Ha Long

Travel Guide Asia Vietnam Ha Long

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Introduction

Not to be confused with the far more popular bay sharing the same name, Ha Long city's main claim to fame is as a quick stop for those about to depart on a tour of the bay. Located about 160 kilometres northeast of Hanoi on the northern side of Ha Long Bay, the city is also known as Hon Gai, which actually refers to one of the two towns that make up the city. The other is Bai Chay and this tends to be where most travellers find themselves, as the pier from which the Ha Long Bay tours leave is located here. The city has a population of about 225,000.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Hon Gai
  • Bai Chay

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Events and Festivals

Tết Festival

The most important and busiest festival in Vietnam, everyone returns home to be with their family. For visitors, it is a colorful time, as streets are decorated with lanterns and lights. The celebratory meal consists of four dishes, giò (Vietnamese sausage), ninh (stew), nem (spring rolls), and mọc (meat balls).

Tết Trung Thu

On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, many celebrate the harvest by worshipping the Moon genie. It is one of the most impressive festivals in Vietnam and is particularly exiting for children, as they get plenty of toys. Square moon cakes are eaten by all, while children light lanterns and participate in a procession. Lion dancers accompanied by gongs and bells roam the streets.

Tet Doan Ngo

Tet Doan Ngo (Killing insects) or Dragon Boat Festival in Chinese is one of the oldest festival of Vietnam, occurred around June or July in Lunisolar Calendar and May in Lunar calendar. This festival is to celebrate a new section of the year and erase all the illnesses and worms in the body by using glutinous rice wine and lotus seed sweetened porridge in northern Vietnam or sticky rice dumplings in the south. Tet Doan Ngo often occurs from the breakfast to the noon, Vietnamese people eat this festival’s specialties before they take the meal whom believed that it’s the most suitable time to cleanse the body. The origin of this festival was started when people were celebrating for having a good crop and then the pest suddenly destroyed all of what they have been worked on, people couldn’t find a way to overcome this disaster so a man called Doi Truan appeared and guide the farmers to started a simple feast which included lime-water dumplings, fruits and doing exercises. The after day people realized that all the insects have been wiped out, Doi Truan reminded people that the pest was dominating at this month and must do what they’ve been guided to keep the crops away from the pest.

Tet Han Thuc

Tet Han Thuc or Cold Food festival at the end of the spring season, commonly in March 3rd (Lunar Calendar) and April or May (Lunisolar calendar), the festival was originated from China’s classic reference which is about the exile time of Duke Wen of Ji when he was so hungry that his royal advisor Jie Zhitui cut a part of his thigh to cook a soup for the duke, after he found out what Jie did, he was so grateful and promise that he’ll repay the favour. By the time Duke Wen regained his throne, Jie Zhitui had resigned and taken care of his mother at home hill, after many failed attempts to repay him, Duke Wen set fire to the hill and hoped that Jie would come out but he and his mother died in the firestorm. Duke Wen felt regret about what he had done so he created Cold Food Festival and named that mountain as Jie to pay tribute his advisor. The main specialties that Vietnamese people eat in this occasion are: floating cakes and glutinous rice dumplings. Vietnamese marked this day as the change from cold weather to hot so the name Cold Food Festival is to celebrate this season-changing time of the year.

Vu Lan or Ghost Festival

This festival is common in Asia countries: China, Japan, Vietnam, etc. The main purpose of Vu lan is to pay the gratitude to parents and helping the homeless, hungry souls. According to Vu Lan Sutra, a Buddha’s discipline named Maudgalyayana had trained many powerful abilities and he had purposed of meeting his mother one last time, he used his power to search and find out that his mother was in underworld and punished for her karma to be a hungry ghost, he brought rice bowl to his mother but she afraid of her food being taken away so she cover her hand to hide it but the bowl suddenly turned into fire. To seek a way to save his mother Maudgalyayana come to Buddha and the Buddha said that he cannot save his mother unless asking for help from the monks in the fifteenth day of July, after doing what Buddha said Maudgalyayana saved his mother. Vietnamese people often go to pray at the pagodas at this month and prepare a feast at home in the daylight to make offerings for the wandering ghosts. Since Vietnamese considered this is unlucky month, most of the activities from trading, building house, going at night are minimized, so the stores often close earlier than usual.

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Weather

Ha Long has a warm (sub)tropical climate with mostly high temperatures and humidity year-round. It is colder in winter here than in the south though, though it's milder here than more inland towards Hanoi and into the mountains near Sapa. Still, pack some extra clothes from December to February just in case, as temperatures can drop to around 10 °C at night sometimes. Summers are hot, above 30 °C and humidity is higher. This is monsoon time with heavy downpours and the occasional typhoon.

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Getting There

By Bus

You can connect from Ha Long to most cities in Vietnam.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are Internet cafés everywhere and most tourist hotels have WiFi.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Vietnam's international dialing code is +84. To call to other countries from Vietnam, start with 00, followed by the country code and the number without the first 0 (including if you call a mobile number). International and domestic phone calls are available in almost every hotel or internet café. International phone charges are high in Vietnam and hotels often add a mark up fee so it is smart to always check the rates before dialing. Public phones (rare) require phone cards, which are available at post offices. Another option are the numerous offices in large cities which offer public telephone services, most of the time at low rates. If you arrive in Vietnam with your mobile, you can buy a SIM card at the airport. Do not forget to buy more minutes afterwards (street vendors everywhere, just look for a small sign 'SIM cards").

Some common and useful phone codes are:

  • 00 - International call prefix
  • 110 - Operator
  • 113 - Police
  • 114 - Fire Department
  • 115 - Medical Aid/Ambulance
  • 116 - Directory Assistance
  • 1080 - Information

Post

Vietnam Post is the government owned national postal service of Vietnam. Services are generally fairly reliable, cheap but not overly fast, except express services. Express Mail Service (EMS) ensures that letters and small parcels are delivered within 24-48 hours domestically. International EMS is associated with over 50 countries worldwide, with a delivery time ranging from 2 to 10 days. Regular services are cheaper but much slower. Most post offices keep much longer hours than most other official businesses, usually starting from 6:30am until 9:30pm and also open on Saturday and even Sunday. You can buy stamps here and they also offer other services like money transfers. You can also try other companies to send parcels, for example with DHL, TNT and UPS.

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Accommodation in Ha Long

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Ha Long searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

as well as larsay (6%), Sam I Am (3%)

Ha Long Travel Helpers

This is version 16. Last edited at 16:07 on Mar 11, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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