Halong Bay - 2,000 islands in 1,500 square km, the World
Halong Bay attracts approximately 90\\% of the tourists who come to Vietnam. It's a beautiful bay comprising 1,500 square km situate on the Gulf of Tonkin Gulf on the South China Sea. Though it forms part of the ocean, its waters are calm and unusually emerald. It has nearly 2,000 islands.
The enchanting land masse of the Bay is of limestone and dolomite, and there are many grottos and caves for visitors to enjoy. Tourist who have visited Guilin (China) and Phuket (Thailand) often compare these sites with Halong Bay due to their similar shape and geographical structure. However, upon visiting this Vietnamese wonder, all agree that Halong Bay is much larger and more diversified.
It is so magnificent, that after a very short period of consideration, UNESCO acknowledged Halong Bay as a World Heritage site in December 1994. This is the 2nd of the four listed World Heritages of Vietnam.
In 1991 a scene of the French movie INDOCHINE was shot at Halong Bay. This very popular film is about the life of a French woman who lived in Vietnam during the French domination in Indochina from mid-19th to mid-20th century. The leading role is played by Catherine Deneuve. As the film made its way around the world, not only French-speaking tourists began to make the voyage to Halong Bay, but the world now includes this spectacular seascape on its itinerary.
Before it became so popular, it was pretty difficult to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi, 170 km away. In 1995, it took no less than 6-hours of driving with 2 river ferry crossings, with inconvenient getting in and out of busses. But still, despite this inconvenience, tourists always included Halong Bay as part of their itineraries.
Today, you can drive directly to Halong Bay without the need to take any ferries and in three hours or even less if the traffic is not too heavy. But tourists love to stop along the way to look at the paddy fields, the daily life of farmers, the clay workmen, the greenbean town and the ceramic town that are now situate on the way.
There is a saying amongst Vietnamese about Halong Bay: "You have never really been to Vietnam if you have not visited Halong Bay." How true!