Vacationing in Vietnam 2: Halong Bay

Day 3 saw us up and at it early, with an 8am departure for a 3 hour drive to Hạ Long Bay, literally “Descending Dragon” bay. According to local legends, the gods sent a family of dragons to help the Vietnamese to fight Chinese invaders. The dragons began to spit out jewels and jade, which turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay and formed a great wall against the invaders. After keeping the Vietnamese safe, the dragons were only interested in peaceful sightseeing of the earth and decided to live there. The mother dragon descended at what became Hạ Long and the dragon’s children descended at Bái Tử Long island (“attend upon children dragon”). The place where the dragon’s children wriggled their tails violently was called Bạch Long Vỹ island (“white-colour dragon tail”).

In real life, Hạ Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 square kilometers, including 1,960 islets over 3000 incredible islands. In 1994 it was designated a World Heri­tage site. Essentially, it is a breathtakingly beautiful set of islands similar to those I encountered in Guilin, China. Plus the boats are bigger and much prettier…

Most of the first day of the cruise involved relaxing on the deck chairs, sipping cocktails and enjoying some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen.

By late afternoon, we had reached one of the four fishing villages where residents live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture (cultivating marine biota). We had a quick stop and canoed to at the village to visit the floating school and play with the children. No photos but trust me…they were cute 🙂

The fishing village On the canoes On the canoes

When we got back to the boat we had a quick dip in the bay (see Michael below).

Then jumped back onto the boat to enjoy the setting of the sun.

After a few cocktails in the evening, we woke up the next morning to a scene of boats, boats and more boats. Apparently all the boats that left that morning had docked at the same place.

First stop on day four (day two of the cruise) was the ‘Amazing Cave’…yup the amazing cave. Suprisingly, it was pretty good but unfortunately another of those caves where fluorescent lights have been used. The cave has three chambers which you pass through in succession. The Vietnamese do have a sense of humor, which we see as we pass into the third chamber – a large phallic outcropping of rock which is highlighted with a bright red light. My favourite was the rock tortoise, special as it is one of the ‘Four Fabulous Animals’ in both Chinese and Vietnamese mythology. The last two photos below show the bay in front of the amazing cave.

Back in the bay, we sat around for quite some time waiting to depart the boat and get back on the bus to Hanoi.

And that was that. Absolutely beautiful. But before I finish this post, I leave you with a couple of bins (yes bins) and a group photo…