Ha Long Bay bustles after months of frozen tourism

 UNESCO heritage site Ha Long Bay was more crowded and busier over the weekend weekend after Quang Ninh authorities resumed intra-provincial tourism and entertainment activities.

Visitors gather in front of Ha Long international passenger port that serves cruise tours to Ha Long Bay, famous for its limestone karst mountains rising from emerald waters.

Currently, entry tickets to Ha Long Bay are free for all visitors as part of provincial efforts to boost domestic tourism. Before the pandemic, tickets cost VND250,000 ($10.86) a person.

Visitors sit inside the passenger terminal, which entered operation in 2018.

Quang Ninh authorities still ban visitors from outside the province amid the complicated development of the pandemic and only allows destinations to receive intra-provincial visitors who got at least one Covid vaccine shot.

Staff of Ha Long Bay Management Board instruct a tourist to fill a medical declaration form and related procedures.

Tourists bring loudspeakers on board for entertainment.

"Quang Ninh is currently a safe locality in terms of Covid, so my family decided to visit Ha Long Bay after tourism activities were resumed. I just hope the Covid-19 pandemic would quickly end so that life could return to normal," said Lan, a visitor residing in Ha Long Town.

According to the management board of Ha Long Bay, over 1,000 tourists visited the world-famous bay last weekend.

However, few used cruise ship services.

After several months of strict social distancing measures, Tuan Chau Wharf, where all Ha Long Bay cruise ships and boats dock, was also busy last weekend.

Quang Ninh authorities plan to welcome back tourists from outside the province starting November.

Visitors scan QR codes for health declarations at the entrance to the wharf.

Passengers pass through a security checkpoint at Tuan Chau Wharf.

A cruise ship departs carrying passengers to Ha Long Bay.

Since its recognition as a UNESCO natural world heritage in 1994, Ha Long Bay has found a spot on the global tourism map, with travel bloggers and filmmakers hailing its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone pillars topped by rainforests.

The bay helped Quang Ninh welcome 14 million tourists, including 5.7 million foreigners, in 2019, an increase of 14 percent from the previous year.

Visitors at King Kong Park inside Tuan Chau Tourist Area. "Kong: Skull Island" was filmed in Ha Long Bay among several Vietnamese places in 2016.

During the fourth coronavirus wave, Quang Ninh has recorded only 13 infections out of over 800,000 nationwide.

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