Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
GPS: 20.816581262884, 107.17992031851
Hạ Long Bay is located in Quảng Ninh Province, in the north-east of Vietnam, not far from the city of Hanoi (160 kilometres). This natural wonder of the Gulf of Tonkin forms one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Because of its proximity to the Chinese borders, Hạ Long Bay has been the setting for several naval battles in its history, all won by the Vietnamese army. From the 15th to the end of the 18th centuries, this maritime area was an important base for pirates attacking merchant ships operating in South-East Asia, between China, Japan and Thailand. They were hunted by British Royal Navy ships to secure the transport of goods (including opium) in the South China Sea, although some acts of piracy still occur in the region.
Home to the largest marine karst in the world, Hạ Long Bay occupies a large body of water covering an area of 1,500 km². This former centre of international trade boasts a spectacular maritime landscape consisting of 120 kilometres of coastline and a natural labyrinth of almost 2,000 islets of karst nature. Renowned for its geological heritage, rocky peaks, limestone cliffs, lush forests, intimate coves and primitive caves, Hạ Long Bay is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful panoramas in the world. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994. Its landscape is constantly changing due to the effect of wind, currents and marine erosion.
Archaeological research has shown that this natural site has been inhabited for several millennia and is one of the cradles of humanity. Even today, the dwellings of fishermen who reside permanently in Hạ Long Bay are scattered over multiple floating villages, built from woven bamboo. Due to their steep relief, most of the islands are uninhabited and relatively unspoiled from human influence, although tourism activity is increasingly developing there. In recent years, this part of the world has been the subject of fierce territorial disputes between China and Vietnam over the control and exploitation of its large oil reserves.