Halong bay in Vietnam is the most popular destination in Quang Ninh province. However Halong bay is not the only attraction in Quang Ninh, if you have been to Halong bay before and want to see something else of if you have a few days and want to stay away from the touristy Halong bay I would like to list 5 attractions you must visit during your time in Quang Ninh. There is not much information about these places on the net however I myself have visited them and can guarantee you will not be disappointed to go there. Let’s move on
Tours in Halong bay One of the most interesting cave I have ever been to. Hanh grotto is located at the foot of Quang Hanh mountain in Cam Pha township and entrance is along the coast, I came here in 2008 when I visited a friend who lives in Cam Pha, the cave is low and to get into the cave you have to go by small boat and wait until the tide goes down, remember to bring along torch. Only adventurous explorers would think of visiting this cave, most other people including local residents never set their foot in it. Hanh grotto is about 2km in length. You have to calculate time so that you can quickly get in and out of the cave before the tide goes up
Precariously hang above the entrance of the cave is a little shrine named Ba Co, said to be very sacred and fishermen usually come here to pray.
Hanh grotto can by reached by renting a canoe from Hon Gai area or by road to Cam Pha, at the dock in Cam Pha you can hire a boat to the cave, and at the entrance there are small boats to bring you into the cave, it takes about 1.5 hours to visit the cave.
Vung Vieng fishing village
Little is heard about Vung Vieng fising village as it is in Bai Tu Long bay. Vung Vieng is aprox 20km from the mainland, located in a peaceful and quiet area this is one of the oldest fishing village in Quang Ninh province. I came here for the first time in 2005 and in the small village floating on the sea, simple life still goes on day after day. Vung Vieng still preserves it’s natural beauty of an old style fishing village. In Vung Vieng, fishermen made their houses by the edge of the islands, making a living by raising fish and selling to local people, the houses are made of wood, built on empty barrels tied together, in heavy rains or storms the boat will pull the house to another place. With the invasion of tourist vessels coming from the adjacent Halong bay I’m afraid Vung Vieng will soon lose it’s peaceful silence. Upon leaving the village, I caught the wave of the hands of the children and the smiles of people in the village.
Cai Bau pagoda
Built in 2009 Cai Bau pagoda is located in Van Don district, Quang Ninh province, Cai Bau was built on the ground of the old Phuc Linh pagoda, dated back to 7th century. the front side of the pagoda faces the ocean and it’s back faces the mountain. Cai Bau pagoda, aka Truc Lam Giac Tam, is one of two Zen Monasteries in Quang Ninh and is an attractive destination for Vietnamese Buddhists at the beginning of the Lunar Year. Cai Bau pagoda is in the Bai Dai tourism area and it has a peaceful, pure atmostphere. From the pagoda you can have an overview of Bai Tu Long bay. This must be one of the most beautiful pagodas I have ever been to, and to my pleasant surprise people visiting Cai Bau pagoda are treated to free vegeratian food and car parking. This pagoda is about 10km from Cai Rong port town, from Cai Rong you can go there by taxi or bus.
Ngoc Vung island
Among the 3 islands in Bai Tu Long bay including Ngoc Vung, Quan Lan and Co To I like Ngoc Vung the most. Ngoc Vung or Gem island about 35km from mainland. This is one of the few places in Quang Ninh that still has the wild and natural beauty of an untouched island, you can come to Ngoc Vung by high speed boat which departs 2 times a day from Hon Gai or Van Don districts however I would recommend that you take wooden slow boat so that you can enjoy the breathtaking sceneries of Bai Tu Long bay. According to legend, the island was named Ngoc Vung as there were a lot of precious pearls in the island glowing at night under the moonlight. The beach in Ngoc Vung is around 15km with pristine white sand, on activity I recommend is that you rent a bicycle and take an exploration trip around the island. There are a few family hotels and guesthouses on the island and staying the night at homestay in the village is a nice experience, people in the island are very friendly, they let us use their motorbike the whole day for free. Coming to Ngoc Vung island don’t forget to go fishing in the sea and enjoy cheap fresh seafood.
Bai Tho mountain
It would be really pity if you visit Halong bay without climbing up the Bai Tho mountain, especially if you are a photographer. The mountain is right in Halong city next to the bay. Bai Tho mount is about 200m high. The name Bai Tho (poem) came out in 15th century when the King made a poem on the wall of the mountain, praising the unique beauty of the Halong bay. Climbing to the top of Bai Tho mountain is a nice experience, the path is not too long however pretty steep, it took me 30 minuties to reach the mountain peak, from here you can have a panorama view of the entire Halong bay, and I can guarantee you can take the best photos of sunset in Halong bay from the top of Bai Tho mountain. At the foot of the mountain is Long Tien pagoda, built in the last century as a worship place for the national heroes.