Good morning Vietnam

VIETNAM passes the test of the three Cs: it’s cheap, cheerful and close – and, in these difficult times, it is safe. Vietnam will become an increasingly important destination for international tourists and has the potential to become the most popular Asian destination. It not only offers superb beaches and bargain shopping, but the Vietnamese cuisine also is a delight and the chance of picking up food bugs is minimal.  

Visitors either enter in the south at Ho Chi Minh City (it was Saigon) and slowly make their way north to the capital Hanoi or vice versa. They can use Ho Chi Minh City as a base to explore the Mekong Delta, which is the rice bowl of the country and worth an overnight trip. The meander north can include Nha Trang, a one-hour flight north from HCMC and a very relaxing beach stopover. It is similar to Bali, with hawkers on the beach to make life more bearable, selling fresh fruit, beer, T-shirts, postcards, jewelry… you name it and they sell it. Unlike Bali, however, the hawkers are usually happy to take “no” for an answer.

The next 60-minute flight took us from Nha Trang to the coastal town of Da Nang where China Beach became a famous R&R spot for troops during the Vietnam War. A 30-minute hair-raising drive from Da Nang was Hoi An, the town of tailors – almost 800 of them to be precise. They can knock up any sort of clothing in two days – suits, jackets, slacks, skirts, and shirts – and that includes at least one fitting. Prices range from about $10 for shirts up to $120 for suits and it is very competitive.

A complete wardrobe revamp could take a few days but the money saved could pay for the trip, so don’t miss Hoi An. For visitors more interested in the beach, a beautiful strip of white sand is just 5km from the town where there are several high-class resorts. A two-hour bus trip from Hoi An leads north to Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam. A must-see for visitors is the old city and citadel which is being rebuilt after extensive damage during the war.

Fighting around Hue was intense and the town was retaken by the Vietcong during the Tet Offensive – a nationwide uprising in 1968, which claimed 1000 American and 2000 South Vietnamese army deaths while the North Vietnamese lost 32,000 troops. It was the beginning of the end of the war but it was not until 1975 that the Americans pulled out. Another 90-minute flight took us from Hue to Hanoi and back to the big-city bustle where the motorcycle is king.

Hanoi has three million people and two million motorcycles and very little in the way of road rules. It is organized chaos, as horns constantly toot and bikes dive into holes in the traffic. Little wonder that about 30 people die every day on Vietnam roads. There’s no break in the traffic, so crossing the street is an art that has to be learned quickly. It’s a case of slowly moving across the street, no sudden movements while making eye contact with oncoming drivers. The traffic flows around pedestrians. The trick is to do this while praying and avoiding the almost overwhelming temptation to panic and run.

A welcome break from Hanoi was a trip to Halong Bay – three hours by bus but a world away cruising the bay that is littered with unusual limestone rock formations. Old junks have been rebuilt to cater for six couples in cabins with their own en suites. Very civilized, and all for around $50 a head for the two days with meals thrown in. Another Hanoi sanity stopover is Sapa, an overnight train trip away in the highlands near the Chinese border.

While Hanoi and, to a lesser extent Ho Chi Minh City, are interesting, they are also heavily polluted, so it is best to spend most of a Vietnam visit in the provinces. After hundreds of years of war with the Chinese, the French, and then the Americans, the good times have finally come to these resilient and resourceful people. Vietnam is no longer at war. It’s a country going places with plenty to offer.”

Source: http://www.news.com.au

Liveinmuine.com providing a reliable and affordable hotel transfer service. We operating all over Vietnam. You’ll get a direct door-to-door transfer directly to your destination. Whether it’s an airport, port, train station, town or city we have the right vehicle for you. So, tell us where and when you’d like to go, whatever time day or night our vehicles could be available to suit all your needs. Moreover, check also sightseeing tours, personal driver service, and Muine quality accommodation options. Thank you!

HCMC coffe culture

The first thing a stranger needs to learn in Ho Chi Minh City is how to cross the road. It’s a daunting challenge that requires a fine balance of nonchalance and acute awareness, of deliberate forward motion and hesitancy. Facing down a phalanx of buzzing mopeds with riders expressionless behind helmets and masks is dizzying. It takes a while to discover that it’s a dance of giving and take; that the moped riders will flow around you; that, in the end, the last thing to do is stop. Maybe that’s the essence of Ho Chi Minh City itself.   

