Vietnam Travel Online

Ha Long Bay

UNESCO Nature World Heritage Site

INTRODUCTION TO HALONG BAY

Halong Bay stands out as an inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site in Quang Ninh Vietnam, which gains more and more international heed. The Site remains famous among the worldwide tourist community and was even filmed in Hollywood movies. The Bay of Halong is especially appealing to nature lovers, holidaymakers, and thrill-seekers who like cruising for a perfect voyage. Consisting of over 2,000 islands and islets, of which several are covered by lush greenery, Halong Bay offers an awesome sightseeing vista during an overnight cruise trip. Traveling to this well-known destination, tourists would love listening to the legend of the “Bay of Descending Dragon”, visiting the floating villages, exploring hidden caves, night squid fishing, and a variety of water sports. Moreover, if the budget allows, you can opt for the excellent aerial experience of the 45-minute seaplane tour from Hanoi, which includes the 15-minute flight over the scenic Bay. Another a bit more expensive option is the helicopter. For sailing around the Bay, if the traditional cruises do not appeal to you, then think of the luxurious 5-star cruises and the private yachts to enhance the high-end experiences. The award-winning Bay is blessed with beautiful natural highlights of islands, beaches, and caves that make up the impeccable beach vacation time off. After hours of exciting expeditions, it’s wonderful to enjoy the comfort of the well-equipped cruises. The overnight “floating villas” provide the facility and amenities you need, besides the comfortable beds for a good night. Read on for more introduction to Halong Bay.

Ha Long Bay

Overview

Halong Bay is located in Halong City, Van Don District, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam. It is around 180km from Hanoi City. It has an area of 1,553 square kilometers and a 1,200 km coastline consisting of around 2,000 islets. The bay area is home to nearly 1,600 inhabitants who live in the floating villages of Vong Vieng, Cua Van, Ba Hang, and Cong Tau. Nowadays, Halong Bay moves out of the national borders to win international compliments on its natural beauty and cultural values. Gaining more and more spotlight, the Bay is often visited by tourists worldwide who first gather at the Tuan Chau Marina of Halong City, where you buy the cruise tickets. According to your budget, interest, and other dependencies, you can select public vessels, luxurious cruises, or private yachts. It’s always best to book your seat in advance to take advantage of the shuttle bus transfer from Hanoi, offered by the cruise operators. The Hanoi – Halong expressway cuts the travel time to 2 hours, so it’s convenient to visit the renowned Bay for a day tour.

Ha Long Bay

Location

Halong Bay is situated in northeastern Vietnam and stretches from Quang Yen town, past Halong City and Cam Pha City to Van Don District. The Bay is bordered by Lan Ha Bay on the south and southeast, Halong City on the north, and Bai Tu Long Bay on the west. Halong Bay is the center of the larger zone including Bai Tu Long Bay and Cat Ba Islands which share similar geological, geographical, climate, and cultural features. The core of the Bay has an area of 334 square kilometers with a density of 775 islets, most of which are limestone. The limestone in this area has a history of over 500 million years of formation. Due to its location, Halong Bay has two ecosystems: 1) tropical and evergreen rainforest ecosystem and 2) marine and coastal ecosystem.

Ha Long Bay

Weather

Halong Bay weather is pleasant and ideal for an all-year-round beach vacation and sailing. For an overview, this area has the humid and tropical monsoon weather of northern Vietnam. Each month will experience the different characteristics, which you had better know in advance for a good preparation on clothing, accessories, etc. The weather in Halong can be categorized into four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn.
+ From January to February: This period features winter and holiday time when Christmas, New Year, and Lunar New Year festivals take place. It is also the peak tourism season, which involves the downsides of the big crowds and increased prices. The trees and vegetation look fresh and lush while the weather is cool and pleasant. 
+ From March to May: These months are springtime when there are more daylight hours, and the weather is not too hot. Also, the crowd is not much. However, it might rain sometimes. 
+ From June to September: These summer months offer the bright blue sky which is perfect for sightseeing and photography. The advantages of this period are the reasonable prices and less crowd. But it has hot humid conditions and possible storms. The summer vacation is perfect for water sports and activities like swimming and kayaking. 
+ From October to December: The autumn months are pleasant with low potential of storms or rain. It offers the cool wind and breeze to chill at night. However, the morning might get cloudy and hard for sightseeing. 

