I’ve decided to conjoin days 17 and 18 because they were our trip to Ha Long Bay. The translation for this is “Descending Dragon bay”! What a name that conjures such ideas and images. When you know this and see the stunning views that soon surround you it’s easy to see how it became one of the new seven natural wonders of the world. Thousands of limestone Karst ascend to the heavens. What a romantic place! It was here that the romantic poets notion of the sublime and beauty in nature took hold.
We chose to go with V’Spirit Cruises. It wasn’t the cheapest option, but not the most expensive either, costing us $159 per person. We chose them because of reviews online and the fact that they have boats with less cabins, so we felt it would be a more intimate experience. We were right, our group was 12! Of course, the boat wasn’t exactly like the one in the photos (above)… But they never are, are they?
The day started with a 3 and half hour drive from Hanoi, on a very cramped bus, to the port. Like always though you get to experience the charming views that come with travelling through Vietnam. I’ve said this before, but for me that experience alone is worth the long journey. It’s very different from England and because of that there is a sense of the romantic with every mile travelled.
So, I thought I’d share some fascinating facts about Ha Long Bay (or at least I thought they were):
1) Hạ Long Bay includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast and Cát Bà islands to the southwest.
2) There are over 2,000 islets, most of which are limestone.
2) The Vietnamese government state there are exactly 1969, the year of Ho Chi Minh’s death.
4) The limestone has taken over 500 million years to form, from different environmental conditions. While the karst’s have taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climates.
5) The geo-diversity of the bay has created several biodiversities, including a tropical evergreen, oceanic and sea shore biosystem.
6) There is evidence of prehistorical humans in the bay, apparently dating back 40,000 years.
7) The confucian Scholar and poet, Nguyễn Trãi, praised the beauty of Hạ Long Bay in his poem Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, describing it as a “rock wonder in the sky”.
8) In 1994 it was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
9) in 2012it was de cleared one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.
From the port we took a smaller boat across to our Junk, setting straight off towards the rising amorphous islets and mountains. We were served lunch and my god was the food good! Like each meal that followed it just kept coming too! So much food, all delicious (and they cater for vegetarians), but my god, by lunch the second day every one hardly ate a thing.
From here we were taken to sung sot cave. The entrance is steep and the climb hot, but when you get inside the cool air hits and the stunning beauty and size of the cave takes your breath away. The downside is that it is a very touristy area with many of the 200 overnight Junks and day boats coming here.
After returning to the boat we went kayaking. I have never done this before, but thought what the hell! We kayaked through the alluring Luon Cave into a quiet area with small jumping fish and monkeys jumping in the trees high above. What an experience! I now want to take up kayaking when I get back home. The waters are calm and easy for a first timer.
The evening was spent eating another huge meal and making new friends with the other guests, as well as playing games with the V’Spirit rep. The bay at night is a stunning amusement of lights and music with many boats anchored in the same area. It gives the water the sense of a floating city.
The next morning started early with a Tai Chi class on the top deck. Again, something I have never done, but always wanted too. I have to admit I was probably terrible at it (my fiancé said I looked like a robot!).
The cruise continued to Soi Sim island. The best part of the voyage! Why you may ask? Well, MONKEYS!!! I love monkeys. They’re so cute! The island was actually intended for swimming and relaxing on the beach, or climb to the summit for what I’m sure was a breath taking view of Halong Bay. But Monkeys!!! I spent the whole time feeding them bananas and taking photos (which I will share once I’m able to take them off my camara, we did get a couple of photos on my fiancés phone though). Some people have said the monkeys can be aggressive, but they were adorable, coming up and taking the bananas. No aggression at all. I want them!!
The junk then set sail back to port passing Ba Hang fishing village. While we travelled we got a cooking lesson on how to make fresh spring rolls before enjoying yet another amazing and really huge meal.
From there it was another looooooooooong journey back to Hanoi. I don’t know how to sum up such an amazing adventure (It is one that is very touristy though). But all I can say is monkey!!!
Take care everyone!