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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.