Ha Long Bay

Best Time to Visit

Highlights are the sightseeing opportunities of the islands and islets, so the best time to travel to Halong Bay should be the summer months (June, July, and August). It is when the sunny bright sky becomes ideal for taking pictures of the seascape and the beaches are perfect for swimming, kayaking, etc. Even just sunbathing is joyful. On the other hand, if you want to avoid the sun and the heat, it might be best to travel during October – December when the autumn is comfortable but take note of the increased prices and the huge crowd (peak season). Also, if you care about the prices, it’s recommended to go during June – September when the reasonable prices can redeem, but it might face some storms. Furthermore, if your keywords are “good weather and low price,” let’s book the cruise packages in the low season of March – May when the promotion programs are being advertised.
The nature of the weather might not be told or predicted exactly. Therefore, it’s smart to check the weather forecast of the destination in advance. There is often room for surprises in even the carefully-planned trips. Define your level of satisfaction and then choose the time to go. In the legendary Bay, the natural radiance will surely convince you of the international compliments and award-winning titles.  

HALONG BAY AWARDS

In 1962, Halong Bay received the title of Renowned National Landscape Monument by the Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism
In 1994, Halong Bay was recognized as the UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding and universal aesthetic values. In 2000, the World Heritage Committee made additional recognition of Halong Bay for its outstanding geological and geomorphological values. In 2003, Halong Bay became a member of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World. In 2012, Halong Bay was one of the New Seven Wonders of the world by the New7 Wonders Foundation.  

LEGEND ABOUT HALONG BAY

The name “Halong Bay” means “Bay of Descending Dragon” which has a local legend retold by generations of the land. Here is what the locals tell if you ask.
From the dawn of ancient Vietnam, evil enemies from the North tried to attack and invaded the country. The ancient Vietnamese forefathers fought against them to protect the land. In an attempt to assist the Vietnamese, Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her dragon children to the earth that incinerated the invaders with the magical fire and defeated their cruel fleet with the giant emeralds. The sacred entities made the sea battlefield full of dragon emeralds and established the undefeated wall. Consequentially, the invaders had to withdraw. Then, Vietnam gained back her peace and beauty. Legend said that the divine wall of emeralds turned out to be the islands and islets. Then, did the Mother Dragon and her children fly back to heaven? Well, they decided to stay in charming Vietnam, turned themselves into a human form, and helped the residents to rebuild the country, construct the castles, and plant crops. To honor the divine dragons, the Bay where the Mother Dragon descended was called “Halong Bay” whereas the Bay where the dragon children descended was named “Bai Tu Long Bay” (meaning “Thanks to the Dragon’s Children).  

HOW TO GET TO HALONG BAY

Tourists find no trouble in how to get to Halong Bay – one of the best tourist destinations in Vietnam. Dedicated to serving domestic and international tourists, Halong City is well-equipped with advanced road conditions so that it only takes 2 hours to drive from Hanoi to Halong. It is easy and frequent to visit the legendary Bay at your convenient time by public bus, shuttle bus, taxi, or car rental with a driver. The new Hanoi – Hai Phong expressway helps cut the transfer time by half, reducing it from 4 hours to 2 hours only. The other channels to reach the Bay are the seaplane, helicopter, cruise, and yacht. You might prefer working with reliable local tour agents who take care of everything and sketch the routes to take you there.
From Hanoi, you can get to Halong in several ways including the 2-hour coach, shuttle bus, private car, seaplane, and helicopter. The land transfer takes place on the newly-built Hanoi – Halong expressway for the 2-hour drive. While the local bus or coach is suitable for backpackers, the shuttle bus service is often included in the cruise packages that the bus will pick you up at your hotels in Hanoi Old Quarter. This kind of tourist bus runs straightforwardly to Halong, plus a break of 15 or 20 minutes halfway. Without a doubt, the air transfer from Hanoi to Halong via a helicopter or a seaplane is fast (45 minutes), convenient, and extraordinary. Right in Noi Bai Airport, you can get to the separate Hai Au Aviation seaplane check-in counter to get your seaplane ticket to Halong. The bird’s-eye view over the majestic scenery goes beyond your definitions of natural beauty. 
From Ho Chi Minh City, you can get to Halong by plane, coach, and train. The quickest way is to take a direct flight from Saigon to Cat Bi International Airport (Hai Phong City) or Van Don International Airport (Quang Ninh Province) which takes around 2 hours. Upon your arrival at the airports, take the 1-hour road transfer to Halong City. Another popular channel is to first fly to Hanoi from Saigon. Then, use the transfer services of the shuttle bus to get to Halong City as booked with the tour agents. Besides, the time-consuming yet budget-saving option is the long Saigon – Hanoi train, which takes up to 35-37 hours (not recommended at all). 

