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.”