|Today, you can explore Halong Bay from unprecedented heights by going on a helicopter tour.|
|Ha Long Bay is the jewel in Vietnam’s tourism crown, a stunning geological formation that captivates even the most travel weary and jaded of visitors.
Most people usually take a halong bay cruise around the bay. You can choose one or two night trips to enjoy the mesmerising scenery and discover wonderful coves and islets or simply enjoy the views from the top deck of your boat.
As a repeat visitor I wouldn’t say I’m tired of Ha Long, but I was certainly eager to discover another side of the UNESCO World Heritage Site when a friend told me about the helicopter tour.
This would be a great opportunity to fly over the bay and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the limestone karst islets which, according to legend are the shards of diamond and jade, that were spat out by a family of dragons sent from heaven to help protect Vietnam from foreign invaders.
I was so excited at the prospect of climbing into a helicopter, I could hardly sleep the night before. But as the morning drew closer I started to get increasingly nervous. What if, I am scared of heights? Having never scaled any cliff faces, or jumped out of an airplane, how would I know?
I begin to suffer vertigo even before I arrive at Gia Lam Airport, 5km from downtown Hanoi, where I am to meet my tour guide and the helicopter crew. The flight departs at 8.30am. Still slightly anxious, I reassure myself that by flying to Halong Bay I’m at least avoiding the long, rather dangerous road from Hanoi to Hai Phong. Ha Long is normally more than a three-hour drive but via helicopter we expect to arrive in 45 minutes.
Our guide informs us that the Russian MI-17 helicopter seats 24 people and will reach an altitude of 300m. We are also in luck; the sky is clear and blue, a perfect day for flying. We set off and everyone is immediately glued to the windows and we see vast, beautiful rice fields pass below us.
The Red River looks like a long snake winding its way through a terracotta garden. Tran Van Huong, the captain, informs us that because a helicopter flies slower and lower than a jet, there is less chance that people will feel sick while taking off or landing. The helicopter is quite large and comfortable, but being a military chopper, there is no air- conditioning, just fans.
We are told we can visit the cockpit and talk with the four-member crew or, rather, shout at the crew –it is hard to make yourself heard above the throbbing engines!
The whole package
The Northern Serviced Flight Company, who operate the helicopter, also offer trips to Sapa in Lao Cai province and Dien Bien Phu, but tourists currently seem to prefer Ha Long Bay. The whole tour with Luxury Travel includes a cruise on a junk as well as a helicopter tour over the bay, plus transfer from Hanoi and back by chopper.
Ha Long Bay is certainly spectacular from the helicopter – it’s as perfect as a painting: the white sandy coves, the thick green forest, the rugged mountains and the jagged karsts jutting out of the emerald water.
I snap as many pictures as I can before the chopper lands at a heliport on General Giap Hill (named after General Vo Nguyen Giap as you might guess) Who knows when I will be 200m above Ha Long Bay again?
The chopper lands smoothly and we are back down on earth. Everyone is buzzing after the trip and I almost feel sad it’s over.
We are driven from the heliport to Bai Chay harbour, where boats and junks have gathered to meet the hundreds of tourists arriving from Hanoi. I can’t help but swagger a little smugly past the tired looking tourists clambering out of the buses and mini-vans thinking, I came by helicopter and I feel great! Coming by chopper I got to sleep in longer and had plenty of room on board.
For once, I am actually refreshed and energised as we set off to explore the caves and beaches around Ha Long. Later on we grab kayaks and paddle around, visiting floating aquaculture farms and beaches. On previous trips I was often slumped in a chair, too tired and stiff to do anything else, but today I am up for everything.
We enjoy a lavish seafood lunch on board and everyone is still in high spirits, reflecting on the amazing trip. It’s a little clichéd to say “this was unforgettable” but that’s how we felt!
After lunch the junk returns to port before we again climb on board the helicopter and set off for the capital where we arrive at 2.30pm. It’s hard to believe we still have the whole afternoon ahead of us!
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is working with various related departments to launch a promotional campaign to vote for Ha Long Bay as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The coming months till November will see hectic activities to promote Ha Long Bay across the country.
The programs include “Ha Long Bay in the heart of Hanoi”, children photo and painting contests on Halong and a bike trip across national heritage sites in which 300 volunteers will participate.
According to information on the website www.new7wonders.com, the Seven Natural Wonders of the World will be announced on November 11.
Ha Long Bay is the only heritage site in Vietnam to be selected on the shortlist of 28 wonders and recommended for the 7 natural wonders of the world.
Source: The Saigon Times
Some tourists traveling to Vietnam often have only one wish that is visiting Halong bay, especially tasting halong bay by take on halong bay cruises. The length of these cruises almost is 1, 2, or 3 nights and 4 nights (sometimes).
Halong Bay has been recognized twice by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for its universal values of landscape, geology and geomorphology, respectively in 1994 and 2000.
On cruising trip, is it time to appreciate the wonders of Halong Bay including an exploration a magnificent cave and then navigating through the stunning limestone scenery of the bay.