It’s a metropolis where it feels as though the future has burst its banks. Skyscrapers rise out of the ground, obliterating neighborhoods where family life once played out at street level. And yet, at the foot of one of these glass-and-steel monoliths sits an old lady, skin like fragile rice paper, serving steaming pho (noodle soup) from an old cart, as if nothing at all has changed.

The best way to enjoy this peculiar balancing act is to sit on the balcony of one of the innumerable coffee houses scattered throughout the city. This way you will be out of the fray but able to look down on the street hustle below. You will also be drinking the beverage that must be at least partly responsible for the kinetic energy that has transformed this city into one of the most sophisticated commercial hubs of south-east Asia in just 20 years.

On the terrace of L’Usine, a French-inspired café overlooking the opera house, I ordered the classic Vietnamese coffee known as ca phe sua da – literally “coffee, milk, ice”. It comprises strong coffee, dripped from a small metal filter into a cup containing a quarter as much sweetened condensed milk, then stirred and poured over ice in a glass.

At first, I couldn’t bear its cloying sweetness, but three days in I’d grown addicted to the sweet buzz that follows a refreshing coolness on the tongue. It suits the humidity of the place in a way that an ordinary latte wouldn’t. Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the late 19th century but the country quickly became a strong exporter, as vast swathes of the highlands were given over to this important new cash crop. And now the Vietnamese have taken coffee to new levels of almost gastronomical – even medicinal – heights.

At Trung Nguyen Coffee – the Vietnamese equivalent of Starbucks, with a chain of cafés across the city – the coffee menu stretched to five pages. The vibe was studiously chic, with low-slung sofas and Seventies retro branding in orange and brown. Fellow patrons were largely beatnik-inspired youths and businessmen.

Coffee is taken seriously here, with beans from Italy, Japan, Turkey, and Ethiopia, but it was the varieties of Vietnamese coffee that deserved more exploration. They came with different bean combinations and recipes, and lofty names such as “Success”, “Creation”, “Discover” and “Thought”. I went for the “Passiona”, which was exclusively promoted for women with the promise that to drink this nectar would be to maintain perfect skin and a life of “passion and success”.

I drank it a lot, not necessarily because of its promises but because it was delicious. A kind of coffee smoothie, it was developed over the course of nine years and included a concoction of collagen, vitamin PP (to combat skin dryness) and rare oriental herbs. It was probably a calorie overload but became for me a daily ritual while I contemplated the city’s exquisitely balanced fusion of old and new.

At Mr Huynh’s street restaurant with no name, eating his signature beef pho under neon lights, I realised that no matter how many skyscrapers rise and how many mopeds speed towards the future, Vietnam’s past lives on in its food – in the steaming pho on street corners, in the markets with fish thrashing about in gleaming steel bowls, in the mounds of rice of a dozen varieties and the heaps of freshly harvested herbs. As Mr Huynh explained, few Vietnamese people own refrigerators because they buy everything fresh from the market.

Whether rich or poor, they prefer to eat on the street on tiny stools, and every restaurant uses family recipes passed down through generations. So it is that the hunky-dory youths with mobile phones pinned to their ears park their mopeds on the pavement, pull up a stool and eat the same food as their great-great-grandmothers did, long before the Vietnam War interrupted the gathering of rice in the paddies of the Mekong.

I bought my last cup of ca phe sua da from a street vendor outside the War Remnants Museum and drank it in the shadow of an old American tank with Lou, a young Vietnamese woman who still struggled with the war. Her name, Lou, had been given to her by a much-loved aunt who was separated from her family as a girl and ended up being taken care of by a French army deserter hiding from US troops in the mountains.

She went with him to France and it took her 30 years to find her way back to her family; to achieve that, she had to leave her beloved dog behind. The visit to the museum brought up sore memories for Lou, who’d had to change her foreign-sounding name in school to protect her from hatred as she might have been thought of as mixed-race.

“Everyone here has a story,” she told me. “Everyone lost someone, and many had to live with the shame of fighting on the wrong side. We fought and killed one another. No one talks about the war any more, as if it is over, but it isn’t really. It lives on in the silence.”

