to seek a peaceful and tranquil place and immerse yourself in pristine waterways in the Gulf of Tonkin, you should pick Lan Ha Bay with more secluded and authentic fishing villages. 

Trung Trang Cave or Quan Y Cave with the beauty inside

About 15 kilometers from Cat Ba town (Cat Hai island district), Trung Trang cave has a mysterious beauty because of its creation of nature and historical legends that you should not miss when exploring and experiencing Cat Ba Island.
Discovered by Vietnamese – French archaeologists in 1938, Trung Trang cave with the length of 300 meters passes through the mountain, surrounded by rich and diverse vegetation creating fresh air for people to visit. Trung Trang cave is called by many different names.

Formerly known as Bat Cave(Hang Doi) because the inside cave is home to many bats. During the period of anti-American war, from 1964 to 1968, the cave was chosen to be the basement of the Navy High Command with the signal and information connecting mission, so-called the Navy Cave(Hang Hai Quan). At present, the inside cave also keeps a few traces such as community room, meeting room, water tank … to serve daily life for the soldiers.

In front of the entrance cave, tourists will immediately see a mermaid statue bowing to guests with an exciting journey. Due to the rain and soaking through the rocks, there are quite a lot of beautiful stalagmites appeared in the Trung Trang Cave. According to the research of scientists, stalactites and stalagmites here are about 6 million years old. Especially in the cave, there are also stone pillars created when stalactites and stalagmites meet, but when you tap your hand, you will hear the sound like the music.

Going deep into the cave can feel the magnificence of karst topography created by nature. Stalactites remain the sharpness and iridescence like crystal which are imagined tourists as different shapes of eagles, crocodiles, football trophies, crowns…

The highest dome of the cave is compared the gold warehouse of the lady of Trung Trang Cave with sparkling stalactites of different colors like treasures on sunny days.

Discovering Trung Trang Cave makes visitors extremely excited, feeling like lost in paradise in the earth.

The Quan Y cave, or Hospital cave, in the heart of the Cat Ba mountains is a source of pride for the Vietnamese military since it was used extensively during the American War. The hospital is no longer active, but the historical value of the cave remains as it still contains many traces of its activities.

 Located between Gia Luan port and Cat Ba town, a major stopping-off point on the 4-day Heritage Cruises expedition, Quan Y Cave is located in Tran Chau commune, belonging to Cat Ba National Park. The entrance to the cave is located up in the mountain, hidden by dense forest on both sides. The cave has a unique topography with stalactites, stalagmites, and coastal limestone formed by sediments.

 Previously, Quan Y cave was named Hung Son cave, as it was discovered by a General from the Tran dynasty who participated in a battle on the historic Bach Dang River. During the American War, in the 1960s, the cave was turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers as well as a shelter from the bombing for the local people who had escaped from Bach Long Vy island. The hospital could treat over 100 wounded soldiers with 17 treatment rooms and ancillary rooms. There was also a swimming pool, cinema and fitness center in the heart of the cave. Even after the war, every time there was a storm, people headed to the caves to take shelter.

 Through the intervening years, the structure inside the Quan Y cave remained quite intact as it is totally self-contained, the reinforced concrete structure making it effectively bomb-proof. The cave is 200 meters long with the entrance facing west and the exit facing east on Cat Ba mountain.

 Through the three thick doors at the entrance, the hospital is spread across three floors. The first floor is the main area containing operating theaters, waiting rooms, and medicine stores. The cinema and fitness center are on the second floor as well as a treatment area. On the third floor is a reception hall, a guard room, and an office. Due to the nature of the wartime hospital, Quan Y cave is also equipped with a perfect ventilation system for fresh air as well as an efficient drainage system.

 There are still traces of the medicine cabinets that were fixed to the walls as well as an emergency exit from the third floor down to the first floor to escape through the exit which was hidden behind large stalactites. The construction of a large, fully equipped wartime hospital in a cave with wards and operating theaters is still impressive.

 Many visitors are drawn to such a historic place on Cat Ba island as this lovely cave was used to create a place of safety for wounded soldiers.

 Visitors participating in Heritage Expenditions (4 days & 3 nights) will get the chance to discover and contemplate marvelous beauty of Trung Trang Cave or Quan Y Cave. 

Ba Ham Lake

Situated on the southwest side of Halong Bay, Ba Ham Lake is found on Dau Be Island (Calf Head Island) in Lan Ha Bay, Cat Ba Archipelago.

