Bai Tu Long Bay
Posted Date: 3/7/20133:26 AM
Bai Tu Long Bay is every bit as beautiful as its famous neighbor. Indeed, in some ways beautiful, since it has scarcely seen any tourist development. This is good news and bad news. The bay is unpolluted and undeveloped, but there’s little tourism infrastructure. It’s pretty hard traveling around and staying here, and unless you speak Vietnamese, it’s difficult to get information.
Charter boats can be arranged to Bai Tu Long Bay from Halong Bay; boats range from 100,000d to 250,000d per hour depending size and amenities.The one-way trip take about five hours. A cheaper alternative is travel overland to Cai Rong and visit the out-lying islands by boat from here. Foreigners are almost always charged double the going rate on the ferries around Bai Tu Long Bay.
Van Don Island (Dao Cai Bau)
Van Don is the largest, most populated and most developed island in the archipelago. However, there remains only very limited tourism development here to date.
Cai Rong (pronounced Cai Zong) is the main I town on the island, which is about 30km in length and 15km across at the widest point 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 fomations similar to those in Halong Bay.
SLEEPING & EATING
The only hotels are at Cai Rong pier, about 8 km north of the new bridge to the mainland. Cai Rong is a colorful, busy area, with lots of fishing boats and passenger vessels and a background of limestone mountains in the bay. It’s also full of karaoke bars and motorbikes.You might want to get a room with air-con I to block out some of the noise.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
There is a new bridge linking Van Don to the mainland, making it much more accessible from Halong Citv. Frequent buses run between Hon Gai (Halong City) and Cai Rong Bus station (20,000d, 1.5 hours). You’ll pass plenty of coal mines en route – your race (and lungs) will receive a fine coating of black coal before the journey is completed. Just pity the people who live here and have to breathe this in every day.
A good way to get to Van Don is with the Mui Ngoc hydrofoil from Halong City. In the other direction, it leave for Halong bay at 4 pm. There is also an irregular service to Mong Cai (US$10, two hours), departing Van Don at 8.30am and returning at 2 pm.
Note that these boat schedules may change and are dependent on the weather. Be prepared to hang around here a day or so. Several of the companies offering tours of Halong Bay also offer tours of Bai Tu Long Bay.
Cai Rong Pier (Cai Rong Pha) is Just on the ease of Cai Rong town. This is tE;e place for boats to the outlying islands. Chartering a boat from here to Halong City cOts around US$10 per hour (the one-way journey takes five hours). Tourist boats can be chartered at Cai Rong to cruise the nearby islands for a few hours. Ask at the pier. The hourly rate is between Izo,000d and 150,000d, but the boats are basic compared with what*s on offer at Halong.
Quan Lan Island (Dao Canh Cuoc)
The main attraction here is a beautiful, 1km – long white-sand beach shaped like a crescent moon, The water is clear blue and the waves are suitable for surfing. However, there is no shortage of blissful beaches on the eastern seaboard, so take a hike. The best time to play in the water is from about May to October – winter is a bit chilly.
The northeastern 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 a major trading route between Vietnam and China. Deep-water ports, such as Haiphong and Hon Gai, long ago superseded these islands in importance.
The rowing-boat festival Hoi Cheo Boi is held here from the 16th to the 18th day of the sixth Iunar month. It’s the biggest festival in the bay area, and thousands of people turn out to see it.
Tra Ban Island (Dao Tra Ban)
One of the largest islands in Bai Tu Long Bay, Tra Ban borders Bai Tu Long National Park and offers some of the most dramatic karst scenery in the bay. The southern part of the island is blanketed in thick jungle like Cat Ba and provides a habitat for many colourful butterflies. There are boats to and from Van Don Island at 7am and 2pm (20,000d, 90 minutes).
Ngoc Vung Island (Dao Ngoc Vung)
This island is one of the most southerly in Bai Tu Long Bay, bordering on Halong Bay, and offers scenery every bit as good as the more famous World Heritage site. There is some accommodation available here in some basic beach houses (150,000d). There are daily boats between Cai Rong (1pm) and Ngoc Vung (6am), costing 50,000d for foreigners and taking three hours.
Co To Island (Dao Co To)
In the northeast, Co To Island is the furthest 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 and large rocks, but there’s at least one fine sandy beach. Fishing boats usually anchor just of here, and you can walk to some of the boats 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 times – check the schedule in Cai Rong. They return from Co To Island on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The one-way fare is 50,000d and the journey takes about five hours, depending on the winds.