Halong Bay (165 kilometers, three hours by minibus, east of Hanoi) is one of the most spectacular sights in Asia. Featured in the film “Indochina” , with French actress Catherine Denueve, it contains stunning vegetation-covered karst pinnacles, towers and formations set in calm emerald green water. The oriental junks—and the pseudo tourist-junks— and small fishing boats that ply the narrow channels between the island, makes the bay look like something straight out of a oriental landscape painting.

Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, 40 miles east of Haiphong, and spread out over roughly 1,500 square kilometers, Halong means "dragon descending to the sea." According to legend the islands were created by a giant dragon and its children as they escaped from mountain lair underneath the ocean to rescue the Vietnamese from Chinese invaders. Molly Selvin wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Legend has it that long ago a celestial dragon appeared to protect the Vietnamese from foreign invaders, spitting out great quantities of pearls to form the islands and the razor-edged mountains that stopped enemy fleets. In reality, the islands — from mammoth Dao Hang Trai honeycombed with grottoes to islets no bigger than boulders — are the work of wind and saltwater on porous limestone. The bay was home to some of Vietnam's earliest cultures, including Soi Nhu, Cai Beo and Ha Long peoples, and a key defense point. Several times over the centuries, Vietnamese warriors sank steel-tipped wooden stakes among the labyrinth of channels and caves, repelling would-be invaders from China and elsewhere. Tiny isolated fishing communities still nestle against some peaks; you'll see wooden homes painted bright turquoise and orange that appear to float on the water.” [Source: Molly Selvin, Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2008]

The waters of Halong Bay are inhabited by nomad-like fishermen, who live in "floating villages" of 30 or vessels, and prosper or endure depending n how many fish, crabs, squid and prawns they catch. They spend their time fishing, repairing nets and hopping from boat to boat. Sometimes they go for weeks without ever setting foot on land. Their needs are met by traveling salesmen and women who paddle from boat to boat selling charcoal, fruit, vegetables, pots and pans, and other items.

Vung Tau Beaches

Vung Tau has five main beaches scattered over the peninsula. Bai Truoc, also called Front Beach, is located on the western side of Vung Tau and stands between Nho and Lon Mountains. Restaurants, kiosks, and hotels are close to the beach. Vong Nguyet, also called O Quan Beach, is a peaceful cove with good wind. Surfers particularly enjoy this area.

Bai Dua or Dua Beach is located approximately two kilometers from the center of the city. People who do not like crowded beaches particularly enjoy this quiet beach. Bai Sau, also called Back Beach, is the longest stretch of sand on the peninsula. It is located approximately two kilometers from town on the southeastern side of Vung Tau. It is exposed to The South China Sea wind and surfing there is excellent. Finally, Bai Dau Beach is located at the foot of Lon Mountain. It is a small quiet beach, three kilometers west of Vung Tau.

Back Beach (Thuy Van Beach) is one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. Located in southeast of Vung Tau City, Back Beach is over eight kilometers-long from the foot of Small Mountain to Cua Lap. Front Beach is located between Small and Large mountains in Vung Tau City. It is also called Tam Duong Beach which means "Finding the Sun." Ho Coc Beach is known for its turquoise water and primitive forests. Long Hai Beach (30 kilometers northeast of Vung Tau City) is a favourite beach for many people who find it quieter than those in Vung Tau.

Mulberry Beach (Bai Dau) lies at the west of Large Mountain in Vung Tau City. From Front Beach, going along Tran Phu Street and passing White Villa about three kilometers, tourists will reach the Mulberry BeachThe beach was formerly called Rattan Pond because there are many wild rattans here. Pineapple Beach is situated between Front Beach and Back Beach at the foot of Small Mountain, near Nghinh Phong Cape, Vung Tau City.There used to be numerous wild pineapples that grew on the rocky shore, which is why the beach is called the Pineapple Beach.

