Friday, April 2, 2010

Ha Long Bay

For our very last stop in Vietnam, we spent 3 days in the gorgeous Ha Long Bay.
Just when I thought the chance had passed, you went and saved the best for last!!!

I know I've said this about a lot of places over the last four months,but Ha Long Bay (Ha Long meaning "descending dragon") has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. It looks like one day God became bored with regular old rain, so he decided to mix things up a bit. He replaced the boring rain drops with massive lime stone rain drops, whipped up a thunderstorm, and waited to see what would happen. Ha Long Bay is the result of that fateful day.
once you're deep inside the bay, the water is like glass

Ha Long is a lot like Tam Coc, but on a much larger scale. Instead of the limestone formations jutting out of rice paddies, they are towering majestically over the expansive sea.  As you approach the bay from a distance, it looks as if you are sailing straight into an impenetrable mountain range shooting out from the depths of the ocean.
As you get closer it becomes apparent that what you thought was a continuous chain of mountains is actually the worlds largest optical illusion. Slowly, the mountain peaks separate and it is revealed that the bay is instead littered with massive limestone monoliths, 2,000 of them, some up to 100 meters high.
This one is appropriately called 'toothpick'
After some careful research, we decided to book a 3-day tour of Ha Long Bay with Ocean Tours.  I have to say we were not disappointed. When we arrived at the dock in Ha Long City, the place was packed with tourists waiting to begin their trips and the docking area was just bursting at the seams with thousands of "tourist" boats.
I was expecting the bay itself to be a bit clogged up as well, but once we set sail, we left the crowds behind us and floated through the bay in almost complete seclusion. Ocean Tours gave us an awesome boat as well. It was able to seat maybe 40 people, but there were only 7 of us on the trip - including Aimee, Nick, and Me.
hanging out on the deck
We were served a fantastic meal for lunch on the boat and then spent a couple of hours just enjoying the ride through Ha Long. At about 3:00 we stopped deep inside the bay and spent an hour exploring in kayaks. The water was so still and flat that it looked like a mountain lake just after sunrise.

Finally, we hopped back on the boat and headed to our own little private island for the next two nights. In total there were probably less than 15 people on the island; everyone quietly doing their own thing. It felt like we had the place all to ourselves.  While we were there, we stayed in a little beach bungalow where we could fall asleep and wake up to the sounds of the sea.
bungalows lined up on our small private island
Nick relaxing on our bungalow's porch

We spent the whole next day just relaxing on the island (and taking lots of pictures!) and on our third day set out for one more cruise through the bay.  With limestone islands towering above our boat, we rode through the bay in silence, lost in our own thoughts.
 Ha Long was an awesome way to finish our time in Vietnam and our trip in general.  With nothing on our schedule but cruising through the bay, we were free to just soak it all in and enjoy the surroundings. It was definitely the cherry on top of our Southeast Asia Sundae and we enjoyed every minute of it.
dinner on the beach at our private island

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog! Currently planning a trip to halong bay while in SEA. Is this the tour you went on? ? Did you book in advance or while in hanoi? THANK YOU!!!