Sunday, July 8, 2012

Halong Bay

After spending two days in Hanoi, we took a brief break from the city for a cruise of Halong Bay. Named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature (a fact touted by our cruise director), it is a large bay populated by somewhere in the range of two thousand karst islands and islets. The karst peaks are much like those in Yangshuo, but instead of beautiful countryside, they’re in beautiful water. It’s a bit of a haul from Hanoi (a 3.5 hour drive each way), but well worth the visit.

Many people do a day tour or one night visit to the bay, but we decided to do a two night tour. In hindsight, we are very glad we did as our middle, full day on the bay was our favorite although any amount of time spent in Halong Bay is well worth the travel to get there (there is no highway linking it to Hanoi, so it was a long haul on a heavily trafficked one-lane road).

Quin and Berkley enjoying welcome drinks

After boarding the boat around lunch on Wednesday, we cruised to a local fishing village where we were rowed around by a local resident.

 Colorful floating houses in the village

They provided us with bamboo hats - Quin almost lost his!

Berkley exploring the village

On our way back, our guide rowed us under one of the karsts!

The heat was intense, so the boys were very happy that it was time to swim off the back of the boat when we returned. Two for one drinks at happy hour followed by a cooking demonstration and a lovely dinner rounded out the day.

On Thursday, we spent the day on a smaller boat with two guys from the UK, a French woman who works for the foreign service and her daughter, who carries passports from France, New Zealand, and Australia.   A very interesting group - we really enjoyed exploring with them.

 Enjoying happy hour with our new friends after our day out

The morning was spent biking on Cat Ba Island, the largest island in the area. They did not have a bicycle small enough for Berkley, but for once he didn’t care as that meant he had to ride on the back of a scooter – something he has been begging to do for quite a while.

Berkley enjoying his scooter ride - at least he got a helmet!

Quin enjoyed the outing too - although he did not get a helmet!

After a quick dip and lunch, we took out sea kayaks to explore karst caves and swim at hidden beaches – none of us wanted to leave.

Jumping off the side of the boat before lunch

We were very grateful that the two UK lads entertained the boys both at the beach and when we returned to the boat to swim some more. After another happy hour, cooking demonstration and dinner on Thursday night followed by Tai Chi on Friday morning (Berkley was not much of a fan), we spent our final morning exploring a cave – with several hundred other tourists.

And that’s the thing about Halong Bay: you’re not going to get off the beaten track here. It’s one of the most popular tourist sites in Vietnam – for good reason. There are scores of boats everywhere, taking tourists on much the same itinerary (probably because the government restricts where these boats can go). We went into this knowing that, so we weren’t expecting privacy. Instead, we got stunning beauty, some good exercise, and great company – exactly what we needed.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Looks like you guys had a blast!