Located east of Halong Bay and closer to the Chinese border, Bai Tu Long Bay is an off-the-beaten-track destination recently in high demand among international tourists. While possessing a similar landscape with the core Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay features clearer water and less-touristy attractions.

According to legend, millions of years ago when Vietnam was conquered by invaders, the Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her child to help the people. After winning, the dragons did not return to fairyland but decided to stay on earth. The place where the Mother Dragon descended is now called Halong Bay, while Bai Tu Long Bay is where the Young Dragon descended. These names are in Chinese and convey exactly the meanings mentioned above.

Bai Tu Long Bay

Popular sites often included on Bai Tu Long Bay cruises are Vung Vieng fishing village, Thien Canh Son Cave and Hon Co Beach. Its more remote attractions such as Co To Island, Quan Lan Island or Ngoc Vung Island, well known among Vietnamese tourists, are harder to reach by water. Local people usually take a bus or car to Cai Rong Port, Van Don District, Quang Ninh Province and board a high-speed boat at the harbour. The islands come into sight after a trip varying from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. These islands’ beaches have probably the best water and sand quality found in all of Northern Vietnam. The bay is also home to the large Bai Tu Long National Park, one of seven Vietnamese national parks, which has both a terrestrial zone and an aquatic zone.

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As it is not near Halong City, Cat Ba Island or any inhabited island, you can only visit Bai Tu Long Bay and stay overnight on a cruise, floating on the calm water. Normally, a 2 day 1 night cruise cannot reach this bay; only the 3 day 2 night cruise does. Our Bhaya Classic Cruises feature packages which combine Bai Tu Long with other destinations like Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island.

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Located to the south of Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay spreads over an area of more than 7,000 ha, of which 5,400 ha are under the management of Cat Ba National Park. You can visit Lan Ha Bay during a Halong Bay overnight cruise, or rent a boat and start your journey from Cat Ba Island.

While the administrative boundaries place Lan Ha Bay within Hai Phong Province (not Quang Ninh Province, to which Halong Bay belongs), the similarity in its formations, with some 400 islets scattered over the area, means that locals and tourists alike mutually acknowledge it as a part of the vast Halong Bay zone.

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Unlike its famous neighbour, Lan Ha Bay reserves a more pristine scenery with an intense concentration of limestone mountains which the sea surface has partitioned into smaller bays and gulfs. With over a hundred beautiful, small beaches lying at the feet of the mountains, there is no problem finding a good spot for swimming, or organizing a private beach BBQ or overnight camp. Just imagine, after a long day of exploration in caves and grottos, you can totally relax while bathing in the azure waters and breathing the salty sea breeze of Lan Ha Bay.

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Lan Ha Bay has gradually gained popularity thanks to its unspoiled and magnificent natural beauty, and as people look for pristine, less crowded destinations. Just 30 minutes by boat from Cat Ba Island, you will be charmed by breath-taking views of the bay. A rock-climbing & deep water soloing or snorkelling & diving trip is also a great idea. Lan Ha Bay, among the three bays in Halong Bay zone, is considered to have the best water quality for diving and good conditions for rock-climbing (both on Cat Ba Island and on the bay). For overnight stays, Lan Ha Bay offers many options of hotels, hostels and bungalows on Cat Ba Island, Viet Hai Village and Monkey Island (Cat Dua Island), or you can choose to spend your night on a cruise or junk boat, surrounded by rock and water.

In comparison to the core Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay is not as popular a travel option, and not many cruises from Halong City’s ports head to this amazing bay. Many travellers also worry they will miss out on Halong Bay’s headline attractions like Sung Sot Cave, Pelican Cave or Titop Island, if they only visit Lan Ha Bay. You can leave this worry aside and enjoy both Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam with a 3 Day 2 Night journey on Bhaya Classic Cruise.

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Thien Cung Cave (Heaven Palace Cave) is situated on the south-west side the bay, 4 kilometers from the wharf outside of Halong city, at the height of 25 meters above the sea level. The cave is 10,000 square meters with complicated interior structure, many floors, and high ceiling. Visiting the grotto, tourists will feel like visiting an art museum with variety of sophisticated statues and reliefs. The way to Thien Cung is a perilous one, covered on both sides by thick forest.

Exploring Thien Cung Cave’s craggy cliffs is no easy task. After entering a narrow gate, the grotto’s 130-meter-long girth opens up. Getting in we are more astonished in front of the very animated and splendid beauty which is made from stalactite. On the wall of the eastern side of the cave, an impressive picture of stalactites and stalagmites give tourists the most fantastic feeling ever.

In the center of the grotto, there are four big pillars supporting the “roof of heaven”. From the base to the top, many strange images seem to live in the stone: birds, fish, flowers and even scenes of human life. Under the immeasurably high roof, stalactites make a natural stone curtain. Somewhere there is the sound of a drum beating, but it is actually just the noise made by the wind blowing through stone.

Arriving at the last partition of the grotto, you will see a natural gushing stream of water babbles throughout the year. Here are three small ponds of clear water. Going out of the Thien Cung Grotto, we have a sensation of just watching a unique, meticulous, interesting fine-art museum which is made by nature, get out of the imagine, ability and intellect of man.

The original inhabitants of Halong Bay have told an ancient story about Thien Cung Grotto over many generations. The story is told that Dragon Prince was fallen in love with “Nang May” (Ms. Cloud). They held a lavish wedding party inside the grotto in 7 days and 7 nights. All kinds of animals and all genies took part in to share happiness with the couple, small dragons flew about through the stalactites and stalagmites, elephants danced together happily, snakes twined themselves around trees and two stone lions danced with their manes flowing in the wind. A large elephant, smartly dressed, waited for the bride and the groom. The genies of the south and north stars also came to attend the banquet, and the atmosphere was definitely animated and lively. All these scenes have been seemingly fossilized in the grotto.

Nowadays, entering Thien Cung Grotto, visitors can gaze party sceneries in the setting of stalactites and stalagmites inside. The grotto has been discovered recently by explorers. Thien Cung Grotto is considered as one of the most beautiful caves of Halong Bay.