So in the cacophony that is street life in Ho Chi Minh City, each person carries the past as a secret wound, offering it quietly at his or her ancestral altars but forgetting it during the daily rush and the forgiving clatter of commerce. Vietnam has been invaded by the Chinese, the Japanese, the French and, finally, the Americans. That last legacy fills the rooms of the museum, where a visit concludes with eloquent photographs and testimony from the many, many people bearing the scars and disfigurements of chemical warfare.

Lou didn’t talk about it. Neither did I. We both sipped through our straws, drawing on the sweetness of our ca phe sua da as if it might dilute the bitterness of memory and loss.”

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk

Liveinmuine.com providing a reliable and affordable hotel transfer service. We operating all over Vietnam. You’ll get a direct door-to-door transfer directly to your destination. Whether it’s an airport, port, train station, town or city we have the right vehicle for you. So, tell us where and when you’d like to go, whatever time day or night our vehicles could be available to suit all your needs. Moreover, check also sightseeing tours, personal driver service, and Muine quality accommodation options. Thank you!

World longest cable car

Phu Quoc to have world's longest cable car

The world longest cable car will be in Phu Quoc. A sea cable car route connecting An Thoi town and Hon Thom Island, the largest of the An Thoi island cluster to the south of Phu Quoc Island off the coast of the Mekong Delta’s Kien Giang province, will open on February 14, just before Tet. Invested by the Sun Group, its nearly 8-km length makes it the longest cable car in the world. Its 70 cars can carry 30 passengers each on a three-rope cable car technology known as 3S gondola, which is the safest and most modern in the world.

The trip provides a 360-degree of the islands and the sea. The cable car is the first and most important installation of the Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park in the southern reaches of Phu Quoc Island, another project from the Sun Group and that features a water park and entertainment park.

The cable car and the Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park will officially open to tourists on February 14, two days before Tet. Tickets for adults and children over 1.3 meters tall are VND500,000 ($22), while children from 1 meter to 1.3 meters tall pay VND350,000 ($15) and children under 1 meter travel for free. To mark the opening, a “buy 1 ticket get 1 free” offer is available to the first 500 visitors each day from February 18 to 22. A lucky draw will also be held, with smartphones, luggage and cable and food vouchers up for grabs.

The Sun Group has built many large real estate and tourism projects in Vietnam, including the world’s longest continuous mono-cable detachable gondola at Sun World Ba Na Hills in the central city of Danang, the world’s former longest 3S gondola at Mt. Fansipan in northern Lao Cai province, and the world’s tallest ropeway tower and largest ropeway cabin, the Ha Long Queen Cable Car, in Ha Long city. Situated in the Gulf of Thailand on the Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand marine economic corridor, Phu Quoc is the country’s largest island and boasts a range of beautiful beaches.

Phu Quoc National Park, meanwhile, is home to hundreds of plant species, dozens of which are listed in the Vietnamese and world red books of endangered species. The park is part of the Kien Giang biosphere reserve, which was recognized as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2006. Phu Quoc Island welcomed nearly 362,000 international visitors last year, up 72 per cent against 2016, and targets at least half a million this year.” Source: vneconomictimes.com

Read more:
Intercontinental Phu Quoc Resort

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Sapa roof of Vietnam

Sapa roof of Vietnam: Just another reason to visit the roof of Vietnam, Sapa. Sapa in Vietnam’s northern province of Lao Cai has become more touristy in recent years, so it is important for those who love the pristine beauty of the town to find a place where they can breath in the fresh air, dive into the green jungle, gaze over the vast paddy fields and experience the ethnic culture.

Aware of that demand, National Geographic has the answer: Topas Ecolodge in Ban Lech Village. Naming the lodge on its new list of Unique Lodges of the World, the U.S.-based publisher suggests to its readers to “wake in the morning to the mist rising with the sun and spend your days exploring the surrounding forests and ethnic villages, and you’ll start to feel the pull of the hill tribes’ centuries-old lifestyle, native to these mountains and virtually untouched by the modern world.” This is because “the stilted common buildings at the heart of the lodge were sourced from a nearby community of ethnic Tay people; and private guest bungalows swirl along the ridgeline, ensuring a spectacular view no matter which one you check in to.”

