Long City is not likely to win prizes for its architecture
or facilities, but it is by no means the hell-hole portrayed
in the ‘Lonely Planet’ travel guide.
city is the provincial capital of Quang Ninh province, and
was created in the nineties by amalgamating Bai Chay, a
tourist area, with the much larger industrial and commercial
area of Hong Gai. The considerable differences between the
two elements, and their separation by a busy vehicle ferry
crossing the Cua Luc estuary, made them uneasy bedfellows
at first, but time and the imminent construction of a bridge
is bringing them together.
the tourist area of Bai Chai is the less attractive area
for the serious traveller.
The long seafront suffers from uncontrolled and inappropriate
development, and apart from the hotels, restaurants and
souvenir shops (mostly poor quality), and the Royal Park,
a long seafront development with few distinctive attractions,
there is little reason to spend much time there. Almost
invariably, we recommend our clients to spend the night
on a well-equipped boat on Ha Long Bay
course, Ha Long City’s fame is its location facing the World
Heritage Area of Ha Long Bay. The main access point is a
purpose built wharf to the west of Bai Chai. Its location
means that the large numbers of day-trip visitors by-pass
Ha Long City altogether, thus depriving the local community
of much-needed income. If time permits, a visit to Hong
Gai is worthwhile.
some of the coal mines and associated heavy industries have
been moved further east, the commercial nature of Hong Gai
is immediately evident.
Unlike Bai Chay, there has been no attempt to ‘internationalise’
Hong Gai. Nearly all the buildings are comparatively new:
almost the entire area was flattened by blanket bombing
during the war.
a small area in the south of Hong Gai escaped the destruction.
In its centre is Bai Tho (‘Poem’) Mountain, the name derived
from the several verses carved into its almost vertical
seaward face by famous kings and poets. The limestone peak
is unexpectedly rich in bio-diversity and offers stunning
views of the bay and the red backs of sea eagles swooping
also steeped in Vietnamese culture, not only for its role
in wars and conflicts through the ages, but also for its
religious associations. Two attractive temples, one on each
side of the mountain, are worth a visit.
Hong Gai bustles with life, and is a good example of Vietnam’s
emerging industrial cities. A stroll around the market and
port is pleasant and informative.
Long City is already growing rapidly. However, it’s inevitable
that the rate of growth will accelerate as it lies upon
the main road to southern China. At present, the heavy lorries
have to use the ferry - once the bridge is built, and the
road to the border gate is upgraded, goods traffic will
160km journey to Ha Long City takes about 2½ hrs. Nearly
all accommodation is in Bai Chai. At present, there are
five good quality hotels but, although comfortable, none
is up to deluxe standard. There is a limited number of reasonable
mid-range hotels and an abundance of budget accommodation,
much of it poor quality.
menus are quite limited, but the seafood is excellent, especially
that served on the boats we use. A good alternative is the
floating restaurant near Bai Tho mountain. Apart from the
ubiquitous karaoke establishments and various shows and
entertainment in the Royal Park, there’s not much to do
in the evenings apart from strolling among the prom or around
the western outskirts of the city, Tuan Chau is a small
soil island close to the mainland that has been converted
to a large resort area. Although well done, and boasting
some of the best accommodation in Ha Long City, it has been
designed to attract Vietnamese and Chinese visitors and
is unlikely to appeal to those from developed countries