May 11, 2012

My Ha Long Bay Visit



 May 7, 2012  

Before I moved to Vietnam, one of the things that most impressed me about the country were pictures I had seen of Ha Long Bay. The beautiful pictures showed romantic views of limestone islands sitting in gorgeous blue water, and I knew this would be a place that I would have to visit!

Much to my surprise, when I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City I realized that this magical place was pretty far away. Unfortunately, after a year of working in, and traveling around, this impressive country I had yet to accomplish my goal of visiting the bay. Recently, while on a business trip to Hanoi, I took a few extra days and finally got to Ha Long Bay.
I booked a tour with a local Hanoi travel agent recommended by a friend. I knew that I didn’t want to go for a cheap, low budget tour on my first visit to the bay so I decided to go for one of the nicer, but still affordable, options. When I had everything booked I could barely sleep because I was so excited.

A bus picked me up in Hanoi in the morning and we made the long drive to the boats. I was surprised how long the drive took as I originally thought that Ha Long Bay was closer to the city. Still, the ride was comfortable and we made it to the water with few complaints. Plus, while we drove along, we got the chance to introduce ourselves to the other travelers who would be joining us on our adventure.

We boarded a small boat at the somewhat chaotic and crowded marina and rode out to the larger boat we would be spending the night on. The boat was beautiful with a rustic, wooden exterior that fit perfectly with the timeless location that surrounded us. Although the boat looked like a more traditional vessel, inside it was equipped with all the modern amenities that you would expect in a modern hotel room. The beds were comfortable and the rooms were surprisingly large for being on a boat.

Slowly, the boat moved into the area of the towering islands. Although I had seen many pictures I was unprepared for how truly impressive the rock formations are in real life! They were truly amazing to look at and compared to nothing else I had ever seen.

Eventually, the boat came to a stop where the rocks formed a kind of natural harbor. Here we exited and got the opportunity to check out a large cave toward the top of one of the large islands. The inside of the cave was massive, bigger than any other cave I had been to and I was surprised that it was in as good of shape as it was, considering the amount of tourists that pass through it daily. While I thought the cave was nice, the best part was the view it afforded from its high location. The boats resting on the calm water next to the islands were truly a sight to see, it reminded me of something you would see in a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie!

After exploring the cave, we had a couple of hours to kayak around in the clear, blue water. I had really been looking forward to the kayaking and it didn’t disappoint. Although the outside temperature was cooler than in HCM city  I was surprised by how warm the water was as I paddled along.

Once we were finished it was time for dinner on the boat. We ate some delicious seafood as the sun sat around us and the rocks were bathed in an orange light. Once night fell I retired to my room where I peacefully went to sleep. I rested peacefully as the water was gentle and there was barely a sound outside.

In the morning we watched the sun rise over the landscape, had a simple breakfast and cruised out of the bay. Overnight, clouds had crept into the area and we got the chance to see a more mystical, foggy side of the bay. This was charming in its own way and I felt like an early explorer discovering a new land.
Finally we made it back to the mainland, boarded a bus and returned to the city. I didn’t want to leave such a magical place but I knew this would be the first of many trips as I don’t think I could ever spend enough time in this picturesque land that is truly a natural wonder.

Angela Schonberg
Source: Tuoi tre news

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