Ha Long - the city by its namesake bay

Ha Long - the city by its namesake bay

Ha Long is the capital of Quang Ninh province in Northeast Vietnam, and as the name would suggest it's also the main city of Ha Long Bay.Ha Long Bay is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam, yet most people visit straight from Hanoi. I visited Ha Long Bay on my first visit to Vietnam via Hanoi, and I don't recall any guide book or tour suggesting the option of stopping over in Ha Long.The city has been reinventing itself in a bid to get more tourists to stay here. For starters a new airport was built in 2018 to serve Ha Long. Van Don Airport is 50km away so it's not exactly convenient, but there are free transfer buses and the trip is via a new highway that has been carved through this mountainous area. Ha Long is a city of two distinct halves, cleaved in half by the Cua Luc Straits. On the east side is Hong Gai, which used to be the provincial capital. On the west side is Bai Chay, which is where new tourism developments are being built. The two cities were merged in 1993 to become Ha Long, and in 2008 the Bai Chay Bridge unified the two.There is not much written about the city of Ha Long, so I picked the old area on the Hong Gai side to stay in. Living up to its Ha Long name, the city is right on the doorstep of the bay. Walk along the waterfront and you can see the famous rock formations without even getting in a boat. Obviously you should get in a boat, because Ha Long Bay lives up to the hype. Going to Ha Long City and not visiting Ha Long Bay would be like visiting Cairo without seeing the pyramids. Some travel guides describe Ninh Binh as Ha Long in the rice fields. Likewise, Ha Long city could be described as Ha Long Bay in the city. Hon Gai is characterised by flat areas punctuated by mountain peaks. It explains why there are blank spots on the map with no roads. I stayed on this side of the city to see what normal city life was like. That requires visiting the main market.There isn’t an old town here or any remnant of colonial architecture. The city was once a coal mining port, but the main port of the north is in nearby Haiphong. Instead of crumbling French colonial architecture, Ha Long is getting these new shophouses with French roofs (AKA mansard roofs).With the city located on the bay I wondered how the city could have turned out if it had the same level of heritage buildings like Haiphong. It would be like having Hoi An in Ha Long Bay, and it would probably be more popular.My next day was dedicated to exploring Bai Chay. The bridge is not pedestrian friendly, and the bridge killed off the ferry between the two areas, so I got a Grab taxi to the other side.I keep track of real estate developments for Living In Asia, and Bai Chay keeps turning up in my research. I started off at the Harbor Bay development and walked back towards the bridge. Harbor Bay is typical of the new projects in Ha Long, which feature rows of European-style shophouses.Next to Harbor Bay is Halong Marina Square. This looked like it was finished but there was no one there. It was hard to tell if it hadn’t opened yet, or if it had opened at the worst possible time in the history of modern tourism during the global pandemic.Near the beach is Little Vietnam, which is a low-rise residential area with streets themed like Hoi An and old Hanoi. There are some family-run hotels here, and in better times it looks like it would be a good place to stay.

2010 - 2022, © cheap washer wish,