Ha Long Bay

by Anna

Hanoi was fun, fast-paced and crazy! After almost a week of dodging motorbikes and listening to a constant cacophony of horns, we were ready for some fresh air and peace and quiet. Ha Long Bay was the perfect overnight escape, and a destination that we’d both been looking forward to for a long time. Recently named one of the “New 7 Natural Wonders of the World” and already a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay was one of those places that we’d read about and seen magnificent photos of and couldn’t wait to experience in person. With nearly 2,000 limestone islands steeply rising from tranquil green waters, the scenery did not disappoint.

Our boat, or “Junk,” also exceeded our expectations, and we only wished we had booked longer than two days/one night on the Dragon’s Pearl. Our cabin was beautiful with a million-dollar view, every meal, which had around 10 courses, was delicious and the crew was super friendly. We even lucked out with sunny weather – a welcomed site after perpetual gray skies in Hanoi .

Our Junk, The Dragon’s Pearl
Our cozy cabin for the night Lunch on the deck
Loving the sunshine, view and peace and quiet!

After a yummy lunch packed full of fresh seafood our boat docked near one of the islands in the bay where we climbed up to see some views and explore a couple of caves. Many of the islands are hollowed with caves, rivers and lakes, and local fisherman used to live in them. Unfortunately many of the stalagmites and stalactites had been stolen or sold off before the bay became a protected area, but the caves were still magnificent and beautiful. We also had the chance to take out kayaks and paddled through and around dozens of islands. This was one of our favorite parts of the trip, as the sun was starting to sink and we were surrounded by towering silhouetted peaks in every direction. Once back on the beach we laid on the sand and watched the sunset, a truly relaxing and mesmerizing experience.

After a lovely evening on the boat with another delicious meal and the company of new friends, we awoke early the next morning to more blue skies and a visit in small bamboo boats to a local floating fishing village called Vong Vieng. The woman rowing our boat was nice enough to offer us some traditional hats, soon followed by some neon orange life vests, so we looked pretty ridiculous cruising the bay (we noticed that no one else in other boats had on hats OR vests…hmmmm). The fishing village was amazing…like a land lost in time. Colorful little houses stacked in a row with beautiful boats tied up at their front doors…the 50 or so families had been living there for generations. We stopped off at the local school to see the cute children hard at work and then headed back through the maze of islands to our boat.

We were sad to say goodbye to Ha Long Bay and wished we could have had more time just lying on the Dragon’s Pearl deck, taking in the natural wonders around us. But travel called, and we were soon off to our next destination – which proved to be just as naturally and culturally amazing – Sapa.

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