This island is part of the range of islands at the farthest end of Halong Bay, bordering the immense Long Chau archipelago, home to the oldest lighthouse in Vietnam. Ba Ham Lake is situated in the middle of a narrow, rectangular area, with all four sides enclosed by vertical cliffs.

Ba Ham Lake still retains it mysterious and unspoiled beauty, thanks to its hidden location which make access quite difficult. The only way to explore this amazing attraction is by kayak or rowing boat through a cave at low tide, the stalactites hanging down in clusters, forming many strange shapes.

The lake is a system comprising three wide, round pits, linked together by narrow and meandering tunnels. Stalactites hang from the ceiling in a myriad of strange, colored forms. The silence is disturbed only by the sounds of the boat’s oars. Surrounded by cliffs, Ba Ham Lake is completely quiet, and the only sound is the whispering waves and birdsong.

On the island are many species of plants such as orchids, benjamin figs, banyans, and cycads, which blossom throughout the year. It is also the home of yellow-haired monkeys, colorful birds, flying squirrels, and bats. Beneath the deep blue surface of the water it is teeming with fishes and shrimps.

Ba Ham Lake is also famed for its ecological diversity. On the limestone cliffs surrounding the lake, you can see the intense green color of the tropical vegetation which is rich in indigenous species. The lake is home to three endemic plant species of Halong Bay including Halong Cycad (Cycas tropophylla), Halong palm tree, and Halong Paplliopedilum, which is yellow in color. Don’t be surprised if you catch sight of monkeys, squirrels, or rare birds because they have called this place home for many years.

Although only 25km from Got Harbor, it is another world and the beauty of Ba Ham Lake has attracted the attention of explorers and nature lovers for a long time. In the book “Merveilles de Monde – Wonders of the World” published in 1938, it introduced the landscapes and described the lake as follows: “Arriving at Ba Ham Lake, the first impressions are of its beauty, just like Hang Luon or Sung Sot cave, but the scenery here is even nicer. The entrance to Ba Ham Lake is not as easy as that of Luon Cave, but it is interesting to explore. The semicircular entrance is in the sheer cliffs of the northwest of the island, 4 – 5m above the surface of the sea”.

Visitors participating in Heritage Explorer (3 days, 2 nights) will have the opportunities to discover and contemplate the charmingly natural beauty of Ba Ham Lake.

 

 

Three Peaches Islets

Many years ago, a young fairy fell in love with a poor fisherman. One day, she stole three peaches from Heaven for her lover so that he could have eternal life when he ate them, and they could be together forever. However, her father, the Jade Emperor, discovered the robbery and turned the peaches into three stone islands and compelled the young fairy to return home.

The Three Peaches (Ba Trai Dao) islets are to be found in Lan Ha Bay in the Cat Ba Archipelago. It is a truly pristine region with several small beaches and only a few cruise boats can reach this lost paradise. You can go swimming, kayaking or sunbathing on the beautiful beach or just do your own thing to unwind and relax, especially in the afternoon when there are few people around. Some months of the year, the tides are rather high, and it is only possible to swim from the beach for around 2-3 hours each day as the rest of the time the tide has engulfed it.

The Three Peaches islets are just off Cat Ba Island, not far from both Viet Hai village and Cai Beo floating village in Lan Ha Bay. A visit to this exquisite beach area is included in our cruise program en route between Halong and Cat Ba Island, frontier territory of Quang Ninh and Haiphong.

The island consists of three small hills, just 23m in height, and seen from afar they resemble three peaches. Around 22km from both Got Harbor and Cai Beo Seaport, it takes an hour to get there by Heritage Cruises or Heritage Express.

This place has become a destination on the bucket list of beaches to visit for many holidaymakers to the Halong Bay region because of its charming landscape and its connections to the romantic legend of the fairy and the poor fisherman.

Cai Beo Fishing Village in Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay, in the Cat Ba Archipelago, is covered by nearly 400 limestone mountains and has for centuries been a safe shelter for fishing boats when ferocious storms occur. There are approximately 300 households living in permanent floating villages in the bay and you have the chance to explore the intriguing life in these villages.

Cai Beo fishing village in Lan Ha Bay (commonly known as Lan Ha fishing village) is probably the largest and most famous floating village in Asia, where most people live largely by fishing and fish farming.

Cai Beo fishing village is only about 2km from Cat Ba town and just 10 minutes from Beo seaport. If you join our Heritage Expedition four-day program, you initially travel by van and then take a small boat or our speedboat or tender to visit the village.

