New helicopter allows aerial enjoyment of Ha Long Bay

By Nguyen Quy   May 13, 2019 | 05:31 am PT
New helicopter allows aerial enjoyment of Ha Long Bay
A helicopter tour gives visitors another option to explore famous limestone rock formations in Ha Long Bay from the skies. Photo by VnExpress/Meo Gia
A helicopter tour launched by a Vietnamese firm adds an extra dimension to the enjoyment of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay.

Starting May 10, visitors have been invited to book the Ha Long Heli Tours through Fastsky, the country’s first helicopter ride-sharing service run by ride-hailing firm FastGo.

The tour, provided by the Northern Vietnam Helicopter Company, uses two U.S.-made Bell-505 helicopters with five seats each.

The journey will start from the Tuan Chau heliport and go over famous Ha Long Bay attractions including the Thien Cung Cave and Ti Top Island, as well as Bai Tu Long, a lesser-known neighbor of Ha Long Bay.

New helicopter allows aerial enjoyment of Ha Long Bay

The trips, which start at $125 for a 12-minute journey, aim to tap the growing number of tourists to Vietnam, mainly from China, the world's second biggest economy, the company stated.

China has been Vietnam's main source of tourists in recent years, accounting for one third of all foreign visitors. More than four million Chinese visitors arrived in Vietnam last year, up 48.6 percent year-on-year.

Chinese visitors have also been encouraged by a new policy that allows groups to visit the border province of Quang Ninh in northern Vietnam, home to the popular Ha Long Bay, for up to three days without a visa.

The Vietnamese government has also allowed Chinese nationals to apply for 30-day single-entry electronic visas for holidays and business trips.

Visitors have two other options - 25-minute and 40-minute journeys, costing VND4 million ($172) to VND7 million ($301).

Around four hours drive to the east of Hanoi, Ha Long Bay was recognized as world heritage site in 1994 by UNESCO, and voted among the world’s seven new natural wonders by Swiss organization New Open World in 2011.

Recent events that have heightened the bay’s attraction include the filming of "Kong: Skull Island", a Hollywood blockbuster, in 2017; and the launch of Vietnam's first private airport Van Don International Airport late last year, providing foreign tourists with easier access.

Improved infrastructure makes the UNESCO-listed bay increasingly accessible.

However, the tourism boom has also left the once-pristine bay under mounting pressure, threatened by overcrowding and trash pollution that have sparked great concern among environmentalists and heritage experts.

U.K. travel site Rough Guides recently included Ha Long Bay in the top ten UNESCO heritage sites in Asia.

In 2015 the bay was hailed by U.S. travel guide site Smarter Travel as one of the best ecological spots in the world. U.S. news site Business Insider has described an overnight Ha Long cruise trip a "must-try" travel experience in Asia.

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