HALONG BAY'S BEST TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Top things to see in Ha Long Bay

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Islets in Ha Long Bay

During a cruise trip, take your opportunities to marvel at the interesting-shaped limestone formations namely the Kissing Rocks, Thumb Islet, Frog Islet, and the Chicken’s Islet. You will sail along and around the limestone karts of various sizes and shapes which inspire imagination. As the cruises move past the islets slowly, there will be abundant time for sightseeing and taking pictures. The green-covered islets and the uniquely-shaped formations will become wonderful objects for photography. Videos about the gorgeous islets during a cruise trip are also the big magnets. It is the element you need for the best trailers of your travel episodes.

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Islets in Halong Bay
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Titop Island

With the white sandbank and transparent seawater, Titop is a must-visit attraction in any Halong Bay tour, especially during the summer months. It is one of the most beautiful islands in Halong Bay, around 8km from Bai Chay Tourist Center to the southeast. From the top dimension, Titop has a steep bank, an inclined shore, and a long sandy beach that is in a moon shape. The scenery remains intact, fresh, and quiet, and especially it has a very clean beach thanks to the frequent tides. You can even see the underwater pebble stones in any season. Besides the traditional cruise packages, now you can visit Titop Island by a seaplane, which takes off from Tuan Chau Island, flies at a height of 300m for bird’s-eye sightseeing, and stop at Titop for swimming at the “moon beach,” kayaking, etc.

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Halong Bay Titop Island
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Sung Sot Cave

Sung Sot Cave is located on Bo Hon Island, in the heart of Halong Bay. It’s around 14km from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf and accessible by boat only. In 1901, the reputation of the cave was known by the French explorers who came to see and name it “Grotto De La Surprise” or the cave of surprises. The impression lies in the contradiction between the size of the cave and the surprising grandeur inside. The entrance of the cave is small, yet the body is giant (with a width of 12,200 square meters). This natural-crafted property is also home to the lush garden inside, which looks empyreal. The cave has two major compartments. While the first compartment is like an opera house spotlighted with stalagmites and stalactites which are in the shapes of chandeliers, flowers, elephants, fur seals, etc., the second compartment has the limestone statues like Saint Giong of the Vietnamese legends. On the notch of the cave is the lake with beautiful scenery, plants, monkeys, and birds. 

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Halong Bay Sung Sot Cave
Halong Bay Cua Van Fishing Village
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Cua Van Fishing Village

A cultural trip to Halong Bay might not be complete without a visit to Cua Van Fishing Village where the traditions and culture of the Halong fishermen are preserved. The village remains peaceful and friendly to visitors who are welcomed to try out activities of fishing, squid catching, and rowing the bamboo sampans. Often, Cua Van is included in the list of the most beautiful fishing villages in Vietnam. Make sure you take pictures of Cua Van, the floating houses, the limestone mountains as the backdrops, the transparent calm water, and the lush greenery. The stay in this ancient and poetic village can make you poets and artists.

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Bai Chay Beach

Bai Chay Beach is a popular haven for tourists to swim, check-in, and have fun on the beach in Halong. It is evaluated as one of the best beaches with transparent water and a soft white sandbank of around 1,000 meters. Experiences on the beach are awesome and fun is boundless. Young travelers keep posting their check-in pictures in Bai Chay, and the ranges of the coconuts plus the beautiful white sandbank are the highlights.

