Bai Tu Long, an area northeast of Ha Long Bay, is a less crowded option to explore the pure allure of Vietnam. This expanse of islands is made up of over 3000 massive islets, and is reminiscent of a dragon’s scaly hide. It was created after a huge limestone plateau was submerged in the ocean, and it is the origin of many legends telling of a gem-spitting dragon’s descent into the ocean. The water level is still very high, made obvious by the stilted houses and specially heightened restaurants and bars. The island’s people have even recently finished constructing a swimming area beyond a large sand dyke.
One of the most popular islands of Bai Tu Long Bay is Van Don Island. A bridge connects it to the mainland, and it is the first island you will visit on the tour. It is also the most advanced and the most populated in the entire archipelago, yet the tourism industry is underdeveloped and in need of stimulation. The main town of Van Don Island is Cai Rong (pronounced “Cai Zong”), which is around 30km in length and 15 km in width. You will find Long Beach (Bai Dai in Vietnamese) along the southern coast of the Island. It is filled with sandy mangroves and has a fantastic view of the rock formations located immediately offshore.
Bai Tu Long National Park is a main destination of the Island area. Filled with endangered birds and animals, it is a sight you can only see in the Park. The thick foliage hides the quaint Minh Chau Island Village, a small town known for their fishing. Thong Thien Cave, Cua Ong Temple, Phat Co Island, and other cultural and historical sights await your discovery.
A more tranquil Bai Tu Long Bay destination is Quan Lan Island. Sapphire seas and snow-colored sands beckon surfers and beachgoers alike. This crescent shaped, 1 km-long beach is best experienced between May and October, as the temperature is perfect for water activities. There are many more beaches on this island, so go ahead and explore, you never know what secrets you may uncover. If you head northeast, you will find the remnants of the old Van Don Trading Port; a once bustling central trading port between China and Vietnam. Hon Gai and Haiphong have both taken over as the main deep-water ports of the Island. Speaking of ports, from the 16th to the 18th day of the 6th lunar month, you can take part in the biggest festival on the Bay: Hoi Cheo Boi. Join in on this enormous rowing-boat affair, as thousands of people from all over celebrate alongside you.