Natural beauty and serenity await you in one of the most stunning locations in the world, Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. Its name means “descending dragon,” which alludes to the legend behind this beautiful bay’s formation. Legend has it that a fire-breathing dragon came down from the mountains to protect the land from invaders, creating a series of mountains and valleys. For 2014, when you embark on Vantage’s Angkor Wat & the Mekong river cruise, you’ll experience the true dramatic nature of the bay with your own eyes, a must-see location for anyone traveling through Vietnam.
After your cruise aboard the luxury RV Mekong Navigator, you’ll disembark in Siem Reap (to explore Angkor Wat), then fly to Hanoi for further discovery. This is where you’ll enjoy an included overnight cruise aboard a traditonal junk through the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay, a series of almost 2,000 monolithic islands rising high above the water, topped with jungles. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Ha Long Bay is a natural wonder, mostly uninhabited and largely unspoiled by human development. The scenic beauty is a continuous landscape of limestone islets of various shapes and sizes, where wind-eroded grottoes and smooth green slopes dip into the waters of the bay.
You’ll discover islands that are hollow, comprised of enormous caves. The Wooden Stakes Cave is the largest grotto, containing immense stalactites and stalagmites. Some islands, like Dau Be Island, are exceptional wonders, known for having enclosed lakes. Other islands are home to hundreds of species of fish and mollusks. Two islands, Tuan Chau and Cat Ba, have a small population of 1,600 people who fish the waters for a living. French tourists who first visited in the 19th century were so enchanted by what they discovered that they decorated the grottoes with drawings, some of which can still be seen today.
As you take in the peaceful nature of the sight, it may be hard to imagine that the stunning landscape was also a location of historic battles, including naval skirmishes against Vietnam’s neighbors. In 1288, General Tran Hung Dao stopped Kublai Khan’s Mongol boats, sinking his fleet. During the Vietnam War, the US Navy mined several channels. Today, Ha Long Bay is more likely to be a site for film directors than military generals. Once you are there, taking in the sights around you, you will agree that its sweeping panoramas were essential for the making of many Hollywood films. For example, it was the unforgettable backdrop for the Oscar-winning French epic, Indochine, starring Catherine Deneuve.
Discover the former French colonies of Cambodia and Vietnam while on Vantage’s Angkor Wat & the Mekong tour. Along the way, you’ll witness the must-see Ha Long Bay. Vantage arranges an exclusive overnight stay aboard a traditional junk boat right in the heart of this stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, which guarantees you a truly unique travel experience.