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Halong Bay Bai Chay Beach
Halong Bay Queen Cable Car
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Halong Queen Cable Car

Queen Cable Car is a noticeable construction that connects Bai Chay Beach and Ba Deo Mountain (Hon Gai Island). The iconic cable car is often recorded in most tours to Halong Bay as people love taking pictures with the cable car background. Designed by the world-famous architects: Doppelmayr and Garaventa, the Queen Cable Car features 2,222m long, with 2 towers. It is outstanding with duplex cabins for the transportation speed of 2,000 passengers per hour. It is Asia’s first reversible gondola system with the duplex cabins that won two Guinness World Records: 1) Cabin with the largest capacity in the world (accommodating 230 passengers per cabin) and 2) Cable Car with the tallest tower from the ground (T1 pivot of 188,88m high). The view of the bay from the cable car is magnetic and scenic. Try this service if you want to move on top and observe how the Bay is from the top dimension.

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BEST THINGS TO DO IN HALONG BAY

Being present in the global ranking lists as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and one of the most beautiful Selfie sites in the world, Halong Bay is full of great things to do. It has beaches, islands, cave systems, and fishing villages to amuse the guests. Together with sightseeing, cruising, swimming, and eating seafood, there are more experiences you must try. Consider the following list of the best things to do in Halong Bay.

Things to do

Overnight Halong Bay Cruises

The luxurious 4-5-star cruises guarantee passengers’ comfort during their onboard stay so that the top facilities and services are well offered to entertain them. You might feel like staying in the splendid floating hotels. Among the bests, make sure to enjoy the activities of morning Tai Chi practice, sundowner with good cocktails, and exhilarating squid fishing at night. Or just sunbathing on the cruise can bring you relaxing moments, which are precious. In the early morning, the early risers can join Tai Chi practice or yoga on the sundeck for healthy benefits. As money can surely buy comfort, reward yourself with a 5-star stay on the luxurious cruises if possible. The overnight Halong Bay Cruises are open at various prices and choices, so contact the tour operators and tell them your preferences. They will introduce you to the suitable options among the crowd. Spending a night on a cruise lets you marvel at the sunset and sunrise over the endless seascape. In the evening, the laidback and peaceful vista of the sea plus the cool mist urge you to unwind to the fullest. It is the real peace of mind that you need to gain back your happiest version.

Things to do

Halong Seaplane Tour

Halong Bay Seaplane Tour is a new, modern, and excellent service for aerial stay over the legendary Bay of beauty and fantasy. It offers a spectacular, unique, and memorable flight above Halong Bay and its natural highlights. Tourists can select the 45-minute scenic transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay on a seaplane of Hai Au Aviation, which is worth every dollar and cent. Traveling like a free bird with a bird’s-eye view over the rice fields, city landscape, limestone peaks, and the emerald sea is indeed a service that nothing can compare. Included in the aerial transfer package is the 15 minutes of flying above and around the Bay for the perfect overview. The premium service goes beyond the need of the tourists who want to invest in the finest and travel to the fullest, which saves them from the time-consuming road transfer. With the seaplane channel, the one-day tour from Hanoi to Halong Bay becomes perfectly possible for a rewarding vacation. You have more extra time to explore the Bay, the beaches, the caves, etc., as it takes 45 minutes to move between the two cities instead of the 2-hour land transfer. More significantly, the seaplane fly is awesome when the aircraft floats, lands on and takes off from water. Go directly to the Hai Au Aviation seaplane check-in counter in Noi Bai Airport and get your seaplane ticket.

Things to do

Private Voyage with Luxury Yacht

If you love sailing and relaxing amid the legendary sea privately, then Viet Yacht helps perfect your voyage of a lifetime. The state-of-the-art yachts like Cap Camarat 6.5 WA, Cap Camarat 7.5 DC, Jeanneau Leader 36, and Jeanneau NC 14 provide fantastic sailing and optimum privacy. For a true luxury holiday in Halong Bay, the yacht can be combined with a high-end seaplane or helicopter transfer from Hanoi to Halong. Yet above all, let’s focus on the Halong Yacht Tours as the unrivaled sailing packages for couples, families, and small groups. The hassle-free stay and entertainment on the yacht can urge every soul to unwind and rest ultimately. There is a personal skipper at your disposal, and you can tailor the itinerary to the attractions you like. To describe the yacht tour, we can use the adjectives “relaxing, private, and luxurious.” The elegant and vigorous yachts have a large sunbathing deck and attractive cabins for passengers to relax well, Other extras of the experience include time for fishing, water-skiing, and scuba diving. Whenever you feel like being a chef, enjoy the kitchenette facility. For the lifetime photo albums, let’s start preparing for this significant travel, check the budget, and contact Viet Yacht. They will make your wish fpr the best yacht sailing in Halong Bay true for sure.

