Located east of Halong Bay and closer to the Chinese border, Bai Tu Long Bay is an off-the-beaten-track destination recently in high demand among international tourists. While possessing a similar landscape with the core Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay features clearer water and less-touristy attractions.
According to legend, millions of years ago when Vietnam was conquered by invaders, the Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her child to help the people. After winning, the dragons did not return to fairyland but decided to stay on earth. The place where the Mother Dragon descended is now called Halong Bay, while Bai Tu Long Bay is where the Young Dragon descended. These names are in Chinese and convey exactly the meanings mentioned above.
Popular sites often included on Bai Tu Long Bay cruises are Vung Vieng fishing village, Thien Canh Son Cave and Hon Co Beach. It's more remote attractions such as Co To Island, Quan Lan Island or Ngoc Vung Island, well-known among Vietnamese tourists, are harder to reach by waterway. Local people usually take a bus or car to Cai Rong Port, Van Don District, Quang Ninh Province and board a high-speed boat at the harbour. The islands come into sight after a trip varying from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. These islands’ beaches have probably the best water and sand quality found in all of Northern Vietnam. The bay is also home to the large Bai Tu Long National Park, one of seven Vietnamese national parks, which has both a terrestrial zone and an aquatic zone.
As it is not near Halong City, Cat Ba Island or any inhabited island, you can only visit Bai Tu Long Bay and stay overnight on a cruise, floating on the calm water. Normally, a 2 day 1 night cruise cannot reach this bay; only the 3 day 2 night cruise does.