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A trip to Vietnam would not be complete without taking a cruise around the magical Ha Long Bay. The bay is heart-stoppingly beautiful, especially at dawn and dusk, when the shadows on the forested limestone towers turn it into dreamland. The UNESCO world heritage-listed Ha Long Bay is both mystical and magnificent, an incredible feat of nature that did not fail to impress and captivate me.
Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, within Quang Ninh Province, in the northeast of Vietnam, is 165 km from the capital of Hanoi. The bay consists of a dense cluster of over 1,969 limestone monolithic islands each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean – like dragons in the sea. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves.
We departed from the city of Hanoi for our cruise and drove almost three hours out to Ha Long Bay where we boarded a luxury cruise boat (Vietnamese junk style) for three days and two blissful nights. After a cruise briefing we were settled into our comfortable suites, complete with queen sized bed, balcony and our own ensuite bathroom. We were then treated to a delicious five course Vietnamese lunch whilst we sailed out into the bay taking in the stunning views out of our window seats.
Our first stop was at Luon Cave where we got on a row boat and were rowed through the cave into a beautiful lake surrounded by towering limestone monoliths.
Next stop was at Tip Top Island where we walked up 400 stairs to a very scenic lookout with breathtaking views of the Bay all around us. After descending the stairs we came to a sandy beach where you could hire a kayak, have a refreshing swim or just relax on the shore.
After a deluxe Vietnamese and Western style Buffet dinner and a few refreshments aboard our boat we sat back and relaxed and enjoyed the spectacle of Ha Long Bay by night.
We were awake and ready for a spot of Tai Chi to kickstart the mind and body on the sundeck on top of the boat at 7.00 am the next morning. What a wonderful start to the day, followed by another buffet breakfast, with everything under the sun to eat.
The second day we visited an entirely self sufficient floating village complete with their own school and a fish farm. Our big boat anchored in the deeper waters and the local villagers took us aboard their small Vietnamese boats and rowed us through the village. We got to interact with the people who live here who make a living by fishing the surrounding waters and selling goods from their boats to the tourists. We also dropped into the floating village school to meet the teacher and his pupils.
The next port of call was to a working pearl farm where we learnt how the pearls are cultivated from oysters. There was a showroom here displaying the beautiful pearls, some crafted into jewellery, which were available for purchase.
After a full on day of activities it was back to the boat and more opportunities to kayak or swim after a delicious lunch. Otherwise you could kick back and relax on the sundeck on the top of the boat.
Another magnificent feast awaited us for our final night on the cruise and the chance to mingle and chat with other guests on the boat. Some of our fellow passengers tried their hand at ‘squid jigging’ off the the side of the boat and others, like us, played cards.
After another early morning Tai Chi class it was off to Surprise Cave, where we walked up 100 stairs to the cave entrance and explored the cave. Views from Surprise Cave were stunning over the bay with many other boats anchored in the area.
Sadly, it was time to pack our bags and cruise back to Ha Long Pier and get on our bus back to the city of Hanoi. I could not fault our two night/three day tour of Ha Long Bay. The Indochina cruise boat was 5-star all the way: the food was delicious and plentiful, the service impeccable, our room was very comfortable and we even got a free bottle of wine included. But the best thing was the amazing views from the boat of the ‘Dragons in the Sea’ of Ha Long Bay – magical!
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Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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