vietnam, world heritage, UNESCO, landscape, travel, blog, yellowperiscope

Vietnam Sightings Part 3 – World Heritage Landscapes

It is said, to walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles. And if this walk happens to be cruising around world heritage sites, it means witnessing a million miracles. Vietnam’s natural landscapes are truly spectacular and significant enough for UNESCO to assign the sites as important to the collective interests of humanity.

For every new place I travel to, there is always one definitive image that gets stored in my memory bank. It’s similar to an icon on my phone that will launch an app, if I tap it. For Bhutan, my icon is Tigers Nest ; majestic, divine, sitting on top of a mountain cliff. For Vietnam, it is the distinct seascape that appears as I enter Halong Bay. These icons etched in my heart forever and memories appear as soon I tap them.

About Vietnam Sightings

This is our fourth article on Vietnam, the third and final in my Vietnam Sightings series. If you haven’t read the earlier articles do read our experiences with Vietnamese culture and food here:

Vietnam Sightings Part 1 – Culture and History

Vietnam Sightings Part 2 – Food Trails, Cooking Lessons, Exotic Food

Eating Vietnam’s National Dish – Pho


Ha Long Bay: Vietnam Tourism’s Poster Boy

Hạ Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. Owing to this biological significance, its a UNESCO world heritage site.

Hạ Long Bay is a like a sculpture created by nature – shimmering turquoise waters and rocks in varying shapes and sizes rising steeply out of nowhere. The name Hạ Long means “descending dragon”.


The thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes give Hạ Long Bay magical fantasyland feel! Most of the islands are uninhabited.


Cruising through this sculpted seascape with its magical rock formations is easily my topmost experience of Vietnam.

This fantasy landscape is a real cave of around 10,000 square meters called Sung Sot Cave situated on an island in Hạ Long Bay. It contains stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is about 30 meters high and sports a 500-meter long passage.

Trang An

Tràng An Landscape Complex is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Situated near the southern margin of the Red River Delta, the landscape has limestone karst peaks, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. Exploration of caves at different altitudes has revealed archaeological traces of human activity over a continuous period of more than 30,000 years.

Tràng An in Vietnam is a unique area that has been invaded by the sea several times in the recent geological past but is now emergent on land. This blend of towering mountains draped in natural rain forest, with large internal basins and narrow cave passages containing quietly flowing waters, create an extraordinarily beautiful and tranquil landscape. A sense of absolute calmness engulfed me as I approached the landscape.
Getting ready to row into Tràng An Landscape Complex
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Tràng An has an exceptionally beautiful tower-karst landscape. Some rock towers are up to 200m high, linked in places by sharp ridges enclosing deep depressions filled by waterways that are inter-connected by cave passages. Here we are in traditional sampans, rowed by local guides entering a cave. Its a dramatic experience!

The Mighty Mekong

The Mekong River winds its way through Southeast Asia and flows into the South China Sea at the Mekong Delta just south of Ho Chi Minh City. This is Vietnam at its most pastoral. Here, more than 1,000 species of animals live side by side in what is described as a “biological treasure trove”. Take a boat ride to explore its famous floating markets.

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Can Tho almost seems like a floating city in Vietnam’s Mekong delta. The floating market reminded me of the market in Dal lake in Srinagar, India.

A trip to the Mekong Delta is not just to experience the river and the landscape surrounding it but also a great way to watch closely how people live, adapt and develop their lives along this mighty river and its delta. In this vast waterworld is a network of boat ways, boat markets, a rich variety of fruits, flowers, vegetables and sea food. And last but not the least, hospitable and smiling people.

You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen monk, author and peace activist.



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