The imperious beauty of Halong Bay

Posted in Vietnam | August 26, 2010

Superlatives begin to fail me as I describe this place. Mysterious, awe-inspiring and regal are three words that come to mind and they don’t even scrape the tip of the iceberg. Halong Bay is a necklace of 3000 islands (maybe more) draped around the nape of the Gulf of Tonkin and either at sea levels or from the air, it represents a resplendent site sown by the hands of nature. It is art in natural form, a wonder unsung and pristine.

Few known that it is a deemed world heritage site and the comparison to Krabi in Thailand is instantaneous but while the two are a world removed from the madness of society, Halong Bay is really in a class of its own when it comes to totting up points for being solely spectacular. The beaches and inlets, all carved by the passage of the wind and the sea, are only outdone by the tree-lined slopes ringing with the music of birds in song. It is no wonder that tourism is quite popular here for those in the know and the caves are well lit for the benefit of tourists. A few beaches do exist here, but if that’s what you’re really after head over the Lan Ha Bay where there are hundreds of sandy spots waiting for your arrival.

Halong City itself is the gateway to the bay, but not the best entry point necessarily. Tourism has presented its ugly face as the city is a strange mish-mash best missed thanks to the developments within. You’re much better spending a night on a boat-house because make no mistake about it, the bay is the star attraction. Word of mouth alone keeps the tourists more than just steadily trickling in and if you’re lucky enough to land up during the months of February to April, a coolness and fog descends over the place like a shawl gifted by Mother Nature. This makes what is already exquisite absolutely ethereal.

The hordes of tourists are sadly stripping the area of its beauty, and the rare corals and sea shells that once dotted the sea bed now are absent and they form that most degrading of things; souvenirs. Stalagmites from the caves are carved into key rings and the likes and all of this is sold brazenly in the city. Go while you still can, before its beauty is pillaged and lost forever.

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