The permanent beauty of Ha Long is created by three factors: stone, water and sky. Ha Long’s island system is multicolored with a variety of shapes and can be regarded as a water-color, a work of art. The islands, scattered all round, have different shapes which provoke the imagination: Dinh Huong (Incense Burner) implies spiritual significance, Ga Choi (Fighting Cocks) the symbol of Viet Nam tourism, Con Coc (Toad) recalls the passage of time, waiting thousands of years to seek justice in Heaven. There are islands that resemble a resplendent throne; a Vietnamese mother’s curved back carrying her child, a roof, an old man, a human head and so on.
Within the bigger islands are great attractions. Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stakes) dazzles the senses with many huge stalactites hanging poised in mid air and stalagmites growing majestically upwards. Then there is Thien Cung Grotto (Heavenly Palace) with its small, narrow entrance, but inside looking like a marvelous palace, and many other caves each has its own attractions and beauty.
Ha Long’s sea is always the same, blue, smooth and still. Ha Long has its own beauty by seasons. In spring, buds of trees burst on limestone islands. In summer, it is cool and clean with many sparkling sun rays reflecting from the sea’s surface. In autumn, especially at night, moonlight illuminates the mountains so they appear like gold, inlaid into the earth. In winter, with pervasive frost, Ha Long is glamorous as “a floating flower basket on smooth wave” (by writer Nguyen Tuan).
Karst geomorphologic value
Ha Long Bay is a mature karst landscape developed during a warm, wet, tropical climate. The sequence of stages in the evolution of a karst landscape over a period of 20 million years requires a combination of several distinct elements including massive thickness of limestone, a hot wet climate and slow overall tectonic uplift.
Halong Bay is undoubtedly not only a national but also a world nature, a magnificent work of Natural Creator. People who are admirers of natural beauty should stand up, pack their luggages, and right away pick up a flight to Ha Long, or else they will soon feel regretful!
Book Vietnam cruises now to enjoy the beauty of this wonder on Earth, Halong bay!
Vietnam Travel – it is one of the best choice for many tourists 2010. To have plan for your great Vietnam tours, what is the most things you should know? Of course, we should not forget checking the weather at Vietnam destinations before. Here below are some useful information of the best weather at destinations in Vietnam.
Vietnam is a country located in Southeast Asia and therefore it benefit generally on a dry and warm weather, yet there are several seasons with specific characteristics. However, because of the fact that Vietnam stretches on the entire estern side of the Indochina Peninsula on the shores of the South China Sea and features a 3260km-long coastline there are large differences between north and south, as well as between the coastal area and mountainous regions.
Generally, in Vietnam are two seasons: one dry (considered as winter), extending from November to April, and one wet (or summer) from May to October. However, the regional characteristics vary very spectacular with tropical monsoons occurring from October to April in the north and south and from May to September in the central region, these periods of time representing the season when falls most of the country’s rain. When comes about temperatures, holiday makers are beckoned about the fact that the weather can get exceptionally hot year-round, yet it’s cooler in north between October and April. Temperatures around the country often reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the hot and rainy season (May to September, but especially in July and August), but the northern highlands and region of Hanoi can be often chilly in the winter with temperatures dropping up to 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit)!
When is the best time to visit Vietnam? The peak tourist seasons are November-January and April-June, when hotels, trains, and flights tend to get booked up, tourist spots are crowded and the prices of hotel rooms and vacation packages often increase. However, there are significant differences between accommodation prices in top vacation spots like Hanoi, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), Nha Trang, Halong Bay, Dalat, Hue, Sapa or Hoian and the regions where go on holiday fewer foreign travelers. The main climatic particularities of the most visited Vietnamese travel destinations are the following: Hanoi – features a typical northern climate with a cold and dry winter (when temperatures can drop to as low as 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit) and a hot and extremely humid summer (temperatures can climb up to a maximum of 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit); Saigon – due to its southern location it has a tropical climate with an average humidity level of 75% and an average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (82,5 degrees Fahrenheit), the monsoon season last from May to November and the dry season between December and April; Halong Bay – is characterized by a humid and tropical climate with a hot and very humid summer and a dry and cold winter, the best time to visit the region being considered from October to April; Nha Trang – has a special weather without rainy season, so there is a warm and beautiful climate almost year-round, excepting the period of time between late October and early December.
Vietnam is in the last years a more and more visited Southeast Asian country due to the very attractive travel deals, the number of foreign holiday makers increasing continuously, coming mostly from UK, Australia, Canada, but also from USA and Scandinavia. As result of the flourishing tourist industry, hotels in Vietnam are in large number, particularly in top vacation spots, and feature high class amenities and very good services. There are many people who go in holiday in Vietnam seeking to visit tourist attractions in the largest cities of Hanoi and Saigon, take cruises in Halong Bay, or spend beach vacations in high end resorts in Nha Trang. However, there are also many travelers who take tours (especially the all inclusive packages increased recently very much in popularity) of different lengths and visit regions of the country where can be admired fantastic rain forests teeming by exotic plants and animals, ancient Buddhist temples and forgotten palaces, mountain villages where live tribes featuring unaltered cultures, and many others. In concordance with weather characteristics in each region, vacationers are advised to avoid visiting Vietnam in the rainy season because then the humidity is really high and the word “deluge” becomes a another signification!