Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries of Southeast Asia and one of the most popular destinations for European tourists. Among its natural landscapes the Halong Bay in the north of the nation, continues to surprise visitors from around the world.
The Vietnamese call this place the Bay of the descendants of the Dragon (Vinh Ha Long). It extends along a coastline of 120 kilometers. More than 3 000 irregular limestone islands emerge from their deep blue waters with dense vegetation and the sound of birds singing since early in the morning.
According to the legend, during the time of the Emperor, the Chinese invaders wanted to seize the land of the Vietnamese empire. The Emperor asked for help to a family of dragons that launched pearls and jades in order to sink the enemy ships. Once finished the battle, due to the beauty of the place, the dragons and their descendants decided to stay.
In November 2011, Halong Bay was declared as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a title which was formally ratified in January this year. It already had the status of World Heritage granted by UNESCO since 1994.
While some islands are nothing more than large rocks, others are much more important and contain large caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. The largest island in Halong, and one of the few that are inhabited, is Cat Ba, which has beautiful beaches and a national park.
Many caves have formed in the huge islands of Halong. The most famous are Hang Sung Sot (Stunning Cave), Hang Dau Go (Hidden Wood cave), Hang Thieng Cung (Heavenly Palace Grotto), Hang Bo Nau Cave (Pelican), Dong Tam Cung (cave of the three Palaces) and Hang Trong (Drum cave). During your Vietnam holidays you can not miss visiting the small island of fishermen, Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprises), famous because inside has a shaped like penis rock.
The best way to appreciate the charms of Halong bay is to cruise it between the islands in a wooden boat. The vastness of the place makes such a walk essential for you to enjoy the beauty of this natural landscape. Local fishermen sell directly from their rowing boats fish and seafood, which can be cooked instantly for a delicious lunch. In the morning activities continue, including Tai Chi and demonstration on how to cook spring rolls.
Around the bay there is a typical Vietnamese village with quaint houses, a small pagoda and a market, next to the port. To access the village you have to cross a road at the base of the bay, surrounded by hotels and a beautiful bridge, which reminds those of Lisbon, Portugal.
For its natural wonders Vietnam has increased the reception of tourism growing in 2011 to a total of 19% compared to last year. In January this year, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism reported an increase of 25% over the same month in 2011.