Things to do

Hidden Caves

Along with the exclusive limestone islets, Halong Bay preserves the hidden corners of the limestone caves, of which some famous names are Sung Sot Cave (Surprising Cave), Dau Go Cave, Thien Cung Cave, Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave), Luon Cave, and Ba Ham Cave. When entering the limestone caves, you’ll be astonished at the age-old and interesting forms of the stalagmites and stalactites that have been there for decades. Some structures were linked to the local folktales about love between a fairy and a fisherman, which is interesting to listen to. Pictures inside the limestone caves look mystic and exceptional. You might come across the local photographers who offer photography services on the spot. The quality is good, so if you want instant pictures, use their services. Otherwise, make sure to bring a fully-charged camera and perform your job. Cave discovery is also great for little travelers whose imagination will be inspired. The curious mind might ask you how the limestones were formed as they look, and the discovery will bring much fun. The giant size of the cave interior will keep the little eyes open and shining. Even the parents will enjoy the excursions. The deeper you explore a grotto, the more surprises it shows you. For a typical cave discovery, keep in mind the following tips:
+ Use mosquito repellents before you enter a cave 
+ Wear sneakers or running shoes as you might need to climb various terraces. High-heel shoes are not suitable. 
+ Bring your flashlight. Just in case, keep your flashlight in your bag, though the cave interior is lightened by the electric lights already. 

Things to do

Ancient Fishing Villages

Halong Bay is home to the age-old fishing villages in which cultural experiences, history, and seafood are wonderful. Particularly, Cua Van fishing village is a must to see as long as your interests are in the locals’ tradition, lifestyle, and fishing culture. The peaceful and fresh atmosphere in the villages will bring you away from any feeling of unease so that the simple life brings you joy and the energy you need for a new journey. Cycling through the rustic roads and quiet villages toward the transparent clean beaches will become the joyful moments. During the bike rides, take your time sightseeing the intact beauty of nature as well as the local lifestyle activities. You can stop by any local eatery to eat the local food. This means of transport might let you discover the hidden photogenic corners, which might be unknown to the others.

Things to do

Top Outdoor Activities

There will be hours for outdoor adventures and workouts as the Halong Bay Tours are not limited to the onboard cruise stay or the voyage only. You will have time to enjoy swimming in the emerald sea, kayaking amid the karst outcrops, parasailing, and scuba diving to meet the intact coral reefs. Besides, upon your arrival at the local villages, be ready for the eco-biking on the countryside roads and breathe the freshest air ever. Along with cycling, then trekking on the off-the-beaten-track paths is a mood booster for the explorative tourists who are seeking a nature-friendly and distinctive experience. Each outdoor activity would turn out to be a memorable photograph. Among the top activities, kayaking is the greatest. The National Geographic magazine voted Halong Bay one of the Top 25 kayaking destinations in the world. It has small entrances and hidden corners for a kayak to access, which makes people the real explorers. Paddling a yellow kayak through the mysterious caves and on the emerald sea is a must to do, for sure. This enjoyable activity is perfect for a couple, friends, and family with kids.

Things to do

Halong Helicopter Tour

Halong Helicopter Tour is a bit more expensive compared to the seaplane version. The aircraft serves the convenient and private transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay. Also, right on Tuan Chau Island, you can choose a scenic flight of 12 minutes, 25 minutes, or 40 minutes, which comes at competitive prices. After the flight, let’s experience the comfort onboard the luxurious cruises or the Viet yachts. The combination makes up a package of luxury for fastidious travelers who want the “perfect” for their rewarding holiday. Flying on a helicopter helps travelers save time and get rid of the exhausting long drive. The flight is fast, scenic, and comfortable whereas the view is incredible. During the flight, you’re inspired to take as many pictures and videos as you like, and you can even upload them by using the complimentary Wi-Fi. Note that the 45-minute helicopter transfer also includes the 8-minute sightseeing from a height of 120m – 150m.

