Heavenly Halong Bay; Swimming, Stone faces and Silence

Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful and sort after tourist destinations in Vietnam, the 180km bumpy drive from Hanoi is not.

As our bus bounced along the high way reaching the astronomic sped of 60km per hour, I wondered what we had signed up for. I hadn’t realised we were going to be treated to a free roller coaster ride on our tour. After a long four hour drive, jolting over pot holes, honking horns and trying to avoid scooter and oncoming traffic, we arrived, completely bedraggled.

It wasn’t exactly the relaxed and serene start to a romantic two day, one night cruise that I expected.

On the way to Halong
On the way to Halong

We climbed onto the tender (a shuttle boat for the cruise ship), and glided over to our “Junk”. A junk is a traditional and ancient style of Chinese ship, they can be anything from a bamboo raft to a pleasure cruiser. One of their defining features is the beautiful battened sails they use to sail with.

Treasure Junk
Treasure Junk

We arrived on our home for the next two days and were greeted with white uniformed men handing us moist towelettes and a welcome drink. We were led up to the dining room, all dark wood and nautically themed decorations. Old ship wheels adorned the ceiling and wide windows illustrated the view from every angle of the ship. Lunch was served. Seafood was the meal of choice along with fresh papaya salad and fruit. Energy would be required for our kayaking excursion in the afternoon.

Relaxing on the Cruise
Relaxing on the Cruise
The view from the cruise
The view
The first thing that strikes you about Halong Bay is the silence. As we kayaked between the standing soldier islands and admired the way the light fell on the sheer limestone faces, we could hear nothing but the buzzing of cicadas and the splash of the paddles hitting the water. It was like being in another world. Every so often a bronze jelly fish would languidly slip past us.
Paddling Halong Bay
Paddling Halong Bay
A photographer's dream
A photographer’s dream

After an hour or so, we reached a secluded beach where the pure white sand leads you into the crystal clear water. We beached our kayaks and  jumped into the cool water. It was a welcome relief after the hot kayak ride.

Enjoying the seclusion
Enjoying the seclusion
Relaxing after a long Kayak
Relaxing after a long Kayak
But we are beggars for punishment, instead of taking the tender back to the boat we decided to kayak into the setting sun. The view was indescribable, the islands in the distance looked almost painted on. It was hard to believe that it was real.
Picture Perfect
Picture Perfect
Sunset Halong Bay
Sunset Halong Bay

We arrived back at the boat, hot and tired. Showers were on the cards, before we tried our hand at spring roll making. Here are our efforts:

Craig gives it a go
Craig gives it a go
Burrito style - Craig's
Burrito style – Craig’s
Spring Roll anyone?
Spring Roll anyone?
My attempt
My attempt
After a long day it was time to slip into sleep, rocked gently by the waves that splashed against the side of the boat.The next morning we woke early, 6.30am. OUCH! After having a quick breakfast of pastries and fresh bananas, we headed off on the tender to see one of the fishing villages. We hopped on a large flat row boat with a tiny Vietnamese man. I was amazed by his stength and dexterity as he paddled five of our tour group through the fishing village for forty five minutes. Once again the peacefulness of the bay struck me.

Fishing Village
Fishing Village
Fishing Village houses, Halong Bay
Fishing Village houses, Halong Bay

As we ambled past, small children would row past you using their feet or hands, controlling the large boat with little effort. Dogs frolicked and barked on the decks that connected the houses to their fish farms and buoys bobbed peacefully in the emerald green water. It is a totally different world out here.

Enjoying the serenity
Enjoying the serenity

After being in the chaos of Ho Chi Minh city and the wet blanket air of Hanoi, I could’ve stayed and enjoyed the peace for a while longer. But unfortunately our time was up.

We climbed off our tender and stole one more glance at the junk. It was farewell serenity and hello to bouncing buses and chaotic chatter.

Ginga musings out.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I loved my visit to Ha Long Bay while traveling through Vietnam, it is such an amazing place and I agree, a welcome break from the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City!!

    1. gingamusings says:

      Yes. It was amazing! Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

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