Guidebook Deserted beaches, caves, magnificent limestone towers


Deserted beaches, caves, magnificent limestone towers

Halong Bay is “the most visited destination in all of Vietnam,” says International Living. “Hundreds of tiny islands -- many of them inhabited only by monkeys -- feature dozens of caves and innumerable deserted beaches … magnificent limestone towers rise above the waters of the bay like brooding primeval sentinels.” Halong Bay, which earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 1994, “stretches out along the Tonkin Gulf,” a three-and-a-half-hour drive north of Hanoi.  

More than a million people visit each year “on a procession of junk ships and cruise boats,” says Nick Boulos at the UK Express. This is what he observed from his boat: “Craggy limestone cliffs rising from the still waters in all directions … countless others dotted the horizon … we stopped on deserted beaches for lunchtime barbecues followed by leisurely swims … later, we roamed caves filled with ancient stalactites and stalagmites and sailed to Cat Ba, the largest of Halong’s 2,000 islands.”

But there is a downside: the impact of tourism and economic development, reports Australia’s ABC. This issue has “long been a cause for concern among environmentalists.”  And while numerous measures have been put in place over the past couple of years to mitigate these problems -- “such as the establishment of the Ha Long Bay Alliance, a USAID-funded partnership between Washington and Quang Ninh's People's Committee, and the forced resettlement of several hundred residents from floating villages to the mainland” -- extreme flooding has caused “run-off from the area's thousands of hectares of open-pit coal mines and coal-fired power plants escaping inadequate holding ponds and running into the bay.”

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