Ha Long Bay – Day 1

Monday 30th September

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Today we are up early to leave the City of Hanoi (for now), to head to Ha Long Bay and I’m excited for this visit.

Ha Long Bay could be described as the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls of Vietnam, and simply cannot be missed.

It is recognised as one of the 10 most beautiful bays in the world.

This bay is a wonderful natural wonder in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border.

This extraordinary area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The bay appears with about 2,000 Island and Islets (1969 to be exact), forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars worn down by 500 million years of tropical downpours, whittled away over centuries by wind and water and topped by thick jungle growth….they’re breathtakingly beautiful.

Our journey by bus (a very cramped bus) takes us through some peaceful scenery as we travel through the countryside, farmlands and Red River Delta.

Today we are going to be travelling on-board a ‘Junk’ on Ha Long Bay.

By experiencing Ha Long Bay by water we felt we could admire the bay closer up in quite a special way.Junks were originally Chinese sailing boats introduced to Vietnam during the 14th Century. They have since become an important part of Vietnamese culture, used for transporting goods and people.

We arrive at Tuan Chau Marina, meet the captain and crew and receive a welcome drink as they tell us about life on board the ship.

As they pull up those anchors I prepare to be mesmerised.We have a beautiful cabin to refresh and unwind and they prepare us a delectable lunch while we cruise ahead to Ha Long Bay.

On leaving the harbour we can see lots of new developments being built. The amount of boats and people here was also quite overwhelming and this was ‘off season’, we had deliberately choose off season to escape the masses!!

But this boat trip for me had to be done as I very much wanted to visit here and this is the only way.

I’m glad I’m seeing it now though because for sure its going to just get a whole lot busier – business is certainly booming in Vietnam.

On travelling upstream local life clings to the water, where people live in brightly painted floating villages.

The bay has many of these floating villages which draw lots of attraction and are one of the highlights of this trip.

Locals have been living in these floating houses for many generations as fishing is still the villages main income.

Watching the islands of Ha Long Bay pass from the deck of our junk, is one of the most beautiful and relaxing ways to explore here.

Its one of the best displays of nature I have seen. Ha Long Bay is much more beautiful than what the word “beautiful” can express.

Local legend tells of Vietnamese gods sending Mother Dragon and her children down to Earth to help the people defend their country. The dragons carved large valleys and gorges with their tails. These flooded, creating Ha Long Bay, translated as “descending dragon”.

Watching the limestone pillars ascending up and out of the emerald waters, its easy to appreciate that this otherworldly landscape has a mystical importance to the Vietnamese people.

We get the opportunity to explore the ‘Surprising Cave’ – the most beautiful cave in Ha Long Bay.

It is one of the widest grottoes in Ha Long Bay with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites.

Most photographs of Ha Long Bay are taken from the water, and I had read about an Island called Ti Top Island which offers a different viewpoint of the bay.

Ti Top Island was named after the Russian astronaut Gherman Titov.

He had relaxed on the Island during an official visit to smooth relations with the Soviet Union in the 60’s. Our boat was going to stop here.We had the option of hitting the beach or hike to the top of Ti Top – it was a no brainer, off course we chose the hike.

It was a pretty short steep hike up but worth every effort as we got the opportunity to see this most amazing beautiful bay form the top – pity about all the boats though!

Then we continued cruising whilst enjoying beautiful seascapes along the way.

We chose to spend the night on the boat, we simply just had to have the chance to be on board the water as the sun set and rose.

And as that sun set, the surrounding boats were silhouetted along the horizon and the sun turned a coral pink.

This is a paradise for photographers as each of its rock formation is unique to itself.The stunning scenery of sheer mountain cliffs rising out of the bay makes an ideal backdrop.

Dinner is served, we eat, we mingle, fish for squid and laze around.

I can stay here forever.

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