You have probably seen Halong Bay on the cover of a travel magazine or on landscape paintings. It is a picture of over a thousand limestone islands and islets in emerald green water. From a distance a range of rock formation can be seen in blue, gray and purple hues amidst a white mist. In Vietnamese Ha Long means descending dragon. This is what a traveler, whether it’s hundreds of years ago or at present, might have seen or imagined it to be.
Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, Halong Bay is a major tourist destination. It is in the northeastern part of Vietnam. This is a must in your itinerary even if you’re in Hanoi for a very short stay. It is only a hundred seventy kilometers away from the city and so a day trip is feasible. But come prepared for a long journey. Have a junk reserved thru a travel agent in advance. It takes about 3.5 hours on the road each way as a 40-60 km/h speed limit is imposed. Just amuse yourself with sights of towns and fields along the way as well as a traffic enforcer giving your driver a ticket for over speeding, overtaking or for whatever reason.
Once you’re registered at the dock, you are good to sail. Depending on your arrangement, your junk takes you around the bay for either four or six hours. Some even opt for an overnight stay. My family and I were privileged to have a boat all to our selves. We had a spread of baguettes, assorted fillings and drinks on the lower deck for lunch. Then we sat on the upper deck for a panoramic view and fresh air. At one point we got off a floating fishing village and saw shrimps, cuttlefish, clams, crabs and baby sharks for sale. We also hiked on a trail in Dau Go Island and walked through Thien Cung Grotto, also known as the Heavenly Cave. Shortly we were back at the dock and into the car…watched the twilight sky and to our base in Hanoi. It was a full day worth spending.
This post is dedicated to Matthew, Sophia, Tiffany and Steve.