The name Ha Long means “descending dragon.”
Flowing southeastward from Yunnan in southwest China through northern Vietnam to the Gulf of Tonkin, the Red River runs for nearly 714 miles before spreading out to form the Red River Delta. The river is notorious for its violent floods, so an ingenious network of dikes and levees was installed to protect the delta’s vast rice fields.
For the adventurer looking to explore places few others have visited, Northern Vietnam offers rare and marvelous wonders, well worth the journey. Remote mountain villages and tribal areas contrast with the modern whirl of downtown Hanoi, while the busy hum of floating markets balance the silent splendors of tranquil rice paddies and Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a fantastical array of limestone karsts and isles set amidst sparkling tropical waters.
Given the increasing popularity of Ha Long Bay, many of the major river cruise lines offer cruises featuring the bay and the Red River, with most chartering specially designed paddle steamers, such as the RV Angkor Pandaw. With their shallow draft, the steamers can navigate the uncharted waters, with their shifting sandbars, and still travel upstream or downstream in the dry season, when waters are at their lowest.