Years ago, Lan Ha Bay had about 5,000 households farming Otter Snout clams in floating ponds using plastic baskets, but a disease wiped out the entire population and the fishermen lost their means of earning money and went bankrupt.

The farmers discarded all the baskets used to raise the clams and these sank to the bottom of Lan Ha Bay. Red algae started to grow on the baskets, polluting the water and creating a major problem for the fish living in the waters.

Many fishermen drag their nets across the sea bottom when fishing and some nets are torn by the discarded baskets, so the fishermen continually have to repair their nets. Now these baskets have been retrieved to help clean the water.

Although a fisherman’s life is hard and simple, they appear quite content with their lot in life. They have to start very early and finish very late doing lots of physical work. Fishermen live away from the mainland, but they can buy anything from the hawkers who sell supplies to the villagers from their boats. The fishermen do not have a huge variety of food available to them, like on the mainland, but they can catch fish to feed their families and they just need to buy vegetables, salt and fish sauce.

The scenery here is very beautiful with colorful floating houses nestled in the shelter of the islands, a stone backyard. The fishing village of Beo is spread across 18.000m2. The people who live in the Cai Beo settlement evolved from the Neolithic period and were hunter gatherers right through to the Bronze Age when their civilization evolved to become fishermen and also settled on the land to create agricultural settlements. The first indigenous people in Cai Beo are probably descendants of an ancient civilization from Hoa Binh – Bac Son, from around 12,000 years ago.

In early 2007, a team of specialist scientists undertook extensive excavations and 10 tombs were revealed with 137 stone artifacts and 1,424 pottery shards, all made from granite, ceramic, and twisted rope as well as fish bones, shells and oysters. Analysis indicated that Cai Beo is a site of archaeological importance and was the home of fishermen around 7,000 years ago, who lived mainly from fishing, scallops and oysters, a way of life that continued until around 4,500 years ago.

Guests taking part at Heritage Expeditions (4 days and 3 nights) will have the chance of visiting this unique historical site, and experience this community’s eccentric lifestyle.

The Famous Cat Hai Fish Sauce

If Phu Quoc fish sauce is considered to be the most well-known specialty of Phu Quoc Island (Kien Giang province), then Cat Hai fish sauce is one of the most famous products of Cat Hai Island (Haiphong). It has also been selected as one of Vietnam’s top condiments by the Vietnam Guinness Book of Records.

Fish sauce first appeared in Cat Hai in the 20th century and was originally called Van Van fish sauce. As soon as you set foot on the island, the first thing you will notice is the salty and fragrant smell of fish sauce being produced right across the island.

In the past, people in the north knew Cat Hai fish sauce under the Van Van brand, famous across Indochina because of its quality and rare flavour, with a protein content of around 15-40% per litre. In 1959, it was renamed Cat Hai fish sauce.

For locals, Cat Hai fish sauce is indispensable for the family meal and there is simply no substitute. The characteristic aroma of Cat Hai fish sauce stems from anchovy and squid, or Nham fish, combined with sea salt.

Each year, more than 7 million litres of Cat Hai fish sauce are supplied to the market with over 700 agents and outlets throughout 24 provinces across Vietnam. But it is not only for domestic consumption; Cat Hai fish sauce is also exported to many countries in Asia and to Eastern Europe.

The method of production determines the quality of fish sauce and is still mainly manual. Fish sauce here is made from Ca Com (anchovies) and Nham, a species with a special taste, from the waters surrounding Cat Hai. The fish must be fresh and anything else will ruin the natural flavour of the final product.

The fish is cleaned before being mixed with salt and the mixture, called chướp, is then placed into containers like wooden barrels or concrete tanks. The top layer is pressed down with a bamboo net containing heavy stones. It is very important that “chướp” must be exposed to sunlight and has to be stirred constantly.

“Chướp” is brewed and sun-dried for between 12 and 24 months during the self-ripening process. After that, the fish have naturally reacted with the water and are totally hydrolyzed, yielding the salty, fishy liquid that has a very high protein content and a light amber color. No chemicals are used to create the smell or color.

When visiting Cat Hai, visitors should ensure they take the opportunity to observe the process of making fish sauce and enjoy its delicious taste.

About the Cat Ba Archipelago & Lan Ha Bay

Authenticity is the buzzword for Cat Ba Archipelago and Lan Ha Bay. Traveling to Cat Ba by road only takes 1.5 hours from Hanoi by the 5B Highway. Nowadays, travelers are switching from Halong Bay to Cat Ba and Lan Ha Bay in increasing numbers.

