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Ha Long Bay (7/19-20)

July 20th, 2006 · No Comments

Read below for our experience sailing, kayaking, and swimming through beautiful Ha Long Bay.

For photos, click here.

Daniel

We had been looking forward to visiting Ha Long Bay ever since we saw photos in a Conde Naste Article on Vietnam…and the pictures were absolutely true to the real thing…it was spectacular! By far, Ha Long Bay was the most beautiful part of Vietnam we have visited up until now. Over 3000 limestone and dolomite karsts jutting out of a shallow and calm ocean, it really is breathtaking.

We had read about the mixed quality of the junks that sail in Ha Long Bay and decided to book on the Jewel of the Bay for a 2 day, one night cruise. It was definitely the right choice. We had the most wonderful travel companions: a family with their 16 year old daughter from outside London, England, another family with two teenage boys from Darwin, Australia, and a young couple from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Ha Long Bay is roughly a 4 hour drive from Hanoi. Once at the port, were shuttled to the main ship on a smaller taxi boat. Once we got settled on the Jewel of the Bay, we were already surrounded by the famous limestone islands. Although we were probably only a few kilometers from the bustling port town – we had been transported to a tranquil setting, truly a natural wonder (and much cooler than steamy Hanoi). Protected by the masses of limestone, the calm water was deep green from all the vegetation on the islands. Most of our time was spent admiring the changing views as our ship navigated through the bay. We were also able to explore lagoons and water caves up close by kayak. One of the other highlights was swimming in the bay. The crew encouraged us to jump off the boat for a dip in the sea – surprisingly the water was very warm. Needless to say the teenage Australians were throwing themselves from the highest points possible.

First, we enjoyed a quite impressive seafood lunch (well everyone else enjoyed the seafood…the chef had prepared me some beef and chicken instead). It was really fresh fish, crabs, and prawns (as in still with heads and everything). The others seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. After our lunch, we visited one of the famous caves in the bay, the “surprise cave.” Our guide told us a story of one of the famous battles won by the Vietnamese in these caves where the Vietnamese tricked the Chinese into coming into the cave during high tide, only to have their boats destroyed by large steel tipped bamboo spikes placed under the water.

After our cave exploring, we all hopped in two person kayaks and explored the bay a little more intimately. We landed on another island and went for a sunset swim in the warm water. The next morning we set off for more kayaking, but this time we went into this hidden lagoon by kayaking through a small opening in the circular island. The sunlight reflected off the ocean water onto the limestone rocks and made the most spectacular light patterns. It looked just like the James Bond movie (which was not filmed here, by the way, that was in Thailand, but very similar landscape).

The sights alone made this short trip very memorable, but we’ve quickly learned how much a travel experience can be affected by travel companions. In this case, everyone we were with a fantastic group. At the end of the trip, we all exchanged contact info and wished each other a safe journey. It was a great trip.

Tags: Vietnam

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