President cruises on Halong Bay

Halong Bay cruise

President Cruises on Halong Bay set to sail from November 12. New luxury Vietnamese cruise operator Lion Asia will debut the first of two President Cruises ships at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay on November 12, with a second vessel to take to the waters in 2019.

The 1,200-ton steel craft measures 86 meters long, 13.9 meters wide, and 13 meters high, making it the largest overnight ship to ever sail Halong Bay’s waters. But it is the five-deck vessel’s sublime selection of onboard entertainment and conveniences and an elegant cabin design that promises to impress its first passengers the most. The cruise has 46 spacious cabins, an evening piano bar, a spa, a fine dining restaurant, and two expansive sun decks.

A Brazilian jazz duo will stage nightly performances in the stylish piano bar, which evokes the refined atmosphere of a 1920s New York jazz café. An a la carte menu of innovative Japanese, Korean, and European-inspired dishes will be plated up at the ship’s fine dining restaurant, while renowned Vietnamese wellness group Kaia Spa will offer indulgent world-class treatments at the six-treatment room spa.

“It’s bigger, it’s bolder and it’s better than anything Halong Bay has ever seen,” said President Cruises’ Canadian-born General Manager Mr. Franco Muzzone. “Our debut takes cruising in the bay, and possibly worldwide, to a whole new dimension, with unsurpassed dining, entertainment, and relaxation options so that time spent on the ship is hands down the highlight of the cruise.” The vessel stakes a claim to being the first on Halong Bay to feature an elevator catering to people with disabilities and the elderly.

The ship is also home to two capacious sun decks totaling 324 sq m and 250 sq m that each has the capacity to accommodate all 120 passengers, lending themselves to large corporate events, weddings, and other special occasions with a backdrop of the bay’s dramatic limestone karsts.

Ranging from an ample 30 sq m to an immense 130 sq m, the 46 high-design cabins across five non-smoking cabin types are bedecked with dark parquet wooden flooring and neutral and earthy palettes and include walk-in closets and large windows providing spectacular views of the bay.

The 30 sq m Ambassador Balcony and Premier Balcony cabins are equipped with private balconies while the Cabinet and Treasury suites span 35 sq m and 38 sq m, respectively, and offer outside terraces and bathtubs.

Situated on the upper deck at the front of the ship, the 130 sq m Presidential Suite is the largest and most lavish cabin on Halong Bay, with a generous private terrace, private bar, and dining area, and floor-to-ceiling windows affording sweeping vistas of the bay.

“Our Presidential Suite really is the ultimate penthouse on the sea, completely redefining luxury on the bay in a whole new way,” said Ms. Dang Hang, General Director of the Lion Asia Tourism and Trading JSC.

President Cruises offers one and two-night itineraries with a luxury speedboat transporting passengers to a host of destinations around the bay, including caves, beaches, floating villages, and a pearl farm. The ship also offers sunrise tai chi and cooking classes onboard.

President Cruises’ rates start from $450 per person, with the Presidential Suite priced at $7,800, inclusive of attractions on the itinerary, meals, and transfers.

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Vietnamese Resorts among world’s Top 10

InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort

Vietnamese resorts among world’s top 50. InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in central Danang city and JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa on Phu Quoc Island feature on a list of the 50 best resorts in the world in 2018 from US-based luxury and lifestyle travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler. The list was based on reviews from 429,000 readers of the magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Ranked 15th, the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort is described as “the perfect pick for some beachside R&R while in Vietnam”. It also feels much farther away from the “real world” though it is just 30 minutes from Danang International Airport, it wrote. The resort, which opened in 2012, is scattered from the lush hills of the Son Tra Peninsula nature reserve down to the sandy shores of the East Sea and has become one of the top picks in the country for relaxing getaways.

InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort made a mark at the World Travel Awards 2018 as the first resort to win the World’s Leading Luxury Resort for four consecutive years and Asia’s Leading Luxury Resort title for five consecutive years. Meanwhile, JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, with 244 rooms and villas with sea views and private pools, was ranked 17th on the list.

On Kem Beach, on the southern shores of Phu Quoc Island, the hotel was designed by inimitable hotel designer Bill Bensley with a concept that weaves a story around the fictional historic Lamarck University, a homage to the French evolutionary theorist, which was supposedly founded in 1880 then abandoned in the 1940s and ultimately restored by Marriott. Although the resort has only been in operation since late 2016, it won the World Travel Awards as the World’s Leading New Resort 2017.

Other famous resorts on the list are Viceroy Bali (Indonesia), Viceroy Los Cabos, San José del Cabo (Mexico), Naladhu Private Island (Maldives) and L’Horizon Resort & Spa (California).

Source: vneconomictimes.com
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Co To island Van Chay beach

Van Chay beach on the Co To resort island has been verified as meeting the requirements for a tourist beach, according to Tran Nhu Long, Chairman of the island district’s People’s Committee in the northern province of Quang Ninh.

