Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Just a short 4 hour coach journey from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, lays a different kind of scene all together. Now a world heritage spot, Halong Bay is for sure one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. With each individual island coated in its own luscious green plant life that continues down to the waters below, any movie fan would be hard pressed not to relate this tropical paradise to any one of the Jurassic Park franchises. Among the huge rocky mountains an abundance of caves rest steadily waiting patiently to be explored, and it doesn’t take long to see why this place draws such a crowd. 

 View from our boat!
This was on the top of my ‘things to see’ list whilst staying in Hanoi but unfortunately due to the weather, all trips going in and out of Halong Bay were cancelled for my first 5 days there. Flooding caused huge problems that even culminated in people becoming stranded and sadly a number of fatalities too. However on the Thursday, the sun popped his head out as the clouds moved aside making it possible for us to take a trip to this wondrous land. There are many trips on offer from the centre of Hanoi, so many in fact that it can be hard to know who to go with. I would suggest booking your trip once you arrive in Vietnam though, as bizarrely internet bookings tend to be a lot more expensive. Also do shop around and perhaps don’t go for the cheapest, unless (that is) you want to end up on a rowing boat with an umbrella for shade.

Me and a friend booked with a lovely little man called Tony from the Maison D’ Hanoi Hotel (where I was staying). He sat us both down and explained everything in full from pick up to drop off and any extras that were included. It sounded like a great deal and at only $50 (£25) for the day, we certainly could not refuse. Ideally I would have liked to have spent longer there and perhaps stayed on a boat overnight, but I just simply ran out of time due to the weather. However if time isn’t an issue for you, I would definitely suggest staying there longer as it is truly something to be admired.

 Another boat...so many boats!
 The beautiful Halong bay
The next morning we set off at approximately 7:30am. A taxi picked us up from the hotel and took us to a big old coach that had both air conditioning and hilarious commentary from the tour guides on board. I was the only British person, as my friend was the only American which was really great as we got to meet a lot of new people from all over the world. We boarded the boat at around 12pm, sat down and enjoyed a nice lunch as we sailed off towards the bay. We were told a bit about the history of Halong and also some rather interesting facts surrounding the total number of islands. Locals will say that there are precisely 1,969 islands, as this was the year of Ho Chi Minh’s death. When in fact the bay consists of over 3,000 limestone islands all spectacularly rising up from the ocean below. Wow, Ho Chi Minh would be turning in his grave if he had one...true story.

 Even more boats!
We soon reached a gorgeous little cluster of islands which was perfect for our first activity of the day, Kayaking. It was fantastic to experience delving in and out of the different coves and exploring what each one of them had to offer, and this is something that I would definitely recommend doing. In certain areas all you could hear was the sound of the paddle brushing up against the water as we passed through, which at times was quite moving. If you’re thinking of paying a visit then definitely make sure you do some Kayaking - it was by far the best part of the trip for me. We then jumped back on the boat and sailed on to the next island to explore the many caves of Halong Bay. A lot of the islands here are hollow and over time have created these enormous caverns that have huge icicle-shaped formations, that hang down from the ceilings. It really was quite beautiful.

 Jurassic Park much?
  Kayaking in Halong Bay
 Icicle-shaped formations called Stalactites
 Local people apparently call this section -'The stairway to Heaven'
After this we had a lazy boat ride back to the port and finished our day trip with a cheeky little beer on the top deck. Bliss. We were incredibly lucky with the weather although I do believe that this place would be just as wonderful if it was absolutely pooring it down with rain too. So, if you’re ever in Vietnam be sure to check out this little treasure. I’m telling you now, you won’t regret it!

 A most awesome time in the most awesome Vietnam!

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