A “floating village” at Rock Island, Ha Long Bay
Journey with us through this exotic and compelling country as we highlight the top three must-visit destinations on your next trip to Vietnam.
Text credit: Elizabeth Lim
Images credit: 123RF
BA LUA ARCHIPELAGO
Located in Kien Giant province in southern Vietnam, Ba Lua Archipelago is home to more than 45 islands and islets nestled in the Gulf of Thailand. Dubbed the “Little Ha Long Bay” of the south, the archipelago’s islands are named after the shapes they resemble and following local folklore: Hon Heo (Pig Islet), Hon De (Goat Islet), Mangrove Islet, Re Ion (Groom) Islet and Re Nho (Groomsman) Islet amongst many others.
Known for its picturesque scenery of limestone islets of various shapes and sizes, Ba Lua has remained largely intact to this day, and attracts international travellers from far and wide to explore the area. Out of the 45 islets, 10 of them are home to local fishing villages and Hon Gieng, Hon Duoc and Hon Duong are the closest to each other. Furthermore, the sea around the archipelago has been known to be extremely shallow at times, which makes walking between the islands possible! Ba Lua Archipelago is currently an extremely popular tourist destination amongst the younger generations keen to explore the unspoiled and undiscovered regions of Vietnam.
HA LONG BAY
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Ha Long Bay has the world’s most spellbinding sea views and is undoubtedly the most popular destination in Vietnam. Located in northeastern Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin, in the province of Quang Ninh, Ha Long Bay covers over 1,500 square kilometres and is best known for its emerald green waters and thousands of limestone islands topped by rainforest. Largely uninhabited and undisturbed, the islands are covered with lush vegetation and there are numerous hiking trails to enjoy in addition to the stunning views of the isolated bays. In Vietnamese, Ha Long translates to “descending dragon” and according to ancient mythology, the Vietnamese people are believed to have descended from dragons themselves. The legend goes that in an attempt to protect the country from hostiles, a dragon was sent from heaven to protect the people and sprayed fire and emeralds or jade. Soon, these jewels turned to what is now the towering limestone formations.
Beyond just the exhilarating scenery, Ha Long Bay has a whole host of attractions to visit and activities to take part in. Adventure junkies can rent a kayak or a small boat to explore Ha Long Bay’s amazing karst caves, or really challenge themselves with some of the world’s best rock climbing experiences. For divers and snorkellers, Ha Long Bay has some excellent dive sites with healthy coral and countless species of fish, molluscs and crustaceans. And with a huge selection of fresh seafood to choose from, you won’t have any difficulty finding a delicious barbeque to end your night.
PHU QUOC ISLAND
An unassuming island that sits just off the southwest tip of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc (pronounced “foo kwok”) is undoubtedly one of Asia’s best-kept secrets.
The largest island in Vietnam, spanning some 574 square kilometres, Phu Quoc boasts idyllic beaches, evergreen forests and a serene atmosphere, making it the ideal holiday destination for travellers looking for somewhere to just sit back, relax and let loose.
The island is home to a substantial population (around 180,000), with fishing and agriculture being the primary industries, but tourism forming an increasingly significant part of the local economy.
The northern part of Phu Quoc is relatively untouched, as the area has been designated as a UNESCO-listed national park but along the southern coastline, visitors will find plenty to keep them entertained. From resorts to bars and quaint cafes, Phu Quoc has everything you’d expect from a beach destination but besides the beachside activities, the island also offers traditional villages, expansive Nature parks and Buddhist pagodas and temples to explore.
A fine blend of traditional and modern, Phu Quoc has much to offer regardless of your budget and preferences, but with so much to do and so much to explore, you’ll need to check out our recommendations for your upcoming trip to the island.
This is an excerpt from an article from Asian Geographic Passport Issue 1/2021. To continue reading, get your copy here.