Opened in 2005 on a mountaintop far from the emerging tourist hub of Sapa Town, Topas Ecolodge offers its guests a rare experience of culture, as there are five different native tribes in the region with distinctive languages and lifestyles. Surrounded by mountains and green rice paddies, the hilltop resort is the first in Vietnam and the 5th in Asia to make the National Geographic list. Last year, it was also ranked first by the site on the list of “21 places to stay if you care about the planet.” All of its 33 white bungalows overlook a spectacular landscape view of terraced rice fields and magnificent mountains, including the rooftop of Southeast Asia, Mount Fansipan. Other lodges in Asia that made the list are Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Malaysia, Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia, Twinkle Valley in China, and Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Bhutan.” Source: e.vnexpress.net

Read more:
Sapa Fansipan railway line

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Saigon nightlife

SAIGON NIGHTLIFE. HCM CITY. Nightlife in the megacity has something for everyone, be it partying hard or watching the skyline with a cocktail. Respected travel site Rough Guides just released a list of eight best night experiences in Southeast Asia, and Ho Chi Minh City is named THE place to delve into bars and clubs. “When the sun goes down, the bustling energy of southern Vietnam’s megalopolis transfers to its many clubs and bars,” Rough Guides says. If you’re thirsty for a chic experience of Saigon’s nightlife, put on your best dress or suit and head to the rooftop Chill Sky Bar in District 1, one of the city’s most popular and fancy spots.

It stays open from 5:30 p.m. till small hours the next morning, offering a dusk till dawn-ish view of the city, fabulous cocktails and a small but exciting music scene to check out. The U.K travel site also named Saigon Acoustic Bar in District 3 as a great rendezvous for a night out with pop-rock cover bands, while Carmen Bar in District 1 offers an odd selection of Spanish flamenco played by skilled Vietnamese musicians. For a casual good time, the plastic tables along Bui Vien are a must, Rough Guides said, calling it the “Beer Street” of the city’s backpacker district. Bui Vien is part of the city’s famous backpacker precinct that is closed to vehicles on weekends. It has drawn much attention from nomads with its bustling and energetic atmosphere, where they wander into the world of beer clubs, bars and pubs, shaking up the night in loud music, blink lights and cheers.

Other best night experiences in the region that are named on the list are music scene in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak, an overnight stay at Thailand’s most populous city The Big Mango or dance parties in Malaysia’s Penang. Or, visitors can grab a bite at Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, indulge in street life and live music at Yogyakarta’s Malioboro strip in Indonesia and dive into Singapore’s art hub Kampong Glam. Saigon, Vietnam’s biggest commercial center, is one of the most popular destinations in the country. Official data showed that it received 6.4 million foreign arrivals in 2017, a 22 percent pickup from the previous year. The city hopes to receive seven million foreign visitors this year.” Source: e.vnexpress.net

Read more:
HCMC coffee culture

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Vietnam pristine Cam Ranh Bay

Vietnam pristine Cam Ranh Bay: Cam Ranh Bay has been named among the world’s seven best destinations for May. Mesmerizing beaches and luxury resorts make a perfect combination for Cam Ranh, according to Condé Nast Traveler. If you are struggling with travel ideas for the summer, Vietnam can offer some help. The country’s deep-water Cam Ranh Bay, with its budding beach tourism, has been named among the world’s seven best destinations for May by top travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler.

Cam Ranh, an hour south of its much busier sister Nha Trang in the central province of Khanh Hoa, boasts pristine and mesmerizing beaches that have yet to be marred by human hands. It’s where one can find “the lifetime fascination” in the deep waters, the U.S.-based magazine said. Luxury facilities such as a top-tier golf course and beachfront resorts should be part of the package, it said.

