Date Links: Mon 13/06
Accommodation: Oriental Sails Junk
We are transferred from our Ha Noi hotel to...
Ha Long City...
... So what can one do around Ha Long Bay besides taking that once-in-a-lifetime cruise into the UNESCO World Heritage site here? Here are 5 things you can do around Ha Long Bay if you have time to kill waiting for your junk boat cruise.
Seafood in Ha Long is diversified. Cuttlefish- mực, oyster- hào, cyclinae- ngán, prawn (penaeidea- tôm he, panulirus- tôm hùm, parapenaeopsis- tôm sắt...), sipunculoideas- sá sùng, nerita- ốc đĩa, charonia tritonis- ốc tù và, and cà sáy, are among the varieties appearing in popular local dishes.
Bai Chay Tourist Wharf and Jetty -
Bai Chay Tourist Wharf. It is here that most of the travelers will arrive at before heading out on the Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise. Depending on your departure time, you may or may not have time to explore the area.
Vietnamese Coffee -
Try some Vietnamese Coffee the Cafe 555 opposite the Bai Chay Tourist Wharf. Well, you need to walk about 100 meters to your right if you exit Bai Chay. The cafe is located in between a row of shops by the main road. They serve some potent coffee here so if you are a coffee lover, you hit jackpot here. If you don’t drink coffee, they have other drinks there too.
Ha Long Market -
Take a taxi to Ha Long City and visit the Ha Long Market. This market is right in the heart of Ha Long City and you cannot walk there unless you have a few hours to spare. Best would be to take a taxi there. Once here, explore the dry and wet market. A number of interesting items can be seen here while it would be wise to stock up on snacks and drinks for your Ha Long Bay Cruise.
Vietnamese Snacks and Herbal Drinks -
Indulge in the local Vietnamese food and drinks at Ha Long City. In and around the Ha Long Market, there are quite a number of exotic foods available if you are up to it. One of the must-try items are the Squid Cakes which are similar to Thai Fish Cakes, these are sold in the open area behind Ha Long Market.
A number of stalls sell them and they are reasonably cheap and quite tasty. If you walk around the wet market area, you will come across various local foods and delicacies. One of them, the deep fried mini crabs sold cooked or raw. Also, if you have an iron stomach, try some of the local mixed rice dishes and finally wash it down with some local Vietnamese Herbal Drinks. Don’t forget to buy some local fruits for your Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise trip.
Ha Long Bay Casino -
Take a walk to the Ha Long Bay Casino (Royal International Casino). This super small and only casino in Ha Long Bay can be seen just located by the main road to Bai Chay. Walking here can take you about 10-15 minutes from the wharf. Foreigners need to show your passport to enter and there is no deposit required.
A coffee lounge with slot machines on the ground floor is open to all while there are two gambling halls, one on the ground floor which is closed on weekdays while the main hall is up on the first floor. So small that I walked round it in less than two minutes. So if you’re feeling lucky, head on to the Ha Long Bay Casino.Introducing Ha Long Bay
Majestic and mysterious, inspiring and imperious: words alone cannot do justice to the natural wonder that is Ha Long Bay. Imagine 3000 or more incredible islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Ha Long Bay is pure art, a priceless collection of unfinished sculptures hewn from the hand of nature.
In 1994 it was designated a World Heritage site. Visitors can’t help but compare the magical, mystical landscape of limestone islets to Guilin in China and Krabi in southern Thailand, but in reality Ha Long Bay is more spectacular. These tiny islands are dotted with beaches and grottoes created by wind and waves, and have sparsely forested slopes ringing with birdsong.
Beyond the breathtaking vistas on a boat cruise through the bay, visitors to Ha Long come to explore the caves – some of which are beautifully illuminated for the benefit of tourists – and to hike in Cat Ba National Park. There are few real beaches in Ha Long Bay, but Lan Ha Bay (off the coast of Cat Ba Island) has more than 100 sandy strips.
Ha Long City is the gateway to Ha Long Bay but not the ideal introduction to this incredible World Heritage site. Developers have not been kind to the city and most visitors sensibly opt for tours that include sleeping on a boat in the bay. In short, Ha Long Bay is the attraction; Ha Longg City is not.
As the number-one tourist attraction in the northeast, Ha Long Bay draws a steady stream of visitors year-round. From February to April the weather in this region is often cool and drizzly. The ensuing fog can make visibility low, but this adds an ethereal air to the place and the temperature rarely falls below 10°C. During the summer months tropical storms are frequent, and tourist boats may have to alter their itineraries, depending on the weather.
Ha Long Bay is the stuff of myths and naturally the Vietnamese have concocted one.Ha Long translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’. Legend has it that the islands of Ha Long Bay were created by a great dragon that lived in the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.
Dragons aside, the biggest threat to the bay may be from souvenir-hunting tourists. Rare corals and seashells are rapidly being stripped from the sea floor, and stalactites and stalagmites are being broken off from the caves. These items get turned into key rings, paperweights and ashtrays, which are on sale in the local souvenir shops. Obviously the fewer people buy, the less the local people will take to sell, so don’t encourage the trade.
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