This place is now firmly in the development phase; everything is just getting started. Lan Ha is so small that you can rent a cruise boat to explore the bay by yourself. This is perfect for Cat Ba’s based travelers who are self-confident and experienced and want a whole new kind of adventure.

Cat Ba is the largest of the 366 islands spanning the 260km2 that comprise the Cat Ba Archipelago, which makes up the southeastern edge of Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam.

Cat Ba island has a surface area of 285km2 and retains the dramatic and rugged features of Halong Bay. This island belongs to Haiphong City – an important industrial city which, together with Hanoi and Halong, forms an important economic triangle in North Vietnam.

Approximately half of Cat Ba Island is covered by a national park, which is home to the highly endangered Cat Ba Langur.

The island has a wide variety of natural ecosystems, both marine and terrestrial, leading to incredibly high rates of biodiversity.

The types of natural habitats to be found in the Cat Ba Archipelago include limestone karsts, tropical limestone forests, coral reefs, mangrove and sea-grass beds, lagoons, beaches, caves, and willow swamp forests.

Cat Ba island is one of the only populated islands in Halong Bay, with roughly 13,000 inhabitants living in six different communes, and 4,000 more inhabitants living on floating fishing villages off the coast.

The majority of the population can be found in Cat Ba town, which is located at the southern tip of the island (15km south of the national park) and is the commercial center. Cat Ba’s fish sauce is particularly famous and one of the main industries on the island and travelers can visit the factory in Cat Ba town.

Halong Bay is understandably popular and crowded, but if you want to experience it without other tourists, be sure to book our private charter boat that will sail where you want, cruising on your own itinerary.

Go deep into the bay, explore the caves and grottoes, head over to Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay, trek in Cat Ba National Park, go rock climbing, kayaking, and watching some of the most amazing sunsets that you’ll ever set eyes on.

Heritage Cruises can help you to take up his challenge with three experiences: Dream Cruise for one day, Discover Cruise for two days, Explorer Cruise for three days and Expedition Cruise for four days. In addition, we arrange private charters for four or five day expeditions in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Discover Dong Hoa Cuong or Diamond Cave

Cat Ba Island is one of the main destinations of the Halong region. The island is famous for its many caves, both small and large, and prominent among them are Quan Y (historic Hospital Cave), Trung Trang, Dong Hoa Cuong and Thien Long caves, all with numerous impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Dong Hoa Cuong, or Diamond Cave, is one of the most amazing caves and you should make a point of seeing it if you join our Heritage Expedition four-day program.

Close to the village of Gia Luan one of the most beautiful and famous caves of the Cat Ba Islands, Hoa Cuong cave or Da Hoa cave, can be found. It has been named Hoa Cuong (Diamond) cave because of the interior’s iridescent sparkle, just like a diamond. The cave is located in a large mountain to the northeast of the village, at an altitude of 50 metres above sea level and 10 metres in height.

Reached through a large arched entrance, hidden by trees and bushes, the cave is wide and quiet, 25 metres in width and 100 metres long, with a pleasant temperature, perfect for a visit. In the Diamond Cave, there are many stalactites created in a variety of shapes by Mother Nature, many taking on the appearance of humans and animals. On the right-hand side of the cave is a giant curtain of stalactites, which inspired a local legend.

According to the legend, the King of Heaven found the climate here idyllic and the scenery charming, so he would take the princes and princesses to spend time together here in the cave. The stalactite curtain separated the boudoir of one of the princesses, guarded by two stone lions, where the princess rocked her baby to sleep on a magnificent bed, accompanied by a small fairy.

As you explore further into the cave you come across a luminous cool lake, the water so clear that you can see the white pebbles at the bottom. The people of Gia Luan believe that the women in this region have white skin as a result of bathing in the lake. Close by is a rock that looks like a boat belonging to a prince, giving the lake a romantic feeling and perpetuating the legend of the cave. When light floods into the cave, the lake shimmers and the reflections on the stalactites and stalagmites appear to be like flowers blooming, creating a sense of magic.

Archaeologists have excavated here and discovered the fossilized teeth of an ancient gibbon dating back tens of thousands of years, clearly demonstrating the existence of an ancient gibbon species living in Cat Ba Island.

Hoa Cuong cave is a particular favorite of both domestic and foreign visitors because of the pristine beauty of the area, the legends surrounding it, and the fascinating history revealed by the archaeologists. One not to be missed!