Cam Ranh international airport is expected to unveil a new international terminal to bring in more overseas visitors to the country this May. The Condé Nast list also includes Paris, Sicily and Puglia of Italy, Portugal’s remote Azores islands, Cannes and Monte Carlo, San Francisco and Louisville. International visitor arrivals in Vietnam in the first quarter of this year jumped 30.9 percent from a year ago to 4.2 million. The country expects to receive 15-17 million foreign arrivals this year.” Source: e.vnexpress.net

Read more:
Anam Luxury Cam Ranh Resort
Travelodge Cam Ranh Hotel

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Phu Quoc – Nam Du – Con Dao islands by ferry

PHU QUOC – NAM DU – CON DAO ISLANDS BY FERRY. In efforts to facilitate access to the islands in Southern Vietnam, we are partnering with Superdong Speed Ferry, the leading speed boat company that operates routes to Phu Quoc, Nam Du and Con Dao. ” Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, the territory belongs to Kien Giang province.

Having experienced a tourist boom, Phu Quoc has achieved fast economic growth. In the last decades, many infrastructure projects have been developed, including 5-star hotels and resorts. Also, Phu Quoc International Airport connects the island with Ho Chi Minh (baolau.com/s/Ho-Chi-Minh/Phu-Quoc) and Hanoi (baolau.com/s/Hanoi/Phu-Quoc), as well as other international destinations such as Bangkok (baolau.com/s/Bangkok/Phu-Quoc).

The beaches are the main attraction on the island. Phu Quoc offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam, including Long Beach along the western coast, Bai Sao and Bai Kem in the south, Bai Ganh Dau and Bai Dai in the north, and the An Thoi Archipelago beaches. Besides swimming, snorkeling and sun-bathing, eating seafood and watching the sunset are also the most popular activities.

Phu Quoc island is accessible from the ports of Rach Gia (baolau.com/s/Rach-Gia/Phu-Quoc) and Ha Tien (baolau.com/s/Ha-Tien/Phu-Quoc). There are combined routes of bus + ferry if coming from Can Tho (baolau.com/s/Can-Tho/Phu-Quoc) in the Mekong Delta or Sihanoukville (baolau.com/s/Sihanoukville/Phu-Quoc) in Southern Cambodia via Kep – Ha Tien international border crossing. Source: baolau.com

Read more:
JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

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Hon Thom Islet

Hon Thom (Pineapple Islet) is the largest of the An Thoi Islands (An Thoi Archipelago), with a population of around 4,000. The 15 islands and islets are located to the south of Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand and are under the authority of Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta.

The archipelago consists of many islands and islets that are quickly growing in popularity as tourist destinations thanks to their pristine beaches, rocky cliffs, breathtaking mountains, and dense forests. This beauty has earned it the nickname “The Paradise Islets of Phu Quoc.” However, it was only recently that any An Thoi islands besides Phu Quoc became considered as a “must-see” in Vietnam.

One of these islands, Hon Thom, stands out for its untouched natural beauty. Surrounding the island is clear blue water and sun-burned sandy beaches. The island itself is covered in wild greenery, creating a romantic aura around on its beaches. Hon Thom is well-known for the flawless sand on its many beaches, including Nom beach, Nam beach, Chuong beach, and Chao beach.

On Chuong beach, located in the south of the island, the sand is bordered on one side by small houses with metal roofs and fishing boats on the other. Moreover, the beach has plenty of places for tourists to try fresh seafood and fruits picked right from local trees, such as mangoes and star apples.

Significant changes

Hon Thom Island has changed considerably in recent years. Many tourists insist that they see significant changes every time they return. Even people living on Hon Thom, if asked, say, “Hon Thom is now very different.”

One of the most significant changes was the installation of a power grid in 2015. With that came the introduction of tourist activities such as jet-skiing and tours to visit other nearby islands. Before electricity was installed, Hon Thom was only designated for one-day trips in which tourists would come during the day to enjoy the beaches, food, and scenery before returning to hotels on other islands by canoe at sunset.

Another factor contributing to the island’s popularity is the new cable car system connecting An Thoi Town with the three main islands in the An Thoi archipelago, including Hon Thom Islet. More significantly, the ropeway is the world’s longest cable car system above the sea.

Visitors cannot resist the opportunity to see the set of islands from the sky. As the cable cars lift visitors from the ground, clear blue water, highlands covered with greenery and sandy beaches slowly begin to shrink. From above, tourists can view the beautiful beaches of Hon Thom including Nom, Chuong, and Chao beaches, as well as other islands and islets such as Hon Roi Islet, Hon Dua Islet, and Hon Mong Tay Islet, all of which are quite well-known to tourists thanks to the many tours offered to these places. One of the tourists even commented: “No artist is talented enough to paint such a beautiful picture.”

