Halong Bay – the dragons bay in sun and haze

Written by Kenneth Karl Nielsen on . Posted in Article

Unfortunately there is no sun. The haze is spoiling our view of the green limestone cliffs that rise like towers out of the water. It clear to see, that we are all dissapointed. BUT – that feeling is soon going to change.

On our trip in northern Vietnam. Maria and I have arrived at Halong Bay, which many regards as the absolute highlight of a trip to Vietnam.

The ship and our cabin
Haze Halong BayAfter a short trip on a small boat, we arrive at the cruiseboat. The boat looks fantastic – is a bit like a beautiful, French colonial house lying on the sea. Our cabin is also great and certainly much better than our average backpacker hotel room. As we draw the curtains and lie in bed, we watch the limestone cliffs passing by – Fantastic.

The bay of the descending dragons
Halong means “descending dragon” in Vietnamese. And Halong bay is named after an ancient myth in which a dragon family helpes the Vietnamese in battle against against the Chinese. To create a line of defense, the dragons spat out jewels, and when the jewels hit the water, they are transformed into the small the rocky islands that today are scattered around the bay. Many of the Chinese warships run aground, and the Vietnamese win the battle. The dragons later choose to remain in the bay, so keep a close eye for them :-).

Excursions from the ship
The different cruise ships in Halong bay all offers tours. The program on the various ships are very exciting, but they are also very similar, so you will not miss anything, regardless of which ship you choose to stay at.
Our program on the ship was as follows:
1) Visit the floating villages from a bamboo row boat or even sea kayaking (We would recommend that you try sea kayaking, even if you have not tried it before).
2) Visit Titop Island, named after a Soviet cosmonaut. Here you can relax by the beach or take the 421 steps to the top of the island to enjoy the splendid views of the bay.
3) Visit and walk around in giant caves where you can see the marvelous stalagmites (which “grows” up) and stalactites (which “grows” down).

Fabulous views
Sunset Halong BayThere is no doubt that the biggest attraction in Halong bay is the landscape itself.
As we sail around between the many islands, the haze, that disappointed us before, is now providing a fantastic view of the bay – A view with an aura of mystery and adventure. It is an amazing sight. And the sight gets even better en the evening. The sunset is spectacular and the large rocky islands form a fabulous foreground for the setting sun.

Great company
In the evening it becomes time to meet and talk with the other guests on the ship. We are lucky to travel off-season, and we are only 20 guests on the ship (room for 40).
The atmosphere is really good. There is happy hour at the bar, and we’re talking with a Japanese blues musician and his Australian wife, a retired businessman from South Africa, two Australian girls and three american programmers, who work in Hong Kong. By the end of the evening, we decide to relax on a couple of chairs near the railing. With a romantic Singapore Sling in our glasses, we enjoy the tranquil atmosphere in the company of the surrounding cliffs. THIS was just what we needed after a few days in Hanoi’s hectic atmosphere.

Sunny farewell to the bay of the dragons
When we wake up the next morning, the weather has changed. The haze is gone, and now the many rocks are colorfully dressed in the rays of the sun. It is a completely different experience. As the ship floats to the dock, we just enjoy the magnificent view from the ship. We were lucky enough to experience Halong Bay in both haze and sun, and we will never exchange it for two days in the sunshine.

Facts
Haza Halong Bay Any trip to Vietnam should include a visit to Halong Bay, which deservedly is regarded as the country’s largest tourist attraction.
Most people visit Halong Bay on an organized tour from Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. Our trip is organized by Vietnam Rejser , a Danish travel agency in Vietnam.
Tours to Halong bay can vary in length, so there is something for everyone.

This article was written in collaboration with Maria Erica Jensen.
Top photo provided by AClass Cruises.

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Kenneth Karl Nielsen

I am one of the founders of Backpacker Planet - I left on my first backpacking trip in 1994 and have kept backpacking around the world ever since.

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