Foreign tourists complain about trash, overcrowding in Ha Long Bay

By Tu Nguyen    November 30, 2023 | 10:57 pm PT
Foreign tourists are disappointed after visiting UNESCO heritage site Ha Long Bay, saying it is now overcrowded and full of plastic waste.

Ana Mich, a Lithuanian visiting Ha Long Bay on a five-star cruise ship on Nov. 2, said the landscape was "impressive" but the countless plastic bags and bottles floating around the water were "alarming."

"I'm really sad when I see the garbage in Ha Long Bay. The landscape and people of Vietnam are wonderful, but their awareness of environmental protection is quite poor."

Sreejith S, an Indian tourist, complained that the place was too crowded and said he would never return.

Alva White of Sweden also saw overcrowding in the Sung Sot cave area, and said she had to wait nearly 30 minutes to reach the steps and inched her way up into the cave.

"I think there must be thousands of people at this attraction. Everyone stops to take pictures so they move very slowly, leaving many people stuck in crowds."

She said nevertheless that Sung Sot cave was beautiful and she had "an interesting experience in Ha Long Bay."

A long line of people line up to visit Sung Sot cave in Ha Long Bay on November 17, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alva White

People line up to visit Sung Sot cave in Ha Long Bay on Nov. 17, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alva White

Fodor's Travel magazine recently included the bay in its annual No List of destinations tourists should reconsider traveling to next year due to its trash problem.

It wrote: "Overtourism and marine pollution have been putting pressure on the ecosystem for decades. The number of visitors to Ha Long Bay in 2022 was more than seven million and is expected to be around eight and a half million in 2023."

As of Nov. 20, the number of visitors to Ha Long Bay was estimated at 2.39 million and the figure would be 2.5 million by the end of this year, far behind pre-pandemic levels - 4.5 million in 2019.

A report by the province admits that some places in the bay have begun to be overcrowded beyond "sustainable" levels.

Trash has become a major threat to the heritage bay.

Tourists often see water bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam waste floating on the water along with diesel from tourist boats.

Many boat owners hire workers to clean up the trash while authorities do nothing.

Hoang Long, a boat owner who hires people staff to collect trash in the Trinh Nu cave area, said: "There's a lot of trash, especially during low tide."

An official from the Ha Long Bay administration told VnExpress that the biggest difficulty in combating trash is that the bay is adjacent to many residential areas in Quang Ninh Province and Hai Phong City.

As of Nov. 23 it was "basically "clean," he said.

The administration expects to collect 226 tons of trash across the bay at the end of the year.

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