Halong Bay is one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites and is the biggest draw to North Vietnam. It’s one of the most amazing natural sights I’ve ever seen (probably right up there with the Grand Canyon). The emerald green waters of the Bay are pierced by almost 2,000 towering limestone islands that are nothing like you’ve ever seen. These massive rock formations of all different shapes and sizes simply rise up from the calm seas and are thick with untouched jungle. They are uninhabitable which make this place even more appealing as you know they will not be destroyed by human beings. On the islands you will see many animals including monkeys in trees, birds and sea eagles soaring above. This place is magnificence!
After a few days in crazy Hanoi we were more than ready to head off bright and early on Wednesday morning to Halong Bay. At 7.45am we left the Handspan Adventure travel office on a 3 ½ hour drive to the harbour of Halong City where we were to commence our Halong Bay adventure. We were very amused by the road trip as we got to experience a surreal journey as our mini bus driver weaved
in and out of traffic beeping his horn. Many times I had to close my eyes as oncoming trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes headed straight towards us. I must admit although it seems that the Vietnamese have no traffic rules whatsoever, they certainly know how to avoid collisions and crashes. I never once saw a car or motorcycle accident, although there were many close calls.
The journey was over pretty quick after nap and reading, and we arrived at the harbour safely. In front of us was an amazing cluster of boats of all different shapes, sizes and ages. They ranged from five-star luxury (which we were on) to small and dirty looking. At 12.30pm we finally boarded our Indochina Sails junk and it was everything we hoped for. As we paid extra for the ‘Deluxe suite with king-size bed’, we got the most amazing room compared to the others. It was clean, spacious, massive hot shower and had air-conditioning. We also got a complimentary bottle of wine and everyone thought we were on our honeymoon!
Having only just arrived on the boat, it was time to dine for lunch. We indulged in a delicious seven course seafood
odyssey that included fresh prawn spring rolls, clams, crabs, prawns, fish and chicken. All meals were beautifully presented and delectable.
After lunch we lounged on the sundeck and relaxed while we cruised along Halong Bay. It was spectacular! The islands sit in the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. These tiny islands are dotted with grottoes and caves and the sounds of animals and birds are just amazing to listen to.
Throughout our trip we ventured to many islands and explored the limestone caves – both big and small. The first day we stopped at Titop Island, which is a small island in the middle of the Bay with a beach. We climbed the 464 steps to the summit and witnessed the best panoramic views of Halong Bay. Later in the afternoon we took a smaller boat and visited the largest fishing village in the Bay. This village had 600 people living on it and it was an amazing story. These people and families live out here all their lives and never leave. We saw the school classrooms and met some of the locals. It’s amazing as they even had televisions and lights.
Another day we
went adventuring by kayak. This was my favourite part. Paul and I shared a double kayak and we kayaked around for ages taking in the tranquillity and atmosphere. We kayaked through a hollow karst to this stunning secluded area where the only way in and out was by kayak as we had to enter through a bat cave. It was so much fun as there were no other people there but us. We saw all different kinds of birds, including hawks, and cute little monkeys. It was by far one of my favourite experiences I’ve ever had.
After kayaking we went exploring with our new friends from our boat. We discovered this amazing limestone cave that we had to literally crawl through small crevasses to get each chamber. It was well worth it. This cave had three chambers in it and each was more incredible than the last.
We also explored another cave a different day. This cave is known as ‘Surprise Cave’ - an intriguing name that definitely lived up to expectations. This cave had three large and outstanding chambers that were all illuminated and that went on and on and up and up. I’ve never seen
anything like it before. Inside the cave was a wonderland of brightly lit limestone formations at their best. Some were smooth and looked more like slowly flowing icing, whilst others were pointy and jagged like a fairytale castle. By the time we got to the second chamber, we discovered the significance of the ‘Surprise Cave’. There shone a pink-lit rock phallus known as the ‘Cock Rock’. Please see photos to understand this amazing natural phenomenon. We spent a good hour wandering through this massive cave before heading outside to take some impressive photos of the outstanding surroundings.
All in all Halong Bay was definitely everything we expected and much more. If you’re going to travel to Vietnam, you must visit Halong Bay by junk boat.
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