There's more to northeastern Vietnam than Halong Bay. The sinking limestone plateau, which gave birth to the bay's spectacular islands, continue some 100 km to the Chinese border. The area immediately northeast of Halong Bay is known as Bai Tu Long Bay.
Bai Tu Long Bay is every bit as beautiful as its famous neighbour. Indeed, you could say it's more beautiful, since it has scarcely seen any tourist development. This has its positives and negatives. The bay is unpolluted and undeveloped; however, as yet there's no tourism infrastructure. It's pretty hard travelling around and staying here, and unless you speak Vietnamese, it's difficult to get information.
2. Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is located in the Southeast of Cat Ba Island, looking out of Van sea mouth, connecting with Ha Long Bay. Its area is 7000ha, of which 5400ha are managed by Cat Ba National Park.
Lan Ha Bay is located in the Southeast of Cat Ba Island, looking out of Van sea mouth, connecting with Halong Bay. Its area is 7000ha, of which 5400ha are managed by Cat Ba National Park.
Its sceneries are not as beautiful as Halong Bay’s, but original characteristics. The limestone mountain density is here crowded, neglected and devised sea face into little bays, gulfs of which many little bays, gulfs, and caves are still not discovered yet. Hundreds of mountains of diversified shapes as Guoc islet (Clog Islet), Doi mountain (like a bat with widely opened wings).
Difference from Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay consist of 139 small and clean sand banks of which lots of them lying in the middle of 2 mountains are sloping, long and quiet without rough waves, they are actually beautiful bathing beaches. In the very clear and green water remains colorful coral fields like Van Boi, Van Ha coral fields,… they are good conditions for developing undersea tourism (like diving tourism). Using a small boat, you can cruise in mountain creeks on the sea visit the bay, lagoon, caves, or resting on bathing beaches in the sea as Vem golf, Tung Gau cave, Cat Dua beach…
Lan Ha Bay is a lovely place for kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and rock climbing.
3. Van Don Island (Dao Cai Bau):
Van Don is largest and most populated and developed island in the archipelago. However, there is no tourism development here yet. Cai Rong is the main town on the island, which is about 30km in length and 15km across at the widest poit. Bai Dai (Long Beach) runs along much of the southern side of the island and is hard-packed sand with some mangroves. Just offshore, almost touching distance away, there are stunning rock formations similar to those in Halong Bay.
4. Quan Lan Island (Dao Canh Cuoc):
The main attraction here is beautiful, 1km-long white-sand beach shaped like a crescent moon. The water is clear blue and the waves are suitable for surfing. The best time to play in water is from about May to October - winter is too chilly. However, at the present there are no tourist facilities. The nothern part of the island has some battered ruins of the old Van Don Trading Port. There is little to show that this was once part of the major trading route between Vietnam and China. Deep-water ports, such as Hai Phong and Hon Gai, long ago superseded these islands in importance. Boats or Junks cruise take about 6~7 hours to get from Halong City to Quan Lan Island via Bai Tu Long Bay.
5. Co To Island (Dao Co To):
In the northeast, Co To Island is the farthest inhabited island from the mainland. Its highest peak reaches a respectable 170m. There are numerous other hills, and a large lighthouse atop one of them. The coastline is mostly cliffs or large rocks, but there's at least one fine sandy beach. Fishing boats usualy anchor just off here, and you can walk to some of them during low tide. There is a small and very basic guesthouse on the island. Ferries bound for Co To Island depart Van Don island on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at unspecified time-check the schedule in Cai Rong. The return from Co To to island on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. There are no boats on sunday. The journey takes about 5 hours.
6. Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is situated in Ha Long Bay, 50 km to the east of Hai Phong City, in Northern Vietnam. It is the largest of 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, and has a surface area of about 140 square km. In November 2004, the Cat Ba Archipelago was approved as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The Cat Ba Archipelago shares the distinctive rugged appearance and scenic beauty of the Ha Long Bay Area, that was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, in 1994. The area is one of the best examples in the world of a Karst landscape invaded by the sea. Some 1500-2000 large and small islands and cliffs rise steeply from the shallow marine waters. Many of these islands reach towering heights of 50 to 100m with sheer vertical cliffs on all sides.
Spectacular rock relief and bizarre rock formations provide evidence of a long history of erosion and landscape evolution through the sculpturing power of water. The greatest part of the islands’ mountain range like most of the smaller offshore islands of the Archipelago, are covered by tropical moist limestone forest.
Cat Ba Island also has coral terraces, sandy beaches, freshwater wetland areas, tidal flats, mangrove forests and willow swamp. Spectacular scenery and a high diversity of landscapes make Cat Ba a special place and it has become a main destination for national and international tourists.
7. Ti Top Island
Situated about 7-8 km south-east of Bai Chay lies the small Ti Top Island. It displays a beach shaped like a crescent moon, and sand that has been washed to a snowy white by the tide. On 22 November 1962, this tiny island had the honour of receiving a visit from astronaut Ghermann Ti Top, a hero of the former Soviet Union, accompanied by Ho Chi Minh. To perpetuate the remembrance of their visit, Uncle Ho named the place Ti Top Island. It has now become an attractive beach for tourists and has a various tourist services.
Thirty-five years afterwards, on 27 June 1997, Ti Top returned to the island having his name. Deeply moved, he wrote in the souvenir book of the Management Board of Halong Bay: "My deepest thanks to destiny, which has allowed me to come back to this tiny island.” It has become a beach attracting many visitors.
8. Trong Mai Islet (Fighting Cock islet)
Trong Mai is situated on the south-west side of Halong Bay, 5km from the tourist wharf near to Dinh Huong Islet.
The islet looks like a pair of Cock & Hen in the sea.
In a somewhat large expanse of open sea, the island seems to grow up from the bottom of the deep emerald waters. At sunset, the island with the height of over 10m is bright red and in a somewhat tottery position. Their tiny legs support heavy bodies, and it appears that one strong wave could throw the two stone blocks into the sea. However, hundreds of millions of years have passed, and the Trong Mai is still there.
9. Toad Islet (Con Coc)
Con Coc or Toad Islet lies in Halong Bay, 17km away from the tourist boat wharf.
Con Coc or Toad Islet is one of the most exquisite works nature has presented Halong. Just imagine, an 8-meter-tall toad sitting to wait for rain amidst the vastness of the sea.
10. Cho Da Islet
In the itinerary of Thien Cung – Dau Go – Ti Top, after visiting Thien Cung and Dau Go, one needs 10 minutes boating to the Cho Da Islet or Stone Dog Islet.
Some 8m up the islet one can figure out a piece of stone in the shape of a dog sitting with its back to the sea, standing guard for the safety of seagoing boats for millions of years