CO TO ISLAND VAN CHAY BEACH. Van Chay beach on the Co To resort island has been verified as meeting the requirements for a tourist beach, according to Tran Nhu Long, Chairman of the island district’s People’s Committee in the northern province of Quang Ninh. The recognition was issued by the provincial People’s Committee and will be valid for five years from the date of issuance. This is part of the province’s efforts to standardize and improve the quality of local beaches to better serve tourists. To be eligible for the status, the beach must satisfy a set of requirements regarding the quality of sand, transport infrastructure leading to the beach, supply of electricity and freshwater, safety signs, and rescue forces.

Quang Ninh now has many eligible tourist beaches, including five in Halong city. The best among them are the 200,000sq.m beach in Ha Long Ocean Park in Halong City and the 15,000sq.m Luong Ngoc Beach in Cam Pha city. Co To, a popular tourist destination off the coast of Quang Ninh, is renowned for its pristine beaches and abundant fresh, diverse seafood. The island dubbed the “green pearl”, is one of the farthest inhabited islands, located 80km from the mainland. From Cai Rong port in Van Don, travelers can take high-speed boat trips that take just an hour and a half. The island district is comprised of Co To Lon (large Co To) island, Co To Be (small Co To) island, and 15 islets.  Its attractions include its turquoise sea and tranquil beaches, along with a tropical forest eco-system almost in its primary conditions. 

Large stretches of untouched, white sandy beaches are a key feature on Hong Van, Van Chay, Co To Be, and Thanh Lan islands, where the best beaches of Co To are found. Thanks to such spectacular nature, the island district has been experiencing soaring tourism development. Statistics show that the number of tourists to Co To has surged in recent years. In 2013, the district welcomed some 56,000 visitors, with the figure going on to double in the following years. Last year, the island served 320,000 tourists. During peak holiday months, Co To can welcome some 7,000-10,000 tourists per day.

Recently, a master plan for the socio-economic development of Co To towards 2020 was approved, aiming to make the island district a national-level eco-tourism and resort area. This would place it together with the high-end sea and island eco-tourism area of Van Don, and become a key destination on the popular Cat Ba-Ha Long-Van Don-Co To-Mong Cai-Tra Co tour with diverse tourism products, including sports and entertainment centers. A plan for tourism development for 2020 with a vision to 2030 has also been approved, along with an action program to make tourism a spearhead sector of the district. SOURCE:  VNA

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Halong Bay among 15 most beautiful heritages

Halong Bay. A forum was underway in Halong city, the northern province of Quang Ninh, to seek measures to promote the sustainable development of green economy and tourism. The event on June 23 and 24 is organised by the Quang Ninh provincial Department of Tourism and the institute for communication and cultural studies under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. It attracted about 200 participants, including officials of the culture, environment and foreign ministries, domestic and foreign economic experts, and businesses in the tourism industry. They discussed policies for sustainably developing economy and tourism, solutions to develop green economy and tourism, Japan’s experience in the field, support for small-and medium-sized enterprises to use green production technologies, and investors and businesses’ role in developing green tourism sustainably. Le Doan Hop, Director of the institute for communication and cultural studies, said green tourism helps protect the nature and culture. The development of green tourism has been generating enormous economic benefits and creating chances to increase jobs and income for local communities, especially in remote areas which are home to nature reserves and attractive landscapes. Green tourism has also helped improve people’s knowledge and health through environmental, cultural, historical and leisure activities, he added. Other participants highlighted the need to use natural resources reasonably, reduce waste from tourism activities, apply environmentally friendly technologies in creating tourism products, and prioritise eco-tourism. They also looked into effective solutions to promote green economic and tourism development amid globalisation. At the forum, the organising board is set to honour the outstanding groups and persons in economic and tourism development. Participants will also tour some green economic-tourism sites in Quang Ninh province. The event is an activity in response to the National Tourism Year 2018, which centres on Quang Ninh and its Ha Long city.

The US newspaper Newsweek has listed Halong Bay of Vietnam among the Top 100 most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include both natural and man-made wonders. Halong Bay in the northeastern province of Quang Ninh was placed in the 14th position. “Halong Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars,” the Newsweek described. 

“Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by a human presence. The site’s outstanding scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest,” it said.

The Newsweek’s Top 100 most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites have been picked out from the UNESCO list of over 1,000 protected places across the globe. Halong Bay, a must-go place for those who spend holidays in Vietnam, which has been twice recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Halong Bay has been named one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The heritage site has become a magnet drawing visitors to Quang Ninh. Last year, the province welcomed a total of 9.87 million tourists, including 4.28 million foreigners. The province aims to attract over 12 million visitors this year, including 5 million foreigners.

Hai Phong Tourism: Hai Phong
Typhoon water park: Halong Water park
Halong Forum: Green tourism

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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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