Mui Ne Beach, the Kiteboarding Capital of Asia

Mui Ne Beach (190 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City) is a beach and resort town of Mui Ne in Binh Thuan province that has become popular among Russian tourists in recent years. The area has 78 resorts ranging from three to five stars, most of them in private ownership. In the hills overlooking the sea are quaint cottages. Tourists can swim in the blue water of the sea, slide down sand dunes, relax in swimming pool of resorts or kiteboard and windsurf. The beach has the best conditions for water sports because it has strongest and most consistent cross-onshore winds in Asia and the lowest rainfall in Vietnam. There are currently about a dozen kiteboarding centers in Mui Ne and the competition is fierce. In addition, tourists can go shopping at the Mui Ne Market for types of fresh sea-food and local specialties.

Mui Ne has long been considered the "Hawaii" of Vietnam. Its features are immense sand dunes meandering through kilometers of red, yellow and white, shady roads under coconut trees, beautiful rows of palm trees and cliffs battered by the waves of the sea. The beach is shallow and sloped, the water is clean and blue and the sun rarely hides behind clouds. The typical scenery of Mui Ne lies in the moving lines of golden sand caused by the wind and when they are seen from afar they look like moving waves. The scenery looks more fascinating at dawn, when young Cham girls in green dresses go to work. That's why no photographer fails to visit this area.

Mui Ne is located in Ham Tien Ward, Phan Thiet City, Binh Thuan Province, about 220 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City centre. From Ho Chi Minh City, take National Highway No.1A for 198 kilometers to Phan Thiet City and then take Route 706 for another 22 kilometers, until you reach Mui Ne Beach. Sights around Mui Ne include Suoi Tien (Fairy Spring) — deep and red canyons parted by twisting streams and echoed by the sounds of tropical birds— and Poshanu Cham Tower Complex.

Matt Gross wrote in the New York Times, “For decades, if not centuries, the wind has defined Mui Ne, a small fishing village in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province. Blowing in straight off the South China Sea, the wind molds and remolds the white and pink-gold sand dunes that surround Mui Ne and frustrates the fishermen, who eke out a living catching squid and tuna on the horizon. But in recent years, the wind has altered the landscape of Mui Ne in a different way-by luring to its 12 miles of gently arcing beach windsurfers and kitesurfers, part of a vanguard of vacationers eager to make the 120-mile trip northeast from Ho Chi Minh City in search of the next new, clean, unspoiled stretch of sand. [Source: Matt Gross, New York Times, August 21, 2005]

"This is one of the five top places for sailing in the world, and it's definitely the best in Asia," said Pascal Lefebvre, who maintains, a repository of wind data that appears to back up his claim. According to the Web site, which has data for the last five years, 2004 saw 246 days when the wind speed averaged greater than 14 miles per hour. Ground zero at Mui Ne is Jibe's Beach Club, 90 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, (84-62) 847-405. Damaged boards hang on the walls of this beachside bar and restaurant (owned by Mr. Lefebvre and his wife, Pham Thi Hong Phuong), and a projection screen displays windsurfing videos. Out back, however, is where the action is: an equipment-rental shop and launching pad for the day's wave-riding adventures.

Beaches and Amusements the in Danang Area

Danang Water Park (in the center of Danang on 2-9 Street) is a cheesy amusement park that covers 10 hectares. Amusements and rides include Wave Lake, Lazy River, Active Lake, Massage Lake, high speed kamikaza slide, black slide and twisting slipping gutter. Especially for children there are more slipping gutters (slides) shaped like hippopotamuses, tortoises, lizards, whales, elephants in addition to water slides waterfall and a fountain in a spacious, splendid green garden. On top of this, there is an open-air stage equipped with modern facilities where cultural and musical performances are held. Meals, drinks and fast food are available in a spacious 500 seats restaurant.

Phong Nam Ancient Village (in Hoa Chau Commune, Hoa Vang District, Danang City) still retains features of traditional villages of Vietnam like the green fields surrounded with bamboos, foot paths, the simple houses and the lifestyles of the farmers. You are probably better off randomly picking a village and visiting that.