Read more: Fusion Phu Quoc Resort

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Mui Ne – Phan Thiet city

MUI NE - PHAN THIET CITY

Phan Thiet is a coastal port city in Southeast Vietnam and the capital of Binh Thuan Province. The Phan Thiet city is a fairly young where the 100th anniversary was celebrated only in 1998. Phan Thiet city is subdivided into 18 wards and communes, of which 14 are urban wards. Two urban wards, Mui Ne, and Ham Tien are most know for tourists. Figuratively, between Phan Thiet and Mui Ne fishing town is a 10 km long Ham Tien ward with a street Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Ham Tien – is a tourist strip where situated hotel resorts, bars, restaurants, shops and all that you need for a perfect beach holiday. The scene today is radically different from just decades ago, when the main strip, was a nameless sand track with coconut palms. Besides, only in 1995 first foreign tourists discovered Mui Ne beach while they watched here solar eclipse.

MUI NE PENINSULA

Mui Ne is actually a peninsula, where fishermen can perfectly shelter their boats from the wind and storms. Locals say that centuries ago first Fishermans settled Mui Ne beach for fishing and start prepared world-famous fish sauce. The wind frustrates the fishermen but not windsurfers and kitesurfers which know that the Mui Ne beach is one of the top 5 spots for sailing in the world, and it’s definitely the best in Asia. Around Phan Thiet city can be found more beaches. The beaches of Ka Ga, Tien Thanh, Hon Rom are peaceful and quiet but it can’t be compared with Mui Ne beach. Literally, there is no street life, nowhere to go and you shall chill out only at your hotel resort. Visitors can explore Mui Ne fishing village, the Fairy Stream – a small version of a red canyon or the photogenic white and red sand dunes, for instance. 

CLIMATE

The city has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical savanna climate, with an average humidity of 78–82%. The year is divided into two distinct seasons. Raining season starts from May to November and the dry season from December to April. The average annual temperature is 28 °

Read more:
Binh Thuan beaches erosion | Hanoi | Ho Chi Minh City

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Cat Ba Island

The dragon, sent by the Jade Emperor, descended from heaven into the sea and sprayed a thousand pearls from its mouth. From these cascading pearls, the 1,600 shaggy limestone stacks of Halong Bay emerged, a huge curvature of jumbled karst fortress designed to protect Vietnam from invaders in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Most visitors to Vietnam sail past the rocky outcrops – some soaring 100m high – on boat cruises, but last month Vietnam’s first tourism seaplane launched, flying visitors over the Unesco world heritage site and giving them spectacular dragon-eye views.    

Hai Au Aviation’s Cessna Grand Caravan, carrying 10 passengers, flies low over the entire panoramic karst fest – a vast area of 43,400 ha of drowned limestone karst some 165 km from the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi in northern Vietnam.

The towering outcrops of Halong Bay, which means ‘where the dragon descends to the sea’, dwarfed the pleasure boats on their overnight cruises and from the air the forested boulders now looked like mossy lumps and bumps – the stepping stones of a giant, plopped on an emerald green pond.

As a passenger on the first flight, I could see parts of the bay not visible from a cruise boat – lush, sculpted valleys and hidden lakes which shimmered in the late afternoon sun. It was like glimpsing a primeval land untouched since the mother goddess of Vietnam Au Co, and the dragon prince, Lac Long Quan, met on earth thousands of years ago before they gave birth to the ancestors of modern Vietnam.

The new seaplane service also takes visitors to the bay from Hanoi airport – a 30 minute flight compared to four hours by road – before landing at the local marina. From here, visitors board different cruises, with varying price tags, to explore Halong Bay by boat.

Designated a Unesco world heritage site 20 years ago this year, the bay is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist attractions. It is only recently though, that a small number of cruise boats have ventured further east into the Gulf of Tonkin, to the outer rocky flanks of Bai Tu Long.

