The Charm of Northern Vietnam
A region of unmatched sensations
Truly an unbelievable sight, the surreal seascape of Halong Bay and the neighbouring Lan Ha Bay were formed over hundreds of millions of years (although the legend claim the bay was created in just a single day). At the heart of the bays is a large island known as Cat Ba, which is covered in lush, jungle-topped hills and valleys. To the north and east of the island are almost two thousands of limestone karst islets, caves and grottoes, sandy island beaches, and lagunas (some with endemic fauna and flora) – creating a maze of hidden passageways in this dreamlike fairy-tale landscape.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1994 in recognition for its outstanding, aesthetic value, Halong Bay was additionally recognised in 2000 for its outstanding geological and geomorphological value.
What the Mekong Delta is to southern Vietnam is Halong Bay to northern Vietnam. Since centuries, the red river delta and the sea around Halong Bay has provided the region with all kinds of fish and seafood. With over 400 species of fish and countless varieties of shellfish and edible sea plants, cuisine in the north is undeniably tied to the bounties of the sea. Flavours and texture of food is lighter than elsewhere in Vietnam. Always popular with visitors is the locally caught fresh and tender squid (of which many say it is one of the best in Vietnam) which can be prepared with a special recipe originally from Halong called ‘Cha Muc’ or squid pie. Jumbo prawns, crab, or fresh oysters are other favourites savours.
One very tasty and classic northern local dish ‘Cha Ca La Vong’ - turmeric grilled fish with dill - is served aboard Heritage Line’s fine cuisine.
Without doubt the bay’s breath-taking natural scenery is the main attraction to indulge in, however there are some lesser-known gems of Halong and Lan Ha Bay. Water erosion from the rising and falling of the ocean over millions of years has carved out many of the bay’s towering limestone karsts. To date, 59 caverns and grottoes have been discovered, including the Sung Sot caves with its impressive chambers, micro-ecosystems, and countess stalactites and stalagmites.
Another unique attraction are the self-sufficient floating fishing communities scattered around the bay. Daily life had changed very little over the centuries for these residents, whose livelihoods depended on fishing and aquaculture. Pearl farming has also piqued the interest of local tradesmen and various kinds of pearls of many colours are cultivated and harvest at farms across the bay.
After a 1,000-years of Chinese occupation, the free and fledgling country Vietnam christened itself ‘Dai Viet’. During this era, many Chinese customs and beliefs have been adopted which still exist to this day. The Portuguese eventually introduced in the 1500s the Roman alphabet (replacing the Chinese). In 1886, Vietnam became a part of French Indochina, leaving another weighty influence on infrastructure, but mostly on the people. All of these characteristics and ancient traces are very evident in the northern (and central) regions. The capital Hanoi, for example, with its charming urban setting and historical buildings, radiates an ancient and solid peacefulness which can be recognized again in the people’s longing for stability. The ‘Northerners’ generally have strong personalities, deep traditional family bonds, a solid etiquette of education and work values. This stands often in contrast to the more easy-going ‘Southerners’, particularly those in the modern metropolis of Saigon.
North Vietnam s home to numerous villages concentrating on specific handicrafts. Some communities have become a renowned trademark for their craftsmanship. For example, a Bat Trang flower vase will always be of the highest quality. Situated on the outskirts of Hanoi, Bat Trang is one of Vietnam’s most iconic villages, specializing in ceramic and porcelain pottery. Their skilled techniques and manufacturing recipes have been passed down for over a 1,000 years.
Another prized local craft is ‘Van’ silk, praised for its ultra-light weight, vibrant colours, and very smooth texture. This fabric is highly sought after for making Vietnam’s national garment, the beautiful ‘Ao Dai’.
Discover the treasures of Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay with our exceptional cruise itineraries
The 1-Night Halong Bay cruise along the ancient playground of dragons is an unforgettable classic voyage to discover most memorable sights.
Explore Halong Bay’s hidden jewels with this 2-Nights itinerary inclusive of sightseeing of the largest cave in the bay, a pearl farm and an delightful kayaking tour.
Lan Ha Bay
A serene and peaceful cruise through the remote Lan Ha Bay coupled with an adventurous cycling tour on Cat Ba island and a enjoyable culinary theme aboard.
Lan Ha Bay
This luxury journey offers deep insights into far-flung corners of Lan Ha Bay’s while adding active on-shore and holistic wellness experience aboard.
Interesting facts about Vietnam
Coincidentally, archaeologists have found evidence of human civilization also dating back 18,000 years in both underwater locations as well as on land. Conversely, the equally breathtaking ‘Halong Bay on land’ is located just 200 km away in Ninh Binh’s natural river and limestone karst complex.
The invaders were defeated after a hard fought battle, and the rather than returning to the heavens, the dragons decided to take on the form of humans and settle peacefully in the bay. It is said that today’s Vietnamese population are descendants of these mythical beasts of lore.