Like a combination of Thailand's famous limestone islanded Phang Nga Bay and old Hong Kong's harbor with its dragon-sailed junks, Vietnam's Halong Bay is fast making its way to the top of everyone's Asian must-see travel list. The bay and its almost two thousand islands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 giving an official stamp of recognition to this natural wonder that has captivated painters and poets for centuries. Halong City has several markets and restaurants worth visiting, and is also a convenient base before setting out for places like Cat Ba Island and some of the smaller islets with their underground caves and biodiverse wildlife. As you sail the bay or look at it from the mainland, you may feel like you've stepped into a postcard or a painting from the classic era of Vietnamese art.
Some travelers come here for active days filled with kayaking, caving and islet-hopping but you can also sit back and simply sail through this stunning bay or take a day trip to fishing villages with their colorful markets. If you are up for venturing farther afield, it's a three-hour trip (each way) to Hanoi but worth the effort if you have yet to visit the city.