Ha Long Bay an icon! A series of limestone islands in the north of Vietnam surrounded by emerald blue water, what could you not like.
The trip was organised to leave from my hostel earlyish in the morning, as we would be taking an approximately 3-hour bus journey to Ha Long. Ideally, if you have the time, spend a few days in Cat Ba National Park where you can also get day trips to Ha Long but these will show off a lot more than one from Hanoi, and Cat Ba National Park is a natural wonder on it’s own.
Since we were heading not to Ha Long bay itself but the neighbouring Bai Tu Long bay we had time for a lovely 5 course lunch aboard the boat and even a little nap or sunbathe. After lunch, we were nearly at our first stop: Vung Vieng Fishing Village, one of four villages in Ha Long Bay.
This village still makes most of its money from farming pearls and fishing, with only a little from tourism, so don’t expect amenities, but it’s worth a visit to discover just how pearls are farmed and harvested, and how this relatively poor and isolated community lives.
At the time I went on this trip you could still book a 2 (or more) day trip where you would be able to experience an evening of traditional activities in Vung Vieng Fishing village, as well as sleep on the boat (we were allowed to quickly snoop in the rooms, and I can tell you they’re incredibly comfy!). But one of our guides told us that the local government was going to stop cruise companies offering this and forcing people to stay in the town itself.
As part of our stop off at this amazing little community, we got taken on a boat tour around sheltered cove that protects them from the sea. The guides spoke very little but were excellent strong rowers as they took us around the perimeter of rocks. Once we had finished our tour and been led through the gift shop we once again got onto our ship and went off before too many other tourists joined us.
TOP TIP: if whilst rowing around you spot any rubbish floating in the water do pick it up, this place is so special and a stark reminder of the very real effect of plastic pollution is tragic and will ruin this place for not only those that live here but also those that are going to visit it after you!
Our next, and final stop of the day was Thien Canh Son, an island home to a stunning beach and cave, eroded out of the soft rock over thousands and millions of years. Many legends surround this cave, and your tour guide is sure to have many tales to tell about the various stalagmites and stalactites in this amazing cave system.
After the cave, our trip was nearly over, and with the slowly setting sun, we got back on our cruise boat and headed back to harbour. At this point, we got invited to make traditional Vietnamese spring rolls with rice paper, and various thinly sliced accoutrements. We also got a round of drinks on the house as the boat made it’s way back to Ha Long giving us a final chance to take in this amazing place in all its majesty!
The port where we docked is near this amazing bridge lit up in garish rainbow colours and showing how far Vietnam has come in recent years as well as signifying its status as a rapidly developing nation. At this point, it was time to wave goodbye to the crew as we got off the boat and back onto our bus for the 3-hour journey back to Hanoi, the Hostel, and a good night’s sleep.