Cat Ba Island



Halong City

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Formed in 1994 with the offi cial amalgamation of the towns of Bai Chay and Hon Gai, Halong City is bisected by the narrow Cua Luc straits, which is straddled by a new suspension bridge. Located to the west of the straits, Bai Chay is an affluent tourist town, home to a number of tour operators, hotels, and restau rants. It is also popular with the Vietnamese for its nightlife, which centers on karaoke bars and massage parlors of ques tionable repute. However, for most visitors, there is little of appeal in Bai Chay itself, which is simply a convenient place to stay and eat. Local authorities have tried to improve the situation by laying two artificial stretches of beach on the seafront, but not much has changed. The waters remain muddy, and the sand is polluted. East of the new bridge, the town of Hon Gai is the older, more historic part of Halong City. Although this town has its share of hotels and restaurants, it does not revolve around tourism. In fact, most of its wealth comes from industry, particularly the huge opencast coal mines that dom inate the coast east of Cua Luc. Beyond the coal dust of the docks is Nui Bai Tho or Poem Mountain, one of the few attractions of Halong City. The limestone mountain has earned its name from the weathered inscriptions on its sides, written in praise of the beauty of Halong Bay. The earliest of these is said to have been composed by King Le Thanh Tong in 1468. On the northern lee of the mountain stands Long Tien Pagoda, Halong City’s most colorful and interesting religious site.

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