I escaped the congestion of Halong Bay with Bhaya’s three-day cruise to Bai Tu Long on the Au Co with her 32 handsome wood cabins with balconies.

The white ship (in a mysterious move, authorities ordered all the boats in the bay to be painted white, the same color as the fog that can envelop the area) heads first to Bai Tu Long, the outer battlements of the limestone fort, before cruising back through Halong Bay at the end of the trip.

Bai Tu Long means ‘the place where the dragon children descended’. It’s an isolated, otherworldly, remote area of the gulf, scattered with knobbly peaks, pillars fringed with untidy twigs, solid limestone sentinels cut with sheer bare-faced rock and, every once in a while, an apron of creamy sand seen tied to the base of the towers.

We cruised to one of these – Vung Ha Beach – a crescent-shaped bay at the base of a crouching outcrop with jagged, castellated peaks. After kayaking through the undercut of a nearby stack, we abandoned the paddles and dived in to the warm, papaya green waters. After a long soak, it was time to sit on coral-shattered sands that were perfumed by the fragrance of a white bloom floating over the beach.

Back on board, we supped on the happy hour flow of cocktails and Hanoi beer with the Au Co guests, hailing from Australia, Europe, America and Vietnam. At dusk, when the wings of the golden crow – the sun of Vietnam’s creation story – hovered over the unkempt rocky lumps, fishing boats puttered by and sampans slouched under the overhangs. Then, when the graceful swan of the moon ascended, all that was visible in this distant spot away from other tour boats were the dying violet clouds and inky black outlines of limestone monoliths. The stars hung very far away in the intensely black sky and the small wake of the fishing boats caused the moonlight to shimmer in slithers, making it look as if stars were dropping into the waters.

Our breakfast in the Au Co dining room came with more spectacular views as we cruised just meters past the scattered islands of Bai Tu Long. Some of the pillars were jagged like the scales of a mythical dragon, some just stumps, others appeared in traditional jelly-mold shape and some like a batch of misshapen rock cakes. In the distance, we spied a dense army of lead grey pillars studded with the tufts of hardy plants glued to the vertical shafts of the rock.

Sheltered in a barnacled corner of Bai Tu Long is Vung Vieng village. In an attempt to control pollution in the bay, fisherman has either been exported to land or corralled into floating communities by the government. We boarded bamboo boats so the locals could row us around their village and oyster pearl farming plots. Au Co’s Mr Tuan explained: “Locals sell these pearls for jewelry, cosmetics, and medicine. It takes a year to 18 months to cultivate pearls but only around 30 percent of the farmed oysters grow pearls.”

After being rowed around Vung Vieng and a lot of leisurely sitting around under the canvas umbrellas of the Au Co, we all felt it was time to exercise – but not before feasting for lunch. The Au Co’s cuisine is based on the Taoist philosophy of balance and harmony and our five course meals included delicate dragon fruit and Phan Thiet scallops, grilled minced Halong fish on lemongrass, chicken roulade with onion cream, and an intense passion fruit pannacotta.

Stomachs full, we moored off the south-east corner of Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay, a colossal karst platform, straggled by smaller tiny islands, and home to a rare and endemic primate.

“In 1960, there were 2,700 Cat Ba langurs, but they’ve all been eaten,” Mr Tuan told us. “Since 2000, the number has increased from 53 to 65, and there is now good conservation education in the local villages.”

Accompanied by zooming green dragonflies, we biked through a Jurassic Park wonderland of limestone walls flanked with feral plants and bushes to Viet Hai, a small, repopulated village where the Au Co employs locals at its organic farm. We didn’t see any primates above ground but below ground was a different story.

Halong Bay’s grottoes have been visited since the French discovered them more than 100 years ago. At Hang Sung Sot (Surprise Cave), Mr Tuan pointed out the subterranean images seen in the whipped up floors and ceilings of the chambers – Kong Kong’s face was here, a turtle symbolizing longevity there, and the tail of a dragon rippled above our heads. It reminded us, again, of Halong’s ‘descending dragon’ and its protection of this extraordinary Unesco landscape.

Best time to visit: Halong Bay can be visited year-round. The best time to visit is September and October, and March and April.

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Hanoi the Capital of Vietnam
Hue Imperial City
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