Things to do

Night Squid Fishing

The traditional fishing culture and lifestyle are preserved in the age-old fishing villages in Halong Bay. Getting to the fishing villages of Vung Vieng, Cua Van, and Ba Hang, guests can observe how the local fishermen are working with their traditional fishing tools and rowing the bamboo sampan. The chat with the villagers might interest some guests who like the cultural experiences on the spot. In the evening, be ready for a boat trip on the bamboo sampan and go squid fishing with the local people. This way, you enjoy catching the squid at night, and then the squid will be made into dishes for your dinner.

10 BEST HALONG BAY CRUISES

Halong Bay is amongst the best cruising destinations in the world, so no doubt that there are hundreds of great cruises for a tourist to choose from. You can select the day cruises or the overnight cruises, but most of the time, people care more about the overnight options. To aid you in enjoying your vacation in a relieved and secure vibe, here is an introduction to the best cruises in Halong Bay that have won the positive comments from the tourist communities.

HALONG BAY FOODS

The first table delicacy to answer your questions about the food to eat in Halong Bay is the squid sausage. The yellow-fried sausage made of squid is a must to savor. The first bites will convince you of the really-good taste. Manually processed in a sophisticated way and with the local secret recipes, the squid sausage or “Cha Muc” in Halong offers a unique, a bit crunchy, and sweet taste, which is best served with the chili sauce or well-spiced sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. A plate of squid sausage is often decorated with fresh vegetables and slices of cucumbers.

Halong Bay food

Boiled Stone Crabs

“Cu Ki” or stone crab or thunder crab is the local specialty you should always eat in Halong. The boiled crab is the delicious seafood of the land; it has two big claws with more meat. Besides the boiling method, this kind of local crabs can be stir-fried with tamarind sauce, grilled, and stir-fried with rice vermicelli.

Halong Bay food

Grilled oysters

The Halong oyster grilled with scallion oil is a folksy food of Quang Ninh Province, which is enjoyed by many foodies. The succulent oysters are added by the scallion oil while grilling, which creates an hard-to-resist smell and makes people feel hungry. A plate of attractive grilled oysters definitely wins your compliments about the food in Halong Bay. This seafood is a must-eat.

Halong Bay food

Snails stir-fried with sweet soya sauce

Without using cooking oil or piper lolot leaf, the residents stir-fry snails with dried coconut, lime leaves, and sweet soya sauce. The dipping sauce does not need to be spiced sophistically. Rather, they use the chili and soya sauce which was once used for stir-frying the snails. The snails will be washed clean and put into a cooker for boiling. When it is boiled well, the snails will be stir-fried with sweet soya sauce for the succulent and a bit spicy. “Oc Xao Tuong” is a must to eat if you come across it on the local menus.

Halong Bay food

Halong peanut worms

Peanut worm or “Sa Sung” is an iconic food of Halong Bay, which can be made by frying the soaked worms, grilling, and stir-frying with turnip cabbage. A kilogram of dried peanut worms is valuable and could be priced up to 5 million VND. This food has a high value in nutrition and the economy. Guests often buy kilograms of “Sa Sung” home as valuable souvenirs.

Halong Bay food

Horseshoe crabs

Horseshoe crab or “Sam Bien” is a favorite street food in Halong, which can be processed in different ways resulting in many delicious dishes. The popular food made from this crab includes crab’s blood soup, the sour-fried crabs’ feet, deep-fried crabs’ eggs, steamed crabs, the crabs’ eggs stir-fried with lolot leaf, etc. Per the local beliefs, you should eat a couple of horseshoe crabs instead of only one.

Halong Bay food

Razor Clams

Razor clam or “Oc Mong Tay” is rich in nutrition and a plate of the clams stir-fried with tamarind sauce and added chili is a must you should always eat when you visit Ha Long fish market in the early morning or Cai Dam market. The price of this kind of clam is affordable to all, and its quality, freshness, and nutritional values are great.

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