Posted by: vlibrizzi | October 19, 2009

Southeast Asia Trip: Halong Bay, Vietnam

DSC_0612On Friday morning, C. and I took a bus ride from Hanoi to  the beautiful Halong Bay, a huge bay that is east of Hanoi. Through our amazing hotel in Hanoi (Hotel Elegance II), we booked an overnight cruise of Halong Bay with a company called Phoenix Cruisers.

At around 8 in the morning, the Phoenix Cruisers van picked us up in Hanoi. The drive to the bay was bumpy and very long (for reference, Halong Bay is only 100 miles away from Hanoi but it took us four hours to get there!), but we eventually arrived and we quickly forgot about our stiff legs once we saw the bay.

It is huge and absolutely breathtaking! When we arrived, there was a thick layer of fog all around the bay (see photo to the left) so it made the bay and the surrounding limestone peaks feel mystical and eerie. Each successive layer of peaks was a lighter shade of purple, and seemed to disappear in the fog. Beautiful!

DSC_0648Once we boarded our “junk” (the traditional wooden sailboats that cruise around the bay), and had lunch on board, we then sailed to a particular limestone peak to see the amazing caves inside. We walked through three different caves…each one bigger and and more impressive than the last. The photo to the left is of the third cave that we saw.  Just to get an impression of the sheer magnitude of the cave, you can look for the  people near the bottom of the photo.

 

 

 

DSC_0666After our visit to the cave, we sailed to a different part of the bay, dropped our anchor, and went for a swim. The more adventurous people on our boat (C. and a few other guys) jumped off the second level of the boat into the water. You can see C. mid-jump in the photo to the left. Instead of jumping, I climbed down the ladder into the water, which was not too cold and quite refreshing after a long day in the hot sun and thick humidity.

We then sat on the top deck of the boat and shared a glass of wine with the ten other passengers on the boat while we looked around at the beautiful peaks at sunset. We loved being on the top deck so much that after dinner, we spent a few more hours up there with some friends that we made on the boat (another American couple and an Australian couple) chatting and admiring the views, even late at night.

Once we started getting tired, we went our rooms (small, but quaint boat-style rooms with beautiful wood carvings on the ceilings). We all made plans to wake up at 5 a.m. to see the sunrise over the limestone peaks, but only C. (yes, C., that’s right!) woke up to see the sunrise.

 

 

DSC_0663Unfortunately, the sun was rising behind one of the peaks so C.’s photos did not turn out as well as he had hoped, but here’s one of the great sunset photos that one of the other passengers took of us from the top deck. You can see the sun setting over the peak.

C. said that just being outside while the sun was rising and the bay was still so quiet (read: no other tourists on the, what seemed like, hundreds of other junk boats were awake yet), was enough of a reason to get out of bed at such an early hour.

 

 

DSC_0618The next morning, after breakfast, we kayaked around the bay for awhile. The day was clear so we were able to take some pretty great photos (the one to the left is of two other “junks” sailing around the bay).

At one point, we kayaked to a cove in the middle of a lime peak. It was so peaceful. We were surrounded by lush peaks, only being able to hear the sounds of birds and the echos off of the walls of our voices. We felt like we were in another world.

 

 

DSC_0609

After our kayaking trip, we returned to the boat, checked out of our rooms, had a quick lunch, and then headed back to Hanoi. We absolutely loved Halong Bay and wish that we could have stayed there longer. With the eight hours of driving, we were actually only on the water for less than 24 hours.

But we did get a chance to take some great photos, chat with some other tourists, and, most importantly, have some time to relax while watching the scenery around us.

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