Beaches Near Danang: Bac My An Beach (seven kilometers south of Danang) is known as the international resort with a four-kilometers-long coast, white sand and five-star standard Furama Resort. Non Nuoc Beach runs for five kilometers against the Marble Mountains. Famous for its edible seaweed, it is bound by Dien Ngoc Sea to the south and Danang to the north, the beach gently slopes towards generally calm seas. Some five-star hotels and seafood restaurant were built in Non Nuoc to accommodate the domestic and foreign tourists in the area.

China Beach

China Beach (eight kilometers south of Danang) is a beautiful stretch of sand, where American GIs surfed and smoked dope during brief periods of "R n R” during the war. Made famous by an American television show by the same name, it is not really the primary beach, veterans say, where soldiers relaxed (most of them went to My Khe Beach, closer to Danang). The area around the China Beach Hotel is very touristy. An American developer wants to cash in the beach's name and build a $243 million golf course resort here. The water is warm enough for swimming even in January. A row of shops along the beaches has shops selling silk clothing, and native crafts. Around an area where you can see fishing boats bobbing in the water are restaurants that sell seafood that have been caught that day. In the background is impressive My Khe Mountain.

Son Tra Peninsula (10 kilometers northeast of Danang City) looks sort of like a mushroom when viewed from above and stands of 693 meters above sea level. The cap of the mushroom is Son Tra Mountain and its stalk is the white sandy beach that affords an ideal area for bathing, playing sports, fishing and swimming. Son Tra be seen in the distance from almost everyplace in the city. With its sea-oriented appearance, Son Tra acts as a giant screen protecting Danang from storms and cyclones coming from the sea.

Son Tra Mountain is natural preservation area with more than 30 square kilometers of natural forests, nearly 300 types of plants and several hundred kinds of fauna. The scenery is very attractive, it is said that fairies usually chose this place for landing, singing, dancing and playing chess. The name Tien Sa (Tien: Fairy, Sa: landing) is rooted from that. From the top of the mountain, there is a fine view of Danang, the Marble Mountains and Ba Na - Mount Chua. It is an enjoyable and peaceful vista. Suoi Da Stream lies by the side of the foot of the mountain, fine sandy surfaces run round the peninsula, waves break along the shores. Here and there are small, nice-looking houses and groups of fishing boats.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang (on the trans-Vietnam highway, 1,278 kilometers from Hanoi, and 448 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City) is a pleasant seaside town with wonderful beaches and nearby Cham towers in Khanh Hoa province, Central Vietnam, lies Hong Chong Promontory is a beautiful place. The Cham Towers at Po Nagar are very good. Also check out the Thung Chai basket boats. On Meiu Island, Monkey, Bamboo Island, and other island features wonderful clear water, and excellent diving and snorkeling. Most travelers visit the islands on days trips. Doc Let Beach (20 miles north of Nha Trang) and Dai Lanh Beach (50 miles north of Nha Trang) are regarded by many as the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. They are largely undeveloped

Ana Mandara Resort & Six Senses Spa in Nha Trang has been voted one of the top resorts in Asia and one of the top 100 hotels in the world by Travel & Leisure. Tourism and fishing are the mainstays of Nha Trang's economy. Tran Son Hai, director of the tourism department of Khanh Hoa province, said the city received 1.1 million tourists last year, of whom 30 percent were international. Diving is one of the city's main attractions. But the tourism and fishing industries come into sharp conflict over the area's coral reefs. Long said overfishing is the main reason for the coral's decline. [Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur, June 12, 2007]

Nha Trang is regarded as Vietnam's scuba diving capital. Experts say it could lose all of its coral within 30 years. "The coverage of coral in Nha Trang Bay shrank from 52.4 percent in 1994 to 21.2 percent in 2005," Nguyen Van Long, head of the seafood resource department at the Nha Trang Oceanography Institute, told Deutsche Presse Agentur. "The bay may not have any coral left in 30 years if the coverage keeps shrinking at that pace.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

Last updated August 2020

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