Halong Bay’s scenic beauty has become renowned throughout the world, causing thousands, near millions of tourists to visit the bay every single year. To get a deeper understanding why, check out our list of top 20 attractions in the Halong Bay area!
But these tourists were not the first people to visit.
Dating back thousands of years, Halong Bay has been populated by small local communities living on floating villages tucked away in between the karst, sunken mountains.
This is the incredible story behind Halong Bay’s floating villages.
But First… What’s the History Behind Halong Bay?
Over 500 million years of erosive forces from the wind and sea, the softer pieces of limestone on the mountains were worn away, leaving the harder areas behind.
These now form what we recognise as Halong’s distinct geomorphic topology- or in other words: the otherworldly sunken mountains that jut out from Halong’s emerald green waters.
What’s the Story Behind the Villages?
Originally built as a place for returning fishermen to sell their fresh catch from the night before, the Halong Bay floating villages became residential quite quickly.
But it didn’t stop there:
People lived, ate, slept, worked, partied, and even went to school on these tiny, self-sufficient floating villages.
Each village is a completely self-contained society, in perfect harmony with the land and sea, and surviving everyday trials and tribulations by working together.
These are resilient people, unfettered by modern day problems, living out lives that are little changed by the passage of time. The villages have houses, shops, schools and even police stations.
Their boats and houseboats are tethered together to provide safety and stability when tested by elements.
Do People Still Live on the Halong Bay Floating Villages?
Sure, at one point the Halong Bay floating villages were the most unique and close-knit communities you’d ever imagine.
But then something changed:
A couple of years ago, the government sent out a directive that would force the residents to move inland and leave their floating homes behind.
At first, the people in the village were indignant, refusing to leave behind the homes- the community that they had spent generations to build. But the government’s standpoint was firm: the people’s quality of life, and particularly the children’s access to education would improve vastly if they moved inland. Pollution and environmental protection was also a big factor.
The directive was final.
So What Happened Since?
Now, the Halong Bay floating villages are preserved intact, just the way they were when the residents still lived here full time.
Although people do not now live here full time, the locals do still carry out a lot of activities and work tasks here, such as fishing, net weaving, and pearl processing.
Visiting the Halong Bay fishing villages is one of the top rated activities in the region, which tourists enjoy a lot thanks to the chance to get a look at Halong’s deep-rooted culture up close, and learn about the people who once lived here.
What were the Halong Bay Floating Villages like Before the Move?
The people who lived in the four villages only number about 1,600.
The Soi Nhu people arrived around 20,000 years ago and survived until approximately 7,000 BC. Next came the Cai Beo people, who ruled the roost for about 2,000 years. Then in 5,000BC the Halong people’s culture took hold and held sway for about 1,500 years.
The 4 Remaining Halong Bay Floating Villages:
Today, there are four main villages in Halong Bay, and this is their story:
Originally two fishing villages were formed at the start of the 19th century, one called Giang Vong and the other Truc Vong.
But they didn’t always live on the sea:
Originally land dwellers, the people made their homes on boats, maintaining their ancestral shrines on the mainland. When they needed to discuss local politics, they simply dropped anchor, and held them.
Between 1946 and 1954, during the war against the French, these people scattered throughout the bay, finally returning to build their new floating villages when the area eventually stabilised.
Today it’s like this:
The descendants of these villagers are now the people who- until recently- inhabited the four remaining villages: Cua Van, Vung Vieng, Cong Dam, and Ba Hang.
1. Cua Van Floating Village
You will find Cua Van in Hung Thang Commune, just 20 km from the tourist boat wharf at Halong City; it can be accessed either from here or from Cat Ba Island.
The village lies in amidst calm waters surrounded by mountains. Listed as one of the finest examples of ancient villages by a top travel site, today there are about 200 boats there.
2. Vung Vieng Floating Village
Vung Vieng village is located in the heart of Bai Tu Long Bay, and is about 40 km from Halong City. Thanks to the picturesque setting, this is a favoured stop off for cruise boats.
While the residents used to earn their wage through fishing and pearl farming, nowadays their income is mainly supplemented by tourism.
3. Cong Dam Floating Village
Known for its mountains, reefs, and underwater lakes, this is one of the smallest and oldest villages in the bay.
Thanks to its beautiful beaches, it’s also a favoured stop-off point for cruise boats.
4. Ba Hang Floating Village
Home to 50 families, Ba Hang is a small village that lies in a peaceful strip of water between two karst formations.
Again, while it used to be a fishing village, now the people who work here are mainly serving the tourism industry.
Ready to experience the Halong Bay floating villages? Get in touch with us to find out more about cruises that go there.