Ha Long bay, one of the most recognised places in the world, is located in northeastern Vietnam, roughly 3 hours drive from Hanoi. This was a place that was on the top of the list of places we wanted to see in Vietnam, and after over 30 days spent traveling from the south to north, it felt like the perfect way to wind down our trip to Vietnam.
Ha Long bay literally translated means ‘Bay of descending dragons’ and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The view of over 1900 limestone karst islands rising from the sea contrasted with the aqua blue colour of the sea, in an area that stretches for several kilometres (actually over 1500 square km) is absolutely surreal. For the most part, it appears as though the bay is uninhabited, but there are actually three separate floating fishing villages located on the bay.
Visiting Ha Long bay
Due to the close proximity to Hanoi, it is quite easy to get a taxi, train or shared minibus to Ha Long bay, and there are several options available. We had booked a cruise with Indochina Junk on their Dragon Legend Cruise which included pick-up and drop-off at our hotel in Hanoi.
Due to its popularity, hoards of tourists arrive in Ha Long daily, and there are several boat companies offering cruises in the bay. Though the bay is quite expansive, this has created congestion in the bay. Therefore, we chose to cruise with Indochina Junk as they are one of the few cruise boats that have obtained permits to cruise in Bai Tu Long bay. Bai Tu Long bay is a protected area located northeast of Ha Long bay. It has similar geological characteristics to Ha Long bay, though a fewer number of limestone karsts.
We had selected the Dragon Legend Cruise (DL Cruise,) a 1-night cruise that included the opportunity to kayak and swim among the limestone karsts. As soon as we boarded the boat and saw our cabin, we wished we had at least 2 nights. There are cabins on 3 levels all of 5-star quality, with views of the bay from both the bedroom and bathroom. The boat also had three decks, a spa and a mineral water pool.
Though it had been raining the days before we visited, we were fortunate to have perfect weather and so got to enjoy not only our meals out on the deck, but also spend time relaxing out on the top deck. The views at every turn were breathtaking, and only got better the further out we got.
After dinner, the crew entertained us with a local music show and invited guests to partake of a spot of jellyfish fishing. As is normal, B ended up being one of the few that caught any fish!
Though the cruise was over way to soon and we had to pack our bags before breakfast the next morning, it was definitely a trip of a lifetime. To be honest, words cannot do this place justice, and as they say: Pictures are worth a thousand words!
As we traveled through Vietnam, we were fortunate to meet people from all over the world, and all walks of life. The chance encounter with a Vietnam veteran on the Dragon Legend cruise is one I will always remember fondly.
He fell ill shortly before departing on the trip to Vietnam, a trip he had waited 40 years for, and was unable to walk. Despite his limitations, they kept to their plans, albeit accompanied by a wheelchair and a walker. As we both could not partake of some of the planned activities, we ended up spending some time in conversation. We spoke about the war, how he felt returning to Vietnam and what he hoped to accomplish on his trip.
By the end of the trip, we felt honoured to have been able to have